The political firestorm over Senate Republicans writing a letter to Iran regarding the nuclear talks continued Tuesday, with Vice President Biden releasing a statement he claimed “offends me as a matter of principle” and was “beneath the dignity of an institution I revere.”
“In thirty-six years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which senators wrote directly to advise another country — much less a longtime foreign adversary — that the president does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them,” Biden said in his statement.
The letter signed by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and 46 of his Senate colleagues pointed out that President Obama needs congressional approval in order to get a lasting deal with the regime in Tehran, stating Iran would be left with is a “mere executive agreement” between Obama and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the absence of such approval.
“We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress,” the letter stated.
In a response posted on the website of Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif echoed the same arguments coming from the White House and some, but not all, Democratic lawmakers.
“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,” Iran’s top diplomat added.
But former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said the faux Democratic outrage doesn’t address the substance of the Senate letter, but rather chooses to focus on a petty, insignificant question of whether the Republican senators offended the president’s and the Iranian regime’s sensibilities.
“This isn’t a question of whether Republicans violated protocol, or whether Sen. Cotton used a salad fork instead of a dinner fork,” Bolton said Tuesday in an interview with Bill Hemmer on America’s Newsroom. “The administration believes it’s negotiation posture is so weak, this could upset a deal. And if the deal is that fragile, they don’t have a deal.”
Sen. Cotton defended the letter in an interview Monday following immediate blowback from the Obama administration and media allies.
“We’re simply trying to say that Congress has a constitutional role to approve any deal, to make sure that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon,” Sen. Cotton said on ABC. “Not today, not tomorrow, not ten years from now.”
Cotton also said that the Senate’s Iranian experts say the regime isn’t at all proficient on the U.S. Constitution or the system of checks and balances, thus doesn’t realize the fragility of whatever deal they may strike with the Obama administration.
“We’re on the verge of a deal that could allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon in as little as ten years, so it’s important that Iran realize that Congress will not allow that outcome to happen,” Cotton said.
But Ambassador Bolton says the political firestorm is working as the Democrats intended, drawing attention from the real substance of the issue.
“Again, this is like arguing whether they used a salad fork instead of a dinner fork,” Bolton repeated. “They are worried about the impact this will have on the regime in Tehran, and that speaks to the fundamental mistrust.”