Wed, Mar 11, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Democrats condemn Republicans’ letter to Iranian leaders

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS:Obama said it was ironic that the Republicans were making common cause with Iranian hardliners by trying to undermine talks

AP, WASHINGTON and TEHRAN

Democrats in the White House and the US Congress accused 47 Republican senators of undermining US President Barack Obama in international talks to curb Iran’s nuclear program, saying that trying to upend diplomatic negotiations was tantamount to rushing into war with Tehran.

“The decision to undercut our president and circumvent our constitutional system offends me as a matter of principle,” US Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement.

In an open letter on Monday to the leaders of Iran, the Republican senators warned that any nuclear deal the Iranians cut with Obama could expire the day he leaves the White House. The letter was an aggressive attempt to make it more difficult for Obama and five world powers to strike an initial agreement by the end of the month to limit Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes.

Republicans worry that Iran is not negotiating in good faith, and that a deal would be insufficient and unenforceable, allowing Iran to eventually become a nuclear-armed state. They have made a series of proposals to undercut or block it — from requiring US Senate approval for any agreement to ordering new penalty sanctions against Iran or even making a pre-emptive declaration of war.

The Republicans’ move comes just days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a joint meeting of Congress at Republican US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner’s invitation.

In his address, Netanyahu bluntly told the US that a deal would pave Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb.

“I think it’s somewhat ironic that some members of Congress want to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran,” Obama said, referring to conservative Iranians who also are leery of, or downright against, the negotiations. “It’s an unusual coalition.”

The letter, written by first-term US Senator Tom Cotton, was addressed to the “Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” and presents itself as a constitutional primer to the government of a US adversary. US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s signature is on it, as are those of several prospective presidential candidates.

Explaining the difference between a Senate-ratified treaty and a mere agreement between Obama and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the senators wrote: “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen, and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Javad Zarif said the letter suggests the US is “not trustworthy.”

Zarif was quoted by the Web site of Iranian state TV yesterday as saying the letter was “unprecedented and undiplomatic.”

He had earlier dismissed the letter as a “propaganda ploy.”

US Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Republicans were driven by animosity toward Obama and were unwilling to recognize that US voters had twice elected him president.

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