Senator Rob Portman of Ohio spoke about the letter that he and 46 other Republicans sent to Iran on Thursday. Apparently, he thinks that letter will help Obama’s negotiations, and yield better results. According to Roll Call, he spoke to reporters about the letter that has ignited sharp controversy both here and overseas, and has even sparked calls for charges of treason against the 47 U.S. Senators who signed it.
Roll Call says that Portman told reporters the following:
As you all know, because you cover us up here, it’s the Congress that has taken the lead on sanctions, it’s the Congress that insisted on sanctions, it’s the administration that was reluctant, it was sanctions that got Iran to the table in the first place.
And the letter states the obvious, which is Congress is going to have a role here, but it also reminds those negotiators at the table, on the other side of the table from us, that this has to be a verifiable, strong agreement that actually ends their nuclear weapons program. And if it is not, well it’s not going to pass muster here. And I think that helps to get a good agreement.
Roll Call goes on to say that Portman hopes the White House leverages that letter to let Iran know that we’re serious, that they must also be serious about this, and that any agreement we reach “has got to be real.”
Those who have blasted the letter say that it’s an intentional effort on the part of Senate Republicans to undermine the negotiations with Iran. According to Cincinnati.com, Portman also issued a statement that said:
This notion that the 47 Republicans who signed the letter want to blow up the agreement is simply incorrect. In fact, it’s just the opposite for me. I want an agreement that will stand the test of time, and that’s what we’re working for.
It’s not yet clear what impact the letter is going to have on the negotiations. According to Cincinnati.com’s article, one analyst says that, if nothing else, Kerry and Obama could tell Iran that they had better deal on our terms because we have a crazy Congress that will try anything, and that letter is proof. On the other hand, the letter could make Iran’s hardliners work to destroy any deal made, under the notion that we’re not dealing in good faith.
Certainly, telling Iran that Congress and the next president could easily nullify any agreement reached would give them a clue that we’re not dealing in good faith, like the negotiations are a delay tactic, or a cover, while we quietly get ready to use military force. Portman sort of sidestepped the question of whether he supports military action or not. He said he believes Obama is smart to keep the military option on the table, but that tightening sanctions is a better way to get a better deal.
At this point, though, there’s a very valid question as to whether tightening sanctions is a viable option. The Republicans should definitely have left this alone until, at the very least, the negotiations were finished, or the deadline had passed. Senators like Portman might think they’ve done the right thing, but all they’ve done is given Iran another reason not to trust us, and shown the rest of the world the depth of the rift that exists between the far right war hawks and the rest of us.