47 Republicans Send an Open Letter to Iran

News: Forty-seven Republican senators sent a letter to Iran advising them on a potential nuclear treaty with the United States.

On 9 March 2015, a group of Republican U.S. senators signed an open letter to Iran advising that country on a potential nuclear treaty with the United States.

The letter, which was organized by freshman senator Tom Cotton and signed by top Republican officials such as Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul, advised Iran that any nuclear treaty negotiated with them by the White House would merely be an “executive agreement” lacking the approval of Congress:


An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran:

It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution — the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices — which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.

First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them. In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote. A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate). Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.

Second, the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics.

For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then — perhaps decades.

What these two constitutional provisions mean is that 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. 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.

We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.


The Republican’s open letter to Iran was denounced by the White House, with spokesman Josh Earnest calling it a “continuation of a partisan strategy to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy,” while President Obama noted that it was “ironic” for Republican officials to align themselves with Iran:


It’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran. It’s an unusual coalition.

I think what we’re going to focus on right now is actually seeing whether we’re going to get a deal or not. Once we do, if we do, we’ll be able to make the case to the American people, and I’m confident we’ll be able to implement it.


The Republicans’ letter was also criticized by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif:


We believe this letter has no legal value and is indeed just a propaganda ploy. What’s more, while the negotiations have not yet borne fruit and there no agreement yet, pressure groups in the U.S. are so worried that they are using extraordinary measures to prove that they, just like Netanyahu oppose any kind of agreement.

Tom Cotton responded to critics, saying that the Republican officials who signed the letter simply wanted to make sure that Iranian leaders understood the U.S. constitution:


The point we’re making to Iran’s leaders — who, if you talk to many of the Iran experts, will say they don’t understand our Constitution — is that if Congress doesn’t approve a deal, Congress won’t accept a deal. Now or in the future.”

Last updated:   10 March 2015

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