The Real Target of GOP Letter is not Iran, It’s Obama

Yesterday’s GOP letter — signed by 47 Republican senators warned Iran and its leadership that any deal it reaches with the White House “might not be worth the paper it’s written on once President Obama leaves office in less than two years”. It is the latest example of an unusual and controversial attempt to challenge Barack Obama and his presidential authority.

Not only the Republican Party is attempting to sabotage a potential key presidential foreign policy legacy — if an Iran deal is reached — but GOP’s action in a profound way is damaging one of the most significant national security challenges facing the United States. Despite Republicans attempt to sell the dangers of a potential Iran deal in a different manner, the interventions by GOP senators mark a dangerous intrusion into the president’s traditional power to conduct foreign policy.

In fact, GOP senators attempt is incorrect on procedural grounds, not to mention nearly unprecedented. The American Constitution gives the president great authority to conduct foreign policy, and the United States cannot certainly act as an effective nation when members of its legislative branch attempting to direct the foreign policy of the United States in the midst of crucial and sensitive negotiations. What the GOP has done is ignoring over two centuries of precedent and threatening to undermine the ability of President Obama and future presidents to conduct negotiations on behalf of the entire nation.

Time will determine whether this GOP gamble will pay off, but for now President Obama has the power to suspend some sanctions and to lift measures that were imposed by executive orders and other international restrictions. But it cannot be ignored that the most severe measures, were imposed by Congress and can only be lifted by Congress, which gives lawmakers leverage on the deal perhaps years into the future. But this recent move was not a strategic advancement or a show of strength but a sign of defeatism by GOP, since they thus far have failed in their attempts to halt diplomacy despite repeated partisan efforts.

Regardless of the dynamics and the outcome of the negotiations with Iran and P5+1, GOP should realize they have limited ability to stop President Obama from signing an agreement with Iran. And certainly will not be able to pass any of the sanctions they intended and will not be able to override a presidential veto on this matter.

President Obama has pledged that he will not submit the agreement to Congress, which would lead to making it binding past his administration. This could run the risk for the Democrats in 2016 election as GOP presidential candidates will oppose to the deal and will likely campaign against it in the primaries. But if the deal is signed without congressional referendum, the future US president, despite his or her political party might find it very difficult and undesirable to cancel an agreement. As such move could burden the United States with the blame for provoking the crisis with Iran and could run the risk of potential military confrontation. Canceling such agreement although, in the hands of the next president most certainly will anger the other countries in P5+1, which are currently at the negotiating table and will further damage the US image abroad.

Maybe freshman Arkansas Senator — Tom Cotton, who has organized and architected the GOP’s letter to Iran is attempting to help Iranian leadership “understand America’s constitutional system” but it seems the real target of this letter is not Iran’s leadership but President Obama. The GOP is attempting to make the public case that any arms control agreement with Iran has to be ratified by the US Senate. There is no doubt that Congress can and perhaps must play a bipartisan and constructive role in endorsing a deal with Iran but this recent GOP tactic was certainly the wrong way to go about things in Washington and certainly disrespectful to the executive branch and its place in the US Constitution. Above all, injecting partisanship into the debate over the Iran deal is derailing the talks and at most the strategic objective of the United States. And if the true intention of GOP senators is to find the best deal with Iran it would have been more appropriate for members of the Senate to give advice to the president, to Secretary Kerry and to the negotiators rather than writing a letter to Iran’s leadership. After all, GOP’s recent letter but more important engaging in this type of partisan behavior is beneath the dignity of the legislative branch and its members. It is hard to recall another instance in Washington’s history, which senators, in a partisan fashion wrote directly to advise another country and undermining the president of the United States by questioning his constitutional authority to reach a meaningful deal on a sensitive foreign policy issue.


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