Originally published on March 11, 2015, at NationofChange.org
In a blatant effort to undermine President Obama’s negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program, 47 Republican Senators sent an open letter to Iran’s leaders on Monday threatening to sabotage any agreement reached between the two countries. Fearing Iran’s potential nuclear capabilities and enraged by the president’s utter disdain for them, Republican legislators have adopted casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rhetoric against diplomatic engagement with the Iranian government.
Drafted by Sen. Tim Cotton of Arkansas, the letter attempts to dissuade Iranian leaders from signing a deal with the president by insulting their understanding of America’s constitutional system. They point out that “the president may only serve two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then – perhaps decades.”
The senators added, “We will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
The agreement seeks to mend tenuous diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Iran. In 1953, the CIA orchestrated a coup d’etat to overthrow Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and replace him with the ruthless Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. In retaliation, a group of Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in 1979 holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. In February 2000, the CIA attempted to deliver flawed nuclear blueprints to the Iranian government in order to sabotage the advancement of their nuclear program, but a Russian asset betrayed the agency by informing the Iranians of the flaw. CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling faces up to 100 years in prison for disclosing the reckless operation to New York Times reporter James Risen.
According to the agreement, Iran has consented to limiting their enrichment of uranium while removing most of Tehran’s stockpiles of existing fuel. Provided that Iran only produces nuclear energy for power and medical purposes, President Obama has agreed to lift economic sanctions against Iran. But critics, including Israel and the GOP, believe the Iranian government is lying in order to advance their nuclear weapons program and dominate the Middle East.
Although Obama has the power to temporarily lift sanctions against Iran, he cannot permanently lift the sanctions without a vote from Congress. Due to the fact that the agreement is not a treaty, Obama does not require congressional approval to sign an agreement with Iran. Given the president’s unwillingness to work with Congress and the legislators’ refusal to compromise, Obama has insulted Congress by excluding them from his foreign policy decisions.
“Writing a letter like this that appeals to the hardliners in Iran is frankly just the latest in a strategy, a partisan strategy, to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy and advance our national interests around the world,” stated White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
Signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership, only seven Republican Senators refused to sign the letter, including the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee Thad Cochran, and Intelligence Committee members Susan Collins and Dan Coats. No Democrats or Independents agreed to sign the document.
Last week, Republican House speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress at the behest of GOP donor and casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson. During the 2012 elections, Adelson and his wife Miriam contributed $150 million to Republican candidates and Super PACs. While in attendance for Netanyahu’s speech against the pending deal with Iran, Adelson’s wife dropped her purse onto Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford who was sitting below them.
“In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy,” asserted Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister. “It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.”
On the same day that the letter was signed, the FBI announced a $5 million reward for information leading to the safe return of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson. On March 9, 2007, Levinson went missing from Kish Island, an Iranian resort in the Gulf, to meet with Daoud Salahuddin, an American wanted in the murder of an Iranian diplomat in a Washington suburb in 1980. Levinson was reportedly working for a rogue CIA operation when he vanished.