By EMMA HSU
The 47 Republican Senate members, led by Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, blatantly crossed the line last week when they wrote an open letter to Iran, on their own accord, telling Iran not to sign the nuclear deal that President Obama had proposed. The letter warned Iran’s leaders that the next President of the United States could cancel any nuclear deal that Iran agrees upon now with the Obama Administration.
It was an immature attempt to butcher diplomacy with Iran. This letter undermined the U.S. government’s reliability and clearly disrespected Obama’s political powers as president. As the newspaper Cleveland puts it, “What would the reaction have been if Democrats had sent a letter to China undercutting Nixon’s and Kissinger’s ongoing trade negotiations?”
Iran nuclear talks started over a year ago in an effort to reduce tensions between the Middle East and Western nations. Negotiations between Iran, the 5 permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the U.S., the United Kingdom, Russia, France and China) and Germany (known as the P5+1) have been difficult.
Iran wants the economic sanctions, which have been hurting its economy – particularly in declining gas prices – to be lifted. P5+1 hopes to eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapon making to prevent the risk of nuclear war. A compromise, which is becoming ever more unlikely in light of this latest attempt to sabotage negotiations, has yet to be reached before the deadline in late March.
As exhibited in the recent GOP letter, some members of the Republican Party seem to oppose these negotiations. A reason for this opposition could be the desire for war: many Republican politicians are associated with large companies that would find a third world war extremely profitable. With tensions in the Middle East increasing, lack of action in the form of a nuclear arms deal could easily lead to such a war. Moreover, since the midterm elections and the new Republican majority in Congress, legislation has gone nowhere. The stubborn partisanship, which could be another reason for opposition towards a nuke deal, is preventing the U.S. from getting anywhere both within and beyond the nation’s borders.
The real problem with the letter, however, is that, besides being a horrific reflection on part of the GOP, it is, in the words of Secretary of State John Kerry according to The Washington Post, “unprecedented,” “directly calculated to interfere” and an “un-thought-out action.” The letter is not unconstitutional, since nowhere in the Constitution does it explicitly prevent Congress from addressing foreign nations, and the First Amendment also protects these Senators’ freedom of speech.
However, the letter is just plain wrong: it embarrasses the U.S. In fact, it violates the 1799 Logan Act, which condemned people who corresponded with foreign relations with the intent “to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government.” Influencing a foreign government, in this case the Iranian government, is exactly what those 47 Senators were trying to do. Although no one has been persecuted under this Act, it should still be obeyed since it was once important enough of an issue to be written into a law.
Sure, members of the Senate have the right to object the nuke deals, but they should have sent the complaint to Obama instead of directly to Iran. This letter showed the rest of the world that the U.S. government has communication problems. Our government is not able to work together and solve internal partisan problems, let alone help solve other problems on the international scale, as the U.S. often tries to do.
The main point of the letter is, according to the Los Angeles Times, “the idea that any president’s agreements are good only until the next president shows up.” The Los Angeles Times goes on to say, “If that were to become the norm instead of the exception, it would only make diplomacy harder for every future president — including Republicans.” Republican Senators need to be careful with their actions because impulsive, misguided actions, such as the letter, could lead to negative consequences for the U.S. in both the present and the future.