Part IV: Media Roundup on GOP Letter

March 9, 2015
The following is a snapshot of editorials from U.S. newspapers and media outlets on the GOP letter to Iran’s leaders.
 
The Washington Post
 
 
Congressional Republicans are trying to obstruct President Obama from concluding a nuclear agreement with Iran, but the only tangible result of their efforts has been to impede serious debate about the legitimate issues arising from the potential deal. The latest GOP gambit, an open letter to Iran’s leaders disparaging any accord not approved by Congress, prompted predictable blasts of rhetoric from the White House, the Senate caucuses and even the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, but not a word of discussion about what the Republicans say worries them: whether the terms being offered to Iran by the Obama administration are in the United States’ interest.
Republicans had an opportunity to focus attention on weaknesses in the emerging accord with Iran and mobilize bipartisan pressure on the administration to demand better terms. Instead they have engaged in grandstanding tactics that have alienated potential supporters while obscuring critical issues. Their antics are making it easier rather than harder for Mr. Obama to proceed unilaterally.
 
The Wall Street Journal
 
 
President Obama's looming nuclear deal with Iran may be the security blunder of the young century, and Congress should vote on it. Which is why it's too bad that Republican Senators took their eye off that ball on Monday with a letter to the government of Iran.
The problem with the GOP letter is that it's a distraction from what should be the main political goal of persuading the American people. Democratic votes will be needed if the pact is going to be stopped, and even to get the 67 votes to override a veto of the Corker-Menendez bill to require such a vote. Monday's letter lets Mr. Obama change the subject to charge that Republicans are playing politics as he tries to make it harder for Democrats to vote for Corker-Menendez.

The New York Times
 
 
The letter was an attempt to scare the Iranians from making a deal that would limit their nuclear program for at least a decade by issuing a warning that the next president could simply reverse any agreement. It was a blatant, dangerous effort to undercut the president on a grave national security issue by communicating directly with a foreign government.
The best and only practical way to restrain Iran from developing a bomb is through negotiating a strict agreement with tough monitoring. In rejecting diplomacy, the Republicans make an Iranian bomb and military conflict more likely.
 
Los Angeles Times
 
 
[W]hat is most objectionable about the senators' letter is neither its condescending tone nor its legal analysis. It's the fact that the letter injects the senators into ongoing international negotiations that are properly the prerogative of the executive branch — with the obvious intention of subverting those negotiations. Not only does this intervention put the senators on the same side as Iranian hard-liners who are opposed to a deal — a point made Monday by Obama — but it will make it easier for Iran to blame the U.S. if the talks fail to produce an agreement.
 
The Boston Globe
 
“GOP letter to Iran is a reckless intrusion into nuclear talks”
 
Winning sympathy for the renegade Islamic Republic of Iran is no easy trick. But Republicans in the US Senate seem to be accomplishing it with their breathtakingly reckless intrusion into international diplomacy.
 
Under the guise of an American civics lesson pointedly but also pointlessly aimed at Iran’s already isolated, mistrustful, hostile-to-the-United States leadership, Senate Republicans may sabotage highly delicate negotiations to persuade Tehran to curb its nuclear development program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
  
The letter not only undercuts the president’s traditional authority to oversee the shaping of foreign policy but badly undermines America’s credibility in the international community. It speaks to the toxic levels of partisanship in Washington that not a single Senate Democrat was willing to sign the poison pen letter, although more than a few are skeptical of Iran’s long-term intentions and are fearful of what it might portend for Israel — Iran’s blood enemy.
 
USA Today
 
“'Dear Iran' letter subverts nuclear talks”
 
It's not every day that you see U.S. senators pressing leaders of a hostile power to help them kill off American-led negotiations aimed at removing a potential nuclear threat to the United States and its allies.
 
In fact, nothing quite like that had ever happened until Monday, when 47 Republican senators wrote a letter to the leaders of Iran warning that any agreement they reach with President Obama to curtail Iran's nuclear weapons program might be reversed by a future president.
..
At a minimum, the senators have given Iran a way to reject the deal and escape blame.
 
This is neither a small nor improbable thing.
 
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been under pressure from hard-line factions to walk away. Like the senators, he could see the deal as a bad one, requiring inspections that he considers to be too intrusive or lifting sanctions too slowly for his liking.
 
Miami Herald
 
 
The open letter to Iran by 47 Republican senators questioning the value of any agreement to freeze its nuclear program is another troubling break with precedent that threatens to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy.
 
The letter is little more than a mischievous attempt to throw a monkey wrench into a years-long, multinational effort to obtain a secure, verifiable agreement with Iran to stop its nuclear-weapons program through diplomacy, rather than war. It’s hard to see how Republicans can reject a deal when they know little more than the outline of the proposal that is still being worked out, especially since they have no reasonable alternative to offer.
 
The Star-Ledger (New Jersey)
 
 
The amateurish missive succeeded in doing little but giving the hardliners in Tehran hope that the negotiations will crumble, as their chief argument is that the United States cannot be trusted.
If the U.S. causes negotiations to fail -- because their war profiteers and their Congressional enablers undermine the president's diplomatic authority -- the UN Security Council breaks ranks, lifts sanctions, and Cotton earns his place in infamy.
 
It's up to Congress whether it prefers war and political posturing to a verifiable agreement. The wrong decision could ostracize the U.S., create another nuclear player in the Middle East, and throw the world into further turmoil.
 
San Francisco Chronicle
 
 
Washington’s unrelenting partisanship is hitting an all-time low. Senate Republicans are brazenly undermining White House talks with Iran over nuclear weapons by warning Tehran that any deal won’t stick with the next president.
 
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
 
 
The letter sent Monday by 47 Republican senators to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warning him not to sign an agreement with major nations limiting his country’s nuclear program, was damaging to America’s role in the world.
America’s partners in the talks are among the world’s most important nations — China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. They can only be appalled at seeing Secretary of State John Kerry and the president, who are charged with making the nation’s foreign policy, hit from behind by one house of the federal legislature.
 
The senators who signed the letter should be ashamed.
 
Albany Times Union
 
 
Other than Iran's unlikely capitulation, the Republicans — as usual in disagreements with President Barack Obama — offer no alternative, other than perhaps an unstated desire for war.
 
The Republicans who signed this foolish letter should listen to their own members who chose not to participate in this partisan attack on a sitting president. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said it would be appropriate for senators to give advice to the president and Secretary Kerry instead of going directly to Tehran.
 
Rather than listening to their reasonable colleagues, the Republicans who signed this letter are merely continuing to try to undermine President Obama at every turn. Their actions risk undoing years of high-stakes negotiations and threaten the stability of the Mideast, all for the sake of scoring some partisan political points.
 
Cleveland Plain Dealer
 
 
The decision by 47 Republican senators to sign a patronizing open letter to the leaders of Iran seeking to instruct them on how the U.S. constitutional system works -- and, by the way, to upend talks closing in on a nuclear weapons deal -- is as depressingly partisan as it is shortsighted.
It is in the United States' interest to negotiate the toughest possible deal that can put the brakes on Iran's drive for nuclear weapons with full, intrusive inspections and controls on its near-weapons-grade fuel stocks.
 
That aim is undercut by the March 9 letter basically telling the ayatollahs not to bother to negotiate.
 
The Courier Journal (Kentucky)
 
 
Has Congress gone crazy?
 
That’s what many U.S. observers and much of the world must be wondering after a group of rogue Republican senators opted to communicate directly by letter with “the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” seeking to undercut President Barack Obama’s ongoing negotiations with Iran over nuclear enrichment.

Whatever the outcome of negotiations with Iran, the 47 senators have done immeasurable harm to their image and U.S. credibility in world affairs. It is regrettable that Kentucky’s two senators were among them.

Salt Lake Tribune
 
It will be up to history to judge whether the latest partisan stunt joined by Utah Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch amounts to an act of End Times warmongering or merely another bit of cringe-worthy buffoonery on the global stage.
 
Chances are that the foolish, dangerous and arguably felonious attempt by the Obama Derangement Caucus of the Senate will soon be forgotten. Unless, as President Obama himself muttered the other day, the Senate Republicans make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran to push the region, and the world, that much closer to nuclear war.

A nuclear-armed Iran is very much a thing to be avoided if at all possible. But, so far, the talks the Senate Republicans seem determined to undermine are the best hope of avoiding such a situation. Or at least pushing it back toward a not-so-distant day when the religious supreme leadership of that nation has left the stage and is succeeded by a more representative, and less confrontational, regime.
 
By seeking to undermine not only these negotiations, but also the political authority of this and all future presidents to conduct America's foreign policy, the senators seem determined to build tensions in the Middle East, endanger Israel and greatly increase the chances that the United States will wind up taking military action against Iran.
 
The Arizona Central Republic
 
 
The Republicans said they sent the letter because they consider the deal with Iran to be insufficient, unworkable and a mortal threat to the stability of the Middle East generally and a vital U.S. ally, Israel, in particular.
 
While their concerns may be valid, it is no business of senators to interfere with the negotiations of the elected official with the authority to barter with Iran, the president.
If President Obama has demonstrated a disdain for his constitutional authority, the 47 GOP senators have just joined him in a bipartisan display of contempt for our governing document. Their actions may fall short of the "traitorous" declamations of Democrats, but "irresponsible" would certainly apply.
 
Concord Monitor
 
 
[T]he letter may not have any effect on negotiations with Iran, a nation that understands the game as well as anybody. As columnist Robert Azzi wrote in the Sunday Monitor this past weekend, Iranian leaders’ “over-the-top rhetoric” is “designed primarily for home consumption to keep the fanatical Revolutionary Guard at bay.” The Republican senators’ letter serves the same purpose here in the United States. They are catering to their anti-Obama base and are willing to do real long-term damage to the office of the presidency if it means briefly wounding Obama and Democrats politically.
 
Baltimore Sun
 
“The GOP's poison pen note”
 
Congress has a long history of criticizing the White House's handling of foreign policy, but the letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran's leaders this week was virtually unprecedented. Signed by all but seven Senate Republicans, it bluntly warned Tehran that any deal made with the U.S. over Iran's disputed nuclear program won't be worth the paper it's printed on. The poison pen note was a shocking example of just how far President Barack Obama's GOP critics in Congress are willing to go in an effort to undercut his foreign policy goals.
The GOP senators might just as well have put up a big sign over their chamber warning the mullahs in Tehran to prepare for war because that's the practical import of rejecting any possibility of a negotiated resolution of the two countries' differences.
 
Newsday
 
 
Did Republican senators really think Iranian leaders needed a primer on how the U.S. government works? The open letter they sent to the leaders of Iran Monday was an unnecessary partisan stunt that detracts from what matters most.
 
That is, any deal with Iran must include a requirement for unannounced inspections of its nuclear facilities. Verification must be pervasive and intrusive enough to give the world confidence that if Iran cheats, it will be caught before it can produce a bomb.
The risk, however, is sabotaging the multination negotiations and leaving Iran unrestrained in building nuclear weapons. That's a bad path that could lead to use of military force to stop Iran's pursuit of a bomb.
 
Detroit Free Press
 
 
America looks weakest when its internal arguments spill over into its international diplomacy — something that has been rare in the nation's history.
 
That it is happening now is a blot on the 114th U.S. Senate; specifically, on the 47 Republican senators who signed an open letter to the Islamic Republic of Iran, a missive whose sole purpose is to end President Barack Obama's ongoing nuclear negotiations with that country.
But the Republicans who dispatched this letter have done more than embarrass a president they dislike. They have also disgraced themselves and undermined the credibility of the nation whose constitution they took an oath to uphold.
 
The News and Observer (North Carolina)
 
“Burr, Tillis add their names to outrageous letter to Iran”
 
This is one of the most horrid and tangible examples of pure partisanship run amok in modern times. So much do Republicans resent the fact that President Obama has won two terms they’ll now resort to blowing up a negotiation aimed at preventing war in the Middle East. This, despite the fact that since the presidency of George Washington, America has always tried to present a united front to the world. Time and again, Congress has stood behind presidents in war and in peace in the name of national unity.

But if the president, Secretary of State John Kerry and American allies are able to negotiate, for example, a 10-year hold on nuclear development, the Iran of 2025 may be much different than the Iran of today. Isn’t trying diplomacy better than a war into which United States forces most certainly would be drawn?
 
Sacramento Bee (California)
 
 
It’s one thing for Republicans in Congress to invite an ally to criticize a potential nuclear deal with Iran, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did last week.
 
But it’s beyond the pale to write to the leaders of a potential enemy to sabotage the negotiations, as 47 GOP senators did Monday.
Seven Republican senators had the good sense not to sign on. “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,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
 
Iranian officials said as much. So if the ayatollah is going to ignore the letter and the president is brushing it off, what was the point again?
 
The Denver Post
 
 
Do you get the feeling that Republican members of Congress really, really don't like the deal the Obama administration is negotiating with Iran?
 
First there was the rapturous reception for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who denounced the possible deal. And now 47 GOP senators — including Colorado's Cory Gardner — have sent a letter to Iran instructing the regime that a purely "executive agreement" could be revoked by the next president. As if the Iranians wouldn't already know that.

The reality is that if the agreement actually serves America's interest, even a Republican president would be unlikely to revoke it in 2017, given the race for a nuclear bomb that would likely follow.
 
Kansas City Star  
 
 
Yael T. Abouhalkah (Editorial page columnist)
 
The three GOP U.S. senators representing Kansas and Missouri signed on to a letter that undermined President Barack Obama’s ability to work out a nuclear deal with Iran.
 
Some detractors are labeling as traitorous Monday’s actions by Pat Roberts, Jerry Moran, Roy Blunt and 44 other Republicans.
 
The critics offer a plausible reason for being so upset: The letter was a near-unprecedented attempt by one party to meddle in the foreign diplomatic affairs of the United States, as presented by the president.
 

Given the Republicans’ pure hatred of Obama, it also seemed extra personal, yet another politically motivated attempt to stop him from doing anything that might be perceived as a victory for his administration.

The Tennessean

 
The new Senate leadership has decided that instead of allowing experienced professional diplomats to try to negotiate a nuclear disarmament deal with America’s longtime enemy Iran, it should let a freshman senator lead an amateurish and unprecedented effort to undermine U.S. foreign policy.
As much as our diplomats study Iran’s laws and culture, it might be safe to say that their diplomats do the same to us. So, the civics lesson on balance and separation of powers really was useless. What is confounding and should unnerve Americans is that these senators would try to embarrass their president in the face of a mutual enemy — and put our citizens’ national security at risk.
The Anniston Star
 
 
We are struck by your letter that condescendingly attempts to lecture Iran’s leadership on the fine points of the U.S. Constitution while at the same time blatantly trampled on the constitutionally defined roles in foreign affairs of presidents and members of Congress. In short, the chief executive negotiates and the Senate ratifies, or not, as the case may be.
 
Yet, your letter is a clear attempt to preemptively wreck the president’s attempts at a settlement to put Iran’s nuclear ambitions in check. And this provocative letter is well beyond the protocol for how the U.S. government negotiates international treaties.
 
The Republican (Massachusetts)
 
 
Before Democrats and their left-leaning allies across the land get even more riled up about a letter sent to Iranian leaders by 47 Senate Republicans, they may wish to take a moment to recall a time when members of their own party did much the same to a Republican president. Oh, no, wait a minute – that didn't happen.
Just seven of 54 GOP senators had the good sense not to sign the letter. The others acted rashly and allowed their passions to rule the day. They imprudently and shamefully put politics above our national interest, damaging our standing. Our nation will recover, but it shouldn't have to.
 
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
 
 
We're not saying Cotton can't have his own opinions about what to do in Iraq. The letter, however, was designed to interfere and disrupt, or to shock and awe, if you will, a nation Cotton views as an enemy that should only be dealt with as an enemy. Iran isn't any friend of the United States, but engaging in talks to work out a possible deal is a better approach than pushing for a showdown. Cotton is a little too eager to draw a line in the sand.
 
The Commerical Appeal – Memphis
 
 
The letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran's leaders — saying that any agreement the U.S. reached with them without congressional approval could be reversed by the next president "with a stroke of a pen" — is wrong on so many levels that it is hard to know where to start.

 

Billings Gazette (Montana)

 
 
The real galling part of this letter is the feigned concern for Iran. Sure, every leader — every American — should be concerned about Iran and nuclear weapons. However, Iran seems to be a convenient backdrop for what is really a political grudge match. The issue really isn’t about Iran. Instead, it’s about a power struggle between the president and Congress — a Republican Congress that is still reeling from questionable immigration policies done by executive order; or, maybe it’s the fallout from the somewhat successful yet vilified Obamacare health insurance program.

 

Providence Journal
 
 
Members of Congress have a constitutional right, and even a duty, to weigh in on matters affecting American security and foreign policy. But they should respect that the president is responsible for conducting the nation's foreign policy -- and refrain from undercutting those efforts in communications with foreign governments.
Even in the current Washington environment, writing letters to hostile foreign governments at a time when the State Department is trying to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough seems well beyond the pale. The Republican senators did not serve their country or their party well with this stunt.