In the game of partisan politics, the refrain “your side is worse than my side” is common. When the news hit that 47 Republican senators had penned a letter to Iran, both sides got immediately to work. Democrats called Republicans treasonous and said politics should end “at the water’s edge.” Republicans then pointed out all the many instances when Democrats didn’t let a little water stop them. There was then-Sen. John Kerry negotiating with Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi visiting Syria and Sen. Ted Kennedy’s offer to be on better terms with the Soviets if they helped him defeat Reagan in 1984.
Speaking with one voice, especially when addressing countries and leaders who despise us, would be nice, but politics in free countries like the United States are supposed to be contentious and combative. There’s nothing inherently wrong with what the Republican senators did, and nothing treasonous, but it is certainly stupid.
The letter explained American politics to the Iranians and stated that if they sign a deal with President Obama, without the approval of Congress, the next president can easily reverse it. Here are four reasons that’s plain silly.
Four Reasons the Iran Letter Was Stupid
First, this cannot possibly be news to Iran. They read our newspapers, they know how our system functions. Even if the president acted with Congress’s approval, a future president with a future Congress could change the agreement. Who doesn’t know this? Nothing lasts forever, especially in politics and world affairs.
Second, we should not be sending letters to Iran, on any topic, at any time. Last November, Obama allegedly sent a secret letter asking the Ayatollah Khamenei to join us in fighting the Islamic State. And this isn’t the first time Obama has corresponded with Iran. He also sent a letter to Iran in 2009 seeking better ties. For clarity, we’re asking for better ties with a country that kills gay people by pushing them off roofs, imprisons journalists, and murders political opponents. Letters to Iran, by either party, do nothing but legitimize the backward leadership of that country. If our leadership wants to speak to Iran, it should address the Iranian people directly. This is a country held hostage by the mullahs, while we’re the leaders of the free world. Let’s act like we’ve noticed.
Third, trying to derail an Iranian agreement is a nakedly political goal, since no matter how many treaties Iran signs, there is almost no chance that they will abide by them. If a treaty is all it would take to stop Iran from having nuclear weapons, then we are in luck! Iran signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1970. Since then, Iran has declared that enriching uranium is perfectly acceptable under the treaty, despite being asked by the United Nations, in 2006, to stop doing that. That was nine years ago. Are we really to believe Iran has stopped its march toward a nuke? Of course not. Obama believes in the power of his personality, but he’s dealing with a government that will lie to continue its quest for nuclear weapons. Much like President Carter was caught off guard that the Soviet Union’s Leonid Brezhnev lied to him about invading Afghanistan, it would be a sad day for America to be similarly surprised to hear that Iran does indeed have the weapons we are relying on signed papers to stop.
Fourth, as a strictly political move, it is an extraordinarily poorly timed one. The news this week is dominated by Hillary Clinton, by all accounts not only the Democratic front-runner for president in 2016 but in many minds the only-runner, using a private email account for State Department correspondence. Republican candidates, who complain, rightly, about how the media treats them have the opportunity to sit back and watch. Instead, those in the Senate like Rand Paul are being called traitors and those outside Congress will be made to answer for their fellow Republicans. For what? For getting the word out to Iran that their treaty with Obama may not hold? So foolish.
What can be done about Iran? It’s a complicated issue with complicated solutions, but none of the solutions involve writing them letters. Both sides are culpable in this, and our leadership needs to stop this unserious practice on a very serious problem.