Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Democrats Denounce GOP Letter on Iran Nuke Talks

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Democrats Denounce GOP Letter on Iran Nuke Talks

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON | Congressional Democrats on Tuesday accused Senate Republicans who signed a letter to Iran's leadership of undermining President Barack Obama in international talks aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear program and preventing the need for future military conflict.

In remarks on the Senate floor, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., pronounced the letter reckless, much as it would have been for U.S. lawmakers to "reach out to the Vietnamese" a generation ago.

He said he hoped it would not cause the negotiations to fail, adding that an attempt to avoid a nuclear-armed Iran "is something that should not be undermined for political ambition."

Durbin spoke a day after nearly four dozen Republican senators sent their letter, a step that Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden both strongly condemned and White House spokesman Josh Earnest said reflected a "rush to war, or at least the rush to the military option."

The letter's lead author, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., denied undermining Obama's negotiating position. Appearing on MSNBC, he said, "We're making sure that Iran's leaders understand that if Congress doesn't approve a deal, Congress won't accept a deal."

He accused Iran of seeking "a nuclear umbrella so they can continue to export terrorism around the world."

In an open letter Monday to the leaders of Iran, Republican lawmakers warned that unless Congress approved it, any nuclear deal they cut with Obama could expire the day he walks out of the Oval Office. It was signed by 47 of the Senate's 54 Republicans, including members of the leadership and potential presidential candidates.

In a statement issued late Monday night, Biden said Republicans had "ignored two centuries of precedent" and he said the move "threatens to undermine the ability" of any future president to negotiate with foreign countries.

Biden, in his statement, noted that presidents of both political parties have negotiated historic international agreements. "Diplomatic recognition of the People's Republic of China, the resolution of the Iran hostage crisis, and the conclusion of the Vietnam War were all conducted without congressional approval," he noted.

The Republican-drafted letter was an aggressive attempt to make it more difficult for Obama and five world powers to strike an initial agreement by the end of March to limit Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes.

Republicans worry that Iran is not negotiating in good faith and that a deal would be insufficient and unenforceable, allowing Iran to eventually become a nuclear-armed state. They have made a series of proposals to undercut or block it -- from requiring Senate say- so on any agreement to ordering new penalty sanctions against Iran to threats of stronger measures. …

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