GOP Senators Go After Obama’s Private Talks With Iran

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Forty-seven Republican senators fired off a letter to Iran’s theocracy — and indirectly, to President Barack Obama — warning that only the Senate can confirm long-lasting treaties with foreign powers.

“We will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei,” said the letter, which was sent as Obama tries to complete secret negotiations for new strategic deal with Iran.

The letter was signed by all three GOP senators vying for the 2016 candidacy — Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Marco Rubio — and by the GOP’s Senate leadership.

The warning may block the deal if Iran concludes that Congress won’t back the deal once Obama leaves office.

Obama has kept the details of the deal secret from senators, but is aiming to prevent Iran from being able to build a nuclear weapon in exchange for loosened sanctions.

But that draft deal is regarded by critics as evidence that the United States is giving Iran’s agitating Shia theocracy too much leeway.

Since 1979, the United States has allied with various Sunni dictatorships in the region to contain the Iranians’ aggressive efforts to gain power or intimidate Saudi Arabia, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and other countries in the oil-rich region.

Obama has described the draft deal a way for Iran to gain power and legitimacy in the region.

Iran’s theocracy has “a path to break through that [international] isolation and they should seize it,” Obama told NPR in December 2014. “Because if they do, there’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication … inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody,” he said.

Obama’s Iran strategy is opposed by most GOP senators, and even by some Democratic senators, but no Democratic senators signed the letter.

Freshman Alabama Republican Sen. Tom Cotton developed the letter to Iran’s theocracy.

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system,” the letter begins.

“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,” it says.

“In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote. … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the letter says.

“President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades,” the letter warns.

“What these two constitutional provisions mean is … 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.”

“We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.”

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