Republican Senators Send Controversial Open Letter to Iranian Leadership

March 12, 2015, Washington, D.C. – Forty-seven Senate Republicans sent an open letter Tuesday  to Iranian leaders, warning that President Obama’s successor could revoke any nuclear agreement “with the stroke of a pen” if the deal is not approved by Congress.

The letter was spearheaded by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK), a staunch opponent of the nuclear talks with Iran who has vowed to derail negotiations in favor of regime change.

“[W]e 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 letter reads. “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 letter has drawn significant criticism from the Obama Administration, Democrats, and some Republicans for potentially undermining nuclear negotiations with Iran and threatening to torpedo bipartisanship on Capitol Hill when it comes to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.

“This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments—a message that is as false as it is dangerous,” said Vice President Joe Biden in a statement released by his office. “The President has committed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon…The current negotiations offer the best prospect in many years to address the serious threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

Some Republicans have also criticized the letter, including Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) who was among the seven Republican senators who refused to sign Cotton’s letter.

“It’s more appropriate for members of the Senate to give advice to the president, to Secretary Kerry and to the negotiators,” said Collins. “I don’t think that the ayatollah is going to be particularly convinced by a letter from members of the Senate, even one signed by a number of my distinguished and high ranking colleagues.”

Other Senators expressed concern that the letter will unravel the bipartisan coalition built in Congress that has worked together to craft Iran legislation that would strengthen U.S. national security without derailing international diplomatic efforts. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), a cosponsor of the bipartisan Corker-Menendez bill ensuring congressional review on a nuclear deal with Iran expressed his view on the Senate floor yesterday that making the nuclear negotiations a partisan rather than bipartisan issue “weakens our president, weakens our country, [and] weakens our credibility.”

PAAIA believes that it is important for Congress to refrain from taking any measures during the ongoing negotiations with Iran that could potentially derail the diplomatic process. Such actions could splinter the international coalition working to ensure Iran’s cooperation in its nuclear program thereby strengthening hardliners in the Iranian government. It could also significantly alienate the Iranian people who want their country to move in a direction that engages the international community in a positive way.

As an organization that represents the Iranian American community, PAAIA supports efforts to pursue a diplomatic resolution to the decade-long stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program. We recognize the importance of ensuring that Iranian Americans are well informed and aware of the positions held by their elected officials and others related to this matter.  For more information on this issue, please see our Nuclear Negotiations Resource Center.

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