The author of the embarrassing “Letter to Iran” that was signed by 47 Republican Senators and quickly became a laughingstock the world over, says that Obama is wrong to deal with Iran until the country dismantles all of their nuclear weapons. That could be a problem because Iran doesn’t actually have any nuclear weapons to disarm.
While appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R) defended what many are calling a potentially illegal, possibly treasonous, definitely factually wrong letter meant for the leaders of Iran that had urged the foreign government to ignore any dealings with President Obama and suggested that Congress would kill any treaty they might agree upon sight unseen. Pressed to offer any kind of alternative short of war that would please Cotton and his ilk, the senator said that anything less than total “disarmament” of Iran’s nuclear program, including the dismantling of Iran’s “nuclear weapons” would be unacceptable.
When asked what an acceptable deal would look like to him, Cotton answered “complete nuclear disarmament by Iran.”
“They can simply disarm their nuclear weapons program and allow complete intrusive inspections,” Cotton said.
MSNBC’s hosts pressed Cotton on the idea of complete disarmament, arguing that Iran would never agree to those terms.
“I think we have to have a credible threat of military force on the table but the real alternative … to a bad deal is a better deal,” Cotton said. “With more sanctions, with confronting Iran, with only giving them the choice that would completely disarm their nuclear weapons [program].”
Cotton must have been getting his information from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (he says as much in the interview) and not, say, U.S. intelligence or even common sense, because almost no one outside of Netanyahu’s own head believes Iran is anywhere near completing an actual nuclear weapon. But then again, Netanyahu has been predicting Iran is on the verge of getting a nuclear weapon for two decades. It may indeed be an ambition of the Iranian government to one day manufacture its own nuclear warheads, but there is no evidence to suggest that day is today.
Making Cotton’s proposal even more absurd is his reliance on the kind of hardline approach Republicans have enacted as U.S. policy for years – and Iran’s nuclear program (as measured in number of centrifuges) has only swelled. It’s clear that giving Iran the cold shoulder has not only not worked, but actually made things worse. Negotiating may require a bit of pride swallowing, but it cannot be less effective than the standing policy of isolation and sanctions because that policy has been an absolute trainwreck.
Cotton told MSNBC that the Republican strategy was two-fold: More sanctions (which haven’t worked) and confrontation (i.e. war with Iran). Neither of which seem like realistic options.
The impression Cotton is giving is that his letter, which he probably envisioned as a masterstroke of Obama-bashing, has resulted in a PR disaster. It’s an effort to come up with a plausible reason for writing what Vice President Joe Biden aptly summed up as a mind bogglingly unconventional and ugly piece of theater, noting:
“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. This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments — a message that is as false as it is dangerous.”
In the mad dash to ratchet up the attack on Obama, Republicans may have finally discovered that there is a limit to what Americans will tolerate. No amount of blustering about Iran is going to make what they did any more excusable.
Feature image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr