A Warning and a Nod
On Monday, a group of 47 Republican senators released an “Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
The letter, initiated by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, was notably addressed to the Islamist regime in Tehran rather than to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. And rightly so.
It is not Rouhani, after all, who has the final say about anything that goes on in the would-be global caliphate where he was elected as a “moderate,” or with regard to the nuclear program whose contours Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has been dictating to the United States and the other members of the P5+1.
No, the person who pulls the strings — and will push the nuclear button — is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. So it is to him that the Republican politicians were actually sending their message. At the same time, they were conveying a similar sentiment to President Barack Obama — about the invalidity of a deal cooked up by the administration in Washington to please the palates of the mullahs in Tehran behind the back of Congress and without its consent.
“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. “Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two [of its] features — the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices — which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.”
It continues: “First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.
“Second, the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics. For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then — perhaps decades.
“What [this means] is that 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. 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 …”
The response to this not-so-veiled warning to the White House and hegemony-hungry mullahs in Iran was both swift and predictable.
“I think it’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran; it’s an unusual coalition,” Obama said.
It was typical of him to accuse the Republicans of his own behavior. Worse, it was a prime example of the way in which he continues to misrepresent the Islamist system, whose “hard-liners” are not constituents, but rather religion-driven mass murderers who call all the shots and shoot down all opposition.
Indeed, in the case of Iran, it is the “hard-liners” who are engaging in Islam-sanctioned lies for the purpose of achieving their nuclear goals without Western interference. And the only “unusual coalition” worthy of mention in this context is the one hot to reach an agreement with an archenemy terror state.
“I think what we’re going to focus on right now is actually seeing whether we can get a deal or not,” Obama added. “And once we do — if we do — then we’ll be able to make the case to the American people, and I’m confident we’ll be able to implement it.”
Iran’s reaction was equally cynical.
“In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy,” said chief nuclear negotiator Zarif. “It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history. This indicates that like [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content.”
Zarif’s comments are telling. That he brought up Netanyahu indicates that he grasps why Obama and most Democrats so vehemently opposed the prospect of the Israeli prime minister’s address to a joint session of Congress on March 3.
Many Israelis, too, attacked Netanyahu for accepting House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to spell out the Iranian threat to the House of Representatives and the Senate on the grounds that all his speech would do was “widen the rift” between the Obama administration and Jerusalem. His detractors at home also ridiculed him for being “all talk.”
What the timing of the senators’ letter suggests, however, is that Netanyahu’s “talk” provided the impetus for its drafting and emboldened its signatories.
Words may not be a substitute for weapons, but they are a powerful tool nevertheless. Kudos to those who refuse to mince them.
Ruthie Blum is the editor of Voice of Israel talk radio (voiceofisrael.com). This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.