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Weekly Roundup: Cotton’s Letter Panned Nationally

Jason Berger — March 16, 2015 – 3:58 pm | 2016 Election | Barack Obama | Congress | Democrats | Iran | Israel | Republicans Comments (0) Add a comment

WHO SAW THIS COMING? Not surprisingly, Senator Tom Cotton’s letter has created a PR nightmare for the Republicans. POLITICO Caucus – a bipartisan group of key activists in Iowa and New Hampshire – found that one third of Republican insiders believe that Cotton crossed a line with his letter. They also found that Democrats unanimously believe that Cotton overstepped his Senatorial responsibilities.

REALLY? In an interview on Sunday at SXSW, Senator Rand Paul tried to justify signing onto the Cotton letter. He stated,

I want the negotiated deal to be a good deal. So my reason for signing onto the letter, I think it reiterates what is the actual law, that Congress will have to undo sanctions. But I also signed onto the letter because I want the president to negotiate from a position of strength which means that he needs to be telling them in Iran that ‘I’ve got Congress to deal with.’

How could that possibly be the reason? It’s a safe assumption that the Iranians know the United States has three branches of government. Thus, they most likely do not need a letter explaining that the President has a “Congress to deal with.”

In reality, the letter was clearly designed to torpedo negotiations, creating another level of mistrust amongst the negotiators. After the letter was sent, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier explained why it will be more difficult to reach a deal:

It’s not just a matter of U.S. politics. It has an impact on the talks in Geneva. Because now of course mistrust is growing on the Iranian side about whether our side is really serious about negotiations.

In case Senator Paul does decide to make a run in 2016, this instance should yet again serve as a reminder that his foreign policy instincts are less than stellar. Remember, in 2011, he proposed a budget that would cut all foreign assistance, including aid to Israel.

JINDAL AND PERRY SPEAK. 2016 hopefuls Governor Bobby Jindal and Governor Rick Perry also decided to throw their support behind Senator Cotton’s letter. Perry did so by sending out this tweet:

I would be proud and honored to sign the letter @SenTomCotton has put forward on Iran.

Jindal supported the letter more formally by releasing the following statement. He also signed the letter.

Every single person thinking about running for President, on both sides, should sign on to this letter to make clear to Iran that they are negotiating with a lame duck President. Make no mistake – any Iran deal that President Obama makes is not binding on a future president.

ROSENBAUM ON IRAN, COTTON’S LETTER AND REPUBLICAN BEHAVIOR. NJDC Chair Greg Rosenbaum wrote a fantastic op-ed this week in the Times of Israel detailing why Senator Tom Cotton’s letter and the Republicans behavior are so damaging to negotiations.

The letter they sent to the leadership of Iran is a clear effort to sabotage the Obama Administration’s negotiations to constrain Iran’s nuclear weapons breakout capability. Following Speaker John Boehner turning over the House chamber for an address by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, something the speaker did while violating all diplomatic and Congressional protocol, it is clear that the GOP-led Congress opposes any realistic opportunity to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions, short of military action.

In reality, the desired date to reach a framework for an agreement with Iran is two weeks away. Two weeks can be a lifetime in deal making; the most give and take occurs as target dates approach. To take rumors and snippets of news about what is being negotiated, weave them into the entirety of an agreement, and then attack it as bad, creates an illusion of reasoned opposition.

He also explained how, at this juncture, new sanctions could dissolve the international sanctions regime, which brought Iran to the table.

The only substantive policy alternative Congressional Republicans have endorsed is the imposition of additional, unilateral U.S. sanctions. However, the most likely result of that policy would be dissolution of the first major power coalition to even bring Iran to the bargaining table.

Sanctions only brought Iran to the table when they were joined by Russia and China, thereby enabling central banking restrictions that severely squeezed Iran’s ability to obtain foreign currency and credit.

Such sanctions would also pose a threat to U.S.-Russian relations. The U.S., working with other oil-producing states, has pushed oil prices well below recent levels. This calculated effort pressures President Vladimir Putin and his adventurous ambitions in Ukraine and beyond. The currency of power in today’s Russia is not the threat of the gulag but the ability to dispense lots of cash. By shutting down the spigot of oil revenues to Russia, the U.S. has put Putin in a box from which he is struggling to extricate himself without losing popular support. Allowing Putin to point at the U.S. as acting in bad faith to unnecessarily break an international coalition would give him a way out of that box.

SHEFFEY ON OBAMA. Longtime pro-Israel advocate and Democratic supporter Steve Sheffey also wrote this brilliant piece for The Hill. In the op-ed, Sheffey suggests that because of Obama’s history in regards to Middle East policy and the US-Israel relationship, we should also trust his judgment with the Iran negotiations. In the story, Sheffey reminds readers that Obama’s support for Israel is almost unprecedented. He also uses Syria as an example of where Obama successfully used diplomacy to force Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to destroy his chemical weapons stockpile.

While we still don’t know if the Iranians will agree to the Obama administration’s demands, diplomacy is our best chance of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Obama and his team have earned our trust, and they deserve every chance to succeed without obstruction from Congress.


Jason Berger is a lifelong Democrat and political activist. In the 2012 election cycle, he helped to promote President Obama’s messaging in the American Jewish community with the Jewish Media Hub. 


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