Iran has made no effort to hide its role in the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq, most recently in Tikrit. General Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s elite Qods Force, has been directing and advising a combination of the Iraqi military and Shiite militias. Photos of him on the front lines have been widely shared on Twitter and other social media networks.
Haj Qassem today in Tikrit pic.twitter.com/gDq6CJPClj— عمليات تهران (@TehranOM) March 10, 2015
Iran's Quds Force Gen Qasem Soleimani reportedly drinking tea near Tikrit & leading Iraq'i forces against ISIS. pic.twitter.com/91dffVJyrW— Hanif Z. Kashani (@hanifzk) March 5, 2015
Iran & Region II: Salvaging Iraq by Alireza Nader
Robin Wright (for The New Yorker)
Recapturing Tikrit could be Iraq’s first step to taking back the Sunni heartland: http://t.co/pIMzTJBK4i— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) March 10, 2015
The following series details the GOP letter to Iran’s leadership on a nuclear deal and responses from Iran, the White House and Democrats.
Part I - GOP Letter on Iran
Part II - Iran Responds to GOP Letter
On March 9, a group of 47 Republican senators warned Iran's leaders that a nuclear deal signed during President Barack Obama’s tenure could be revoked by the next president or modified by a future Congress. “We 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,” wrote the lawmakers in an open letter to Iran's leaders. All but seven Republican senators— Lamar Alexander (TN), Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), Dan Coats (IN), Jeff Flake (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Thad Cochran (MS)— signed the letter, organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton (AR, left). The full text is below, followed by statements from Republican senators who both signed and did not sign the letter.
—March 10, 2015, according to the press
—March 9, 2015, according to the press
"I'm more concerned not with how Iran receives it, but with how our allies receive it. These sanctions have been effective and Iran is at the table because these sanctions have been multilateral. It's been Iran versus the West rather than Iran versus the U.S., and I think it's extremely important to maintain that coalition."
"Republicans and Democrats realize that Congress has a role here. These sanctions were imposed by Congress, and only Congress can lift them permanently. So I think that's important and it's unfortunate if one party is, I think, signing any one letter here. This needs to be a bipartisan effort."
—March 9, 2015, according to the press
The following are responses by Iranian officials on the GOP letter to Iran’s leadership.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
The letter is "the collapse of political ethics and the U.S. system's internal disintegration."
The team of negotiators appointed by Pres. @HassanRouhani has good, considerate& trusty members who work for the benefits of the country 1/2— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) March 12, 2015
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to UN - New York
Part III: White House & Democrats Respond to GOP Letter
The following are responses by President Obama, administration officials and Democrats on the GOP letter to Iran’s leadership.
GOP letter increases probability of two bad outcomes: Iran nuke or war. = Really bad strategy. http://t.co/XyBsvCNXVe— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) March 10, 2015
Part IV: Media Roundup on GOP Letter
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
The Denver Post
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.
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.
On March 10, hardliner Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi (left) was elected chairman of the Assembly of Experts, Iran’s only constitutional body with the authority to appoint and dismiss the supreme leader. Yazdi won 47 out of 73 votes, defeating the more centrist Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Former President Rafsanjani, who was chairman from 2007 to 2011, received 24 votes.
- Select the supreme leader (Article 107 and 111).
- Dismiss him if he is unable to perform his constitutional duties or it becomes known that he did not possess some of the initial qualifications such as “social and political wisdom, prudence, courage, administrative facilities and adequate capability for leadership (Article 111).”
- Supervise the supreme leader’s capabilities to determine whether he is able to perform his duties. The assembly also has a committee to oversee “the continuation of qualifications for the leader specified in the constitution.”