Counterbalance: the Grudge Goes Global

Following November’s midterm elections, it was quite clear that with a shift in the balance of power, current policies were going to be modified . What may have been less obvious before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s US visit and Senator Tom Cotton’s Iran Letter, is that the new conservative majority would overhaul basic democratic protocols that are older than John McCain.[1] After months of negotiations, international representatives successfully released a framework for limiting Iran’s nuclear potential on April 2nd. Prior to the solidifying of the agreement, 47 Republican senators were globally humiliated by attempting to thwart Iran’s nuclear negotiations, to no avail. The senators sent a letter warning Iran that the (Republican) winner of the 2016 election could rescind the agreement that has recently been reached. Just in the last month, Netanyahu used the Capitol as a stage for a re-election antic against the President’s wishes, and an international nuclear deal with Iran was purposefully obstructed. Apparently undermining the President and allowing catty political maneuvers be the face of American politics take precedence over introducing actual policy alternatives. After receiving the letter, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, stated that it appears that the US is “disintegrating from within.” [3] The current state of affairs makes it seem as though he is not too far off.

 

One of the world’s most controversial leaders, Netanyahu was invited by Speaker John Boehner to use the House chamber as an outlet for his re-election campaign. Netanyahu used the podium to critique President Obama’s Middle Eastern foreign policy platform while simultaneously questioning Iranian legitimacy.[4] Following the speech, House Republicans exploited prevailing tensions in the Middle East to widen the rift between themselves and the President, and between the White House and Israel. Given Obama and Netanyahu haven’t maintained the most amicable relationship, Obama was not consulted before the invitation. Following the address, Boehner’s office confirmed that the speaker will be visiting Israel later this month, with hopes of strengthening his relationship with the newly elected Prime Minister, and of evolving into a darker shade of orange. [5]

 

Encouraged by the controversial visit by Netanyahu, the antagonistic voices in the Senate decided to write a letter to Iranian leadership, warning them of President Obama’s imminent exit and of a possible Republican executive in 2016. Senator Ted Cruz has already stated that if elected he is considering using the coloring book “Ted Cruz to the Future” as a viable replacement for the nuclear deal. The argument was whether or not the White House was being tough enough on limiting Iran’s nuclear program. Republicans maintain that the response to Iranian enrichment should be offensive in nature, threatening additional sanctions and possible military action. By crippling the Iranian economy and making their leaders reluctant to come to the negotiating table, the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran for the last decade yielded nothing but hostility. Despite the fact that stagnation appears to be the Republican answer to everything, undermining the face of American foreign policy is too snide even for those 47 legislators. Their efforts weren’t rooted in proposing an alternative to the position upheld by the Obama administration, they were efforts to sabotage progress and delegitimize the President yet again.

 

It wasn’t until April 2nd that the international representatives were able to agree upon a framework in Geneva, cutting off all possibilities for Tehran to become nuclearly capable within the next 10 years.[6] Following the announcement of the deal, President Obama stood in the Rose Garden and attempted to ease the apprehension. “Iran will face strict limitations on its program, and Iran has also agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history.[7] Diplomacy in the negotiations was able to bring about a substantial framework for improvement. Republicans and Democrat legislators alike have not responded joyously to the news of the negotiations, demanding to have the final say over the deal that is reached with Iran.

 

The president’s overall response to Republicans’ recent attitudes has been one of dismissal. When asked about the letter while being interviewed on VICE, Obama stated, “I am embarrassed for them.” [9] During his interview with VICE, Obama claimed that the stagnant state of affairs is out of his control. He criticized the GOP for embracing what he called a “slash-and-burn approach to politics.” [10] Although partisanship and deadlock are a result of actions taken by both parties, why maintain the status quo if it’s clearly not yielding any progress? If sanctions haven’t pushed either country forward then what’s standing in the way of exploring feasible substitutes? During the President’s address in the Rose Garden he hinted at the defiance stating, “Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?” Rather than embracing tolerance and democracy, Republicans instead chose to humiliate themselves on the global stage by pretending as though their empty threats carry any international political clout.

 

When receiving the letter, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme leader, released a response on his website condemning the backstabbing nature of the correspondence. “US senators officially announce that when this government leaves, its commitments will become nullified,” he stated. “Isn’t that the ultimate collapse of political ethics and the disintegration of the US system?”[11] While this statement is dramatized, it isn’t unprecedented. As the President noted following Netanyahu’s address to Congress, “The prime minister didn’t offer any viable alternatives.”The Republican senators’ Iran letter didn’t have many alternatives outlined in it either, even with 2016 right around the corner. Over the course of these negotiations members of the international community were able to persuade Iran to agree to international oversight over any nuclear development, which is more than the Republican party can say about their embarrassing attempt at managing foreign policy.


References:

[1] Lehigh, Scot. 2015. ‘The GOP Takes Partisanship International’. Boston Globe. http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/03/17/senators-letter-iran-just-part-gop-efforts-take-partisanship-international/NCcWjy7ME3AGi79F1f5m6K/story.html.

[2]Waldman, Paul. 2015. ‘Republicans Are Beginning To Act As Though Barack Obama Isn’T Even The President’. Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/03/09/republicans-are-beginning-to-act-as-though-barack-obama-isnt-even-the-president/.

[3] Erdbrink, Thomas. 2015. ‘G.O.P. Letter By Republican Senators Is Evidence Of ‘Decline,’ Iranian Says’. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/13/world/middleeast/ayatollah-ali-khamenei-criticizes-republicans-letter-on-iran-nuclear-talks.html?_r=0.

[4]New York Times,. 2015. ‘Mr. Netanyahu’S Unconvincing Speech To Congress’. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/04/opinion/netanyahu-israel-unconvincing-iran-speech-to-congress.html.

[5]DeBonis, Mike. 2015. ‘John Boehner Will Visit Israel Following Netanyahu Win’. Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2015/03/20/john-boehner-will-visit-israel-following-netanyahu-win/.

[6]Gordon, Michael, and David Sanger. 2015. ‘Iran Agrees To Framework Of Nuclear Deal’. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/03/world/middleeast/iran-nuclear-talks.html.

[7] Guion, Peyton. 2015. ‘Iran Nuclear Deal: Full Transcript Of President Obama’s Remarks’. The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/iran-nuke-deal-full-transcript-of-president-obamas-remarks-10153398.html.

[8]’Sen. Tom Cotton’S Farsi Version Of His Explosive Letter To Iranian Leaders Reads Like A Middle Schooler Wrote It’. 2015. Foreign Policy. http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/03/30/sen-tom-cottons-farsi-version-of-his-explosive-letter-to-iranian-leaders-reads-like-a-middle-schooler-wrote-it/.

[9] DelReal, Jose. 2015. ‘Obama On Senate GOP: ‘I’M Embarrassed For Them’’. Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2015/03/13/obama-on-senate-gop-im-embarrassed-for-them/.

[10]Fields, Liz. 2015. ‘‘I’M Embarrassed For Them’: Obama Hits Back At Republican Senators’ Letter To Iran Over Nuclear Deal | VICE News’. VICE News. https://news.vice.com/article/im-embarrassed-for-them-obama-hits-back-at-republican-senators-letter-to-iran-over-nuclear-deal.

[11]Eqbali, Aresu, and Asa Fitch. 2015. ‘Iran Supreme Leader Criticizes Republican Letter On Nuclear Talks’. Wall Street Journal. http://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-supreme-leader-criticizes-republican-letter-on-nuclear-talks-1426195767.

 

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