Republicans are desperate to derail historic peace talks between the United States and Iran and things are getting unimaginably ugly.
In a move that is perhaps singular in all of American history, Republicans in Congress went behind the backs of President Obama’s administration and wrote a letter to the leaders of Iran explicitly telling them to ignore any kind of nuclear deal Obama may extend. Going a step further, the group of 47 Republican lawmakers made a de facto guarantee that regardless of the outcome of the talks, they would fight tooth-and-nail to ensure that the deal never gets ratified.
Take a moment to marvel at that position for a moment: They haven’t even seen the plan, have no idea what items are being discussed, yet have dismissed even considering it out of hand. It boggles the mind.
In the letter, addressed to “the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the group does its best to condescend and offend, taking the tone of a teacher speaking to a dimwitted child.
It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution – the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices – which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.
The letter goes on to painstakingly explain how the different branches of the United States government work (a process the Iranians undoubtedly already know), while suggesting that Obama has almost no power to make any kind of deal – even while experts and insiders say negotiations are actually making good headway and may be close to being finalized.
But the letter takes an even more outrageous approach when the group reminds the Iranians that “the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms.” Later adding: “President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then – perhaps decades.”
The message is clear: Don’t you dare think about dealing with the president, because we will spend the rest of our lives (in some cases, quite literally) destroying you, if only out of spite.
This letter is a gesture that, if viewed by the norms of history, borders on treason, and comes directly on the heels of the Republicans last gambit: Inviting Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give a speech at a joint session of Congress without informing President Obama. Again, the move was a calculated effort to undermine any deal by inciting animosity from Iran and sending a message to the world that the Republicans in Congress will not support the president no matter what so don’t bother talking to our leader.
Dealing with Iran, and working towards a realistic deal regarding their nuclear ambitions is obviously rife with pitfalls. Any negotiation can only be described as a high-wire act that tasks diplomats with balancing a million different interests and concerns. To watch as members of Congress actively seek to undermine this historic treaty with a country that almost never agrees to come to the table is heartbreaking and infuriating.
Thankfully, there are signs to suggest Iran views Congressional Republicans as about as silly as Americans do. What’s more, their threats are ringing hollow. According to Bloomberg:
Experts who support the White House’s Iran negotiations say such threats are largely bluster, and that if the Obama administration is able to reach a deal with Iran now, it will be very hard for the next president to stand against it…
After all, said [Executive Director of the Council for a Livable World John] Isaacs, the next president wouldn’t just be derailing a U.S.-Iran agreement, but undoing the work of seven countries, including close U.S. allies such as the U.K. and Germany. If a deal is working at least reasonably well until 2017, and the Iranians are mostly complying, efforts to change or repeal it would risk putting the U.S. and Iran back on a path to war — or at least that is the argument the pact’s supporters will make.
While the deal continues despite the Republicans attempts, this most recent shameless ploy can only make things harder for the Obama administration. If talks stall, Republicans will likely celebrate, even as the country suffers the consequences of yet another failed attempt at diplomacy in the Middle East.