An embarrassing letter of sabotage

What on earth did 47 Republicans think they were going to achieve by writing to Iran's Ayatollah urging him not to trust Obama? Their hate on Obama is so desperate there seem no depth to which they will not descend even if it wrecks what is left of their country's reputation.

In an interview with the outstanding international news network Vice, President Obama has just told the world that he is embarrassed for the 47 Republican senators who wrote to the Iranian government in their latest desperate attempt to sabotage an international nuclear deal with Iran.

Obama said he was embarrassed for them because they wrote to the Ayatollah, who they claim to be America’s mortal enemy, and their basic argument to the Iranians is don’t deal with the US president because you can’t trust him to follow through on an agreement.

Just imagine had the Republicans of the day written to Soviet leader Khrushchev lecturing them not to trust Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis because they’ll be bombed anyway by the next Republican administration.

Or as Democrat Senator Stabenow pointed out that while she opposed the 2003 Iraq invasion she would "never have sent a letter to Saddam Hussein".

Have the current crop of US Republican senators written a similar letter to Raoul Castro warning him off the recent shift in the US-Cuba relationship?

Even the Iranians have seen the warning letter as a propaganda ploy with no legal value, and predictably tied it to the preceding and equally desperate Republican propaganda ploy of bringing Israeli Prime MInister Netanyahu to tell Congress what we already knew.

For the man in the negotiations hot seat, John Kerry, the letter was a patronising, absolutely incorrect “constitutional lesson” ignoring 200 years of precedent in American foreign policy conduct.

Indeed those actually doing the work have good cause to be embarrassed by the letter penned by freshman congressman Tom Cotton who has been under the tutelage of Israeli lobby neo-con Bill Kristol, who infamously predicted W’s invasion of Iraq would be a cakewalk, and Sarah Palin was a great pick for VP.

The idiocy of the letter - now being given second thoughts by some of its signatories - is multifaceted.

First of all it is deliberately over simplistic which is insulting to a pretty sophisticated Iranian understanding of US politics, and it consciously blurs the distinction between treaties with foreign countries and executive agreements with foreign countries.

The former are ratified with a 2/3 Senate vote; the latter can be concluded by the President as ruled by the Supreme Court and practice dating back to Washington’s days.

Any deal with Iran would be signed not between Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei, but between the foreign ministers of the P5+1 and Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif.

The letter is blatantly calling for crippling sanctions which of course Iran has already survived on and off since 1979 at enormous loss of life, and the Republicans are want regime change in Iran - a repeat of the US policy which once installed a puppet government, the overthrow of which was sealed with the Iranian Revolution.

Cotton is willfully evasive about the alternative to a deal which is a war, and of course an Iran hellbent on developing nuclear weapons.

Constitutional lawyers in the US have been very busy this week debating the upsides and downsides of executive agreements and there seems to be consensus that they are easier to reverse than treaties. However any deal with Iran would be enacted by a UNSC resolution and the other signatories of the permanent members of the UNSC plus Germany would surely have to sign off on that too....and that’s not going to happen unless Iran is caught in absolute breach.

So the upshot of all this talk about ‘stroke of a pen’ modifications or cancellations by a future US President are only damaging US diplomatic credibility.

The consensus is that Congress does have the power to violate international law. Yet if it did so by abandoning binding agreements this could affect a plethora of other agreements given 95 percent of US international agreements are executive agreements.

Obama, a constitutional law professor from Chicago University and a Harvard Law graduate will know a thing or two about this. 

Another disturbing element of this sabotage letter is its exposure of a cringeworthy, patronising self-obsession from its signatories demanding to be the posse that decides international policy on behalf of the rest of the world.

This ‘Magnificent 47’ doesn’t appear to understand that this is not a US-Iran treaty but negotiations for a deal between Iran and the six strongest nations in the world - of which American is but one.

The US Congress has no authority over resolutions enacted by the UNSC.

If a post-Obama Republican Administration did what the warning letter states - nullify the deal with the stroke of a pen - it would not unravel the deal.

It would just place the US in violation of the UNSC resolution.

Of course a future US Republican administration may want to impose its own sanctions against Iran in order to strengthen hard-line anti-Iran-pro-Israel credentials as Cotton demanded, but it would be internationally isolated in such a stance, with perhaps the exception of Israel and that speaks for itself.

Cotton has picked up on the Netanyahu rhetoric of ‘appeasement’, ‘Islamist’ and ‘Islamic State’ and other such trigger vocabulary for obvious intent.

Yet in doing so he and his co-signees have solidified their position on the extreme right of US politics - the same ground held by those he demonises but who are now his pen pals in Iran.  

Meanwhile back where the work is actually being done, the P5+1 team is starting to look at how UN sanctions against Iran can be gradually lifted in anticipation of a successful conclusion of the deal’s framework later this month.