The United States has been participating in talks with Iran in order to come to an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. Feeling left out, House Republicans invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give a speech in Congress on the dangers of a nuclear deal with Iran. Feeling even more left out, 47 Senate Republicans, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senator John McCain, all signed a letter to Iranian leaders. The letter was authored by freshman Senator Tom Cotton.
These actions by Republicans in Congress are highly irresponsible. They are actively trying to undermine the United States’ diplomatic efforts to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran. They did not do these things to try and help the United States. They did them because they are more concerned with undermining and attacking the Obama administration than with governing and doing what is best for the United States.
And these actions have had a negative effect. In Netanyahu’s speech, he warned of Iran possessing a nuclear weapon “within a few years,” and stressed the need for further economic sanctions. After the speech, a Gallup poll showed that Netanyahu’s favorability in the U.S. dropped from 45 percent to 38 percent. His unfavorability rose from 24 percent to 29 percent.
Bloomberg has also reported that Netanyahu has begun using clips of his speech to Congress in his campaign ads. His speech was nothing more than a political move to try and improve his party’s chances in the upcoming March 17 elections, and it has largely failed. The popularity of Netanyahu’s Likud party has fallen behind their opposition.
The open letter from Senate Republicans to the leaders of Iran was worse. The letter opens with Cotton and his 46 signatories condescendingly educating Iranian leaders on how the United States’ constitutional system works. They warn that Congress is the only body able to approve official foreign policy agreements and that anything else is just an executive agreement. They also talk about term limits, how President Obama will be out of office by 2017 and “most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades” and could change or revoke any agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei.
Republicans are threatening Iranian leaders that any deal that is made will be revoked or altered as soon as Congressional Republicans have the power to do so. They’re warning Iran about themselves.
This letter has received an almost universal negative response. The Washington Post reported that retired Major Gen. Paul D. Eaton called the action “mutinous,” and believed that by directly engaging a foreign power undermined the work of the Commander in Chief and his diplomats.
The letter has already gotten a response by Iranian officials. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was reported by CBS News as saying the letter had “no legal value” and was “mostly a propaganda tool.” Zarif was also reportedly astonished at the Republicans’ inappropriateness and lack of understanding of the powers the President has to conduct foreign policy.
According to Iranian state media, Ayatollah Khamenei has criticized the letter, saying that the letter showed “disintegration in U.S. politics.” The Ayatollah went on to say that he is concerned about a trend of the U.S. “backstabbing” during the negotiation process and that “the international group, particularly the U.S., takes a harsher tone when the two sides get close to the end.”
These actions by Congress, while not unprecedented like when Congressional Democrats held talks with Syrian leaders without Presidential approval back in 2007, are still highly inappropriate and detrimental to U.S. foreign policy. The tone that Republicans took in their invitation to Netanyahu and in their letter to Iran was highly condescending. These actions were attempts to serve the Republicans’ own domestic political aspirations rather than serve the United States.