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Well Done, Patriots. Iran Now Asks If America Can Be Trusted

With an end-March deadline looming in the talks with Iran, the 47 Republican senators who signed the letter to Iranian leaders may have accomplished their mission of undermining President Obama's months-long goal of reaching an agreement to suspend Iran's uranium enrichment program. The result could be that Iran will now plunge ahead to develop a nuclear weapon.

The letter has come up in the latest negotiating sessions. "We need to know the U.S. government’s stance on this issue", Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, admitted.

The letter is yet another indicator that our government is coming apart. The partisan divide over the last several years that has brought Congress to a halt has now widened to a chasm, given that half the Senate has acted on its own without a vote, and has decided its role is to take over foreign policy, traditionally the preserve of the President and the State Department.

The letter followed less than a week after Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress in which the members were as delirious in their bellowed adulation as teenagers keening for the Beatles at Shea. In its move to obediently follow Netanyahu's bidding, and in defiance of the President's, the Senate could have been mistaken for the western branch of Israel's Knesset.

Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton's letter told Iranian leaders that anything signed by President Obama would be a "mere executive agreement...that the next president could revoke...with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify...at any time". And so, "Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran", don't trust America to keep its word.

In fact, presidents have forged agreements with other countries throughout our history that, while not having the force of treaties, are honored by successive presidents for the precise reason of building trust in our country. It would appear to be Cotton who is not trustworthy and he managed to find 46 other Republicans with equally bad judgment to join him as signatories in his irresponsible insurrection.

It seemed that no one had to wait for a general consensus to emerge. Newspapers and television news programs were generally aghast the moment the letter became known, none more so than New York's Daily News with the photos including two
(Cruz, Paul) of four signers who are running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Which makes one wonder. If the general public got it right and right from the moment they heard about it, who are these people we've sent to the Senate?

"My reaction to the letter was utter disbelief", said Secretary of State John Kerry. "In my 29 years in the Senate...I never heard of anything proposed comparable to this". It was even ridiculed by Iran's Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, who called it a "propaganda ploy" and lectured the senators that their...

"letter in fact undermines the credibility of thousands of such 'mere executive agreements' that have been or will be entered into by the U.S. with various other governments...It seems that the authors not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy".

..this last a dig at the senators for failure to realize that their "Advice and Consent" in the Constitution pertains to treaties, not executive foreign policy agreements. Zarif's admonishments were followed by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying at a meeting, "The letter by American senators indicates the collapse of political ethics in the United States".

Heretofore, the threat to the President's attempt to forge a deal with Iran has been the Democratic senator from New Jersey, Robert Menendez, who has for months pressed to impose still tougher sanctions on Iran. Those at the negotiating table, five nations beside the U.S. — France, Germany, Russia, China and the United Kingdom — have implored the Senate group not to act. They would seem to know best that another layer of sanctions would simply end the talks. Iran has said as much. Menendez and others recently agreed to hold off their push for a sanctions vote to see whether or not an agreement will be consumated by a deadline coming up in late March.

But Menendez is about to be indicted on corruption charges. The brash and impatient Cotton saw an opening and lunged to make a bid for power. He is clearly a young man in a hurry. At 37, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, he is the youngest member of the Senate. After only a single two-year term in the House, he challenged and defeated incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor just last fall. Speaking of "mere", he has been in the Senate only two-and-a-half months.

Cotton exhibits an overweening opinion of his own infallibility, telling us that Vice President Joe Biden "has been wrong about nearly every foreign policy and national security decision in the last forty years". (The same Joe Biden who throughout the Iraq war urged that it should be split into its three ethnic and religious groups — Kurds, Sunnis, and Shias — whereby we might not have had an ISIS to deal with, it being a reaction of Shiite repression of Iraq's SUnnis). The level of the freshman senator's arrogance can be assayed in this video of him hectoring Defense Under-Secretary Brian McKeon in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. In it you will hear Cotton's peculiar logic that because terrorists struck the U.S. around the world before the Guantánamo facility was set up, Guantánamo therefore has no propaganda use to jihadis and should be kept open. His ending diatribe will tell you that as a lawyer he doesn't think much of habeas corpus or due process.

mission impossible

For Cotton, sanctions are not enough. It is clear that he and the cohort he assembled are in thrall of Netanyahu — "a prime minister who’s never seen a war he didn’t want our country to fight", said California Rep. Jared Huffman — and have chosen to take us down Netanyahu's path rather than Obama's. In an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe", Cotton referred to Netanyahu twice, quoting his "no deal is better than a bad deal".

Is it? Adopting a slogan — a slogan that is patently mistaken — reveals the depth of Cotton and crew's thought on the issue, which is what makes the senators' letter a stunningly troublesome act for its likely consequences.

The pact with Iran, assuming it is reached and assuming that leaks about its terms are correct, is admittedly weak. Essentially, it only freezes the level of Iran's nuclear program for ten years — and that assumes its terms will be adhered to, a big assumption. But after months of wrangling it appears to be the best deal we can get. Cotton seems unable to grasp that we don't get to simply bully a change in attitude and policy of an adversarial sovereign nation that trusts us as little as we them.

What is Cotton holding out for? In that "Morning Joe" interview he said, "I want complete nuclear disarmament". The panel quietly explained that we're not going to get that. He went on, "Iran has a very clear and simple path. They can simply disarm their nuclear weapons program and allow complete intrusive inspection". Simple as that. Problem solved.

Expecting that nation simply to cotton to a Senate upstart named Cotton is worse than naïve. If the talks collapse as the 47 want, Iran will proceed full speed with the tenfold increase in enrichment capacity the Ayatollah Khamenei wants and which makes no sense other than for nuclear weapons development. Iran is hurting from current sanctions but has been resolute in rejecting the six-nation demands, and we therefore do not have reason to believe that still further sanctions would cause them to reverse course.

Asked would he be comfortable with a military confrontation with Iran, Cotton's answer was, "Well, like a majority of Americans I think we have a credible threat of military force on the table". Thus his delusion extends to believing he speaks for the American people, who are in fact most decidedly against another war in the Middle East.

Cotton would do well to learn a bit about the hazards of a fight with Iran. We covered that harrowing scenario in these two articles a long while back. It's 77 million people sit on the oil shipping lanes of the Persian Gulf. They are poised to block those straits causing global economic havoc and are well positioned to sink our Navy's ships. Senator, Iran is not Iraq and it's not Afghanistan.

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