Our Supreme Leader, and theirs

Our friend Senator Tom Cotton has created something of a firestorm with his open letter to Iran, joined in by 46 of his Senate colleagues. The letter sets forth the applicable constitutional principles to the agreement.

Our Supreme Leader does not approve; he intends to deliver the agreement in process with Iran to Congress as a done deal. Iran’s Supreme Leader appears to be on board.

With his characteristically crude rhetorical touch, President Obama responded to the letter: “I think it’s somewhat ironic to see some members for Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran. It’s an unusual coalition.”

By Obama’s lights, Iran’s Supreme Leader must not be a “hard-liner.” He’s one of the good guys with whom Obama is “mak[ing] common cause.”

Our Supreme Leader has not sought the support of Congress for the deal in process. It does not appear that he could win the support of Congress. Our Supreme Leader means to bypass Congress to enter into the deal. Senator Cotton’s letter explains the limited status of such a deal under our law.

The New York Daily News has tarred Senator Cotton and his cosigners as “traitors” this morning on the tabloid’s cover here. We know what treason means; it is the provision of aid and comfort to our enemy. The Daily News editorial doesn’t even bother to make the case.

Indeed, the Daily News expresses agreement with the substance of the letter: “All true, and unquestionably not news to Iran’s leaders, who may be murderous zealots, but are by no means morons.’

Yet Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif released a statement of his own on the letter yesterday. He took issue with the letter and with the letter’s recitation of applicable constitutional principles. The statement is posted here. Zarif begs to differ with the signing Senators:

[Zarif] pointed out that from reading the open letter, it seems that the authors not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.

Foreign Minister Zarif added that “I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law. The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfil the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.”

As Senator Cotton pointed out yesterday, Zarif’s statement “proves the very need to send the letter to begin with.” It’s too bad the Daily News overlooked Zarif’s statement in its rush to brand Senator Cotton and his colleagues with the strongest epithet in our political discourse.

I’m quite sure that Senator Cotton’s patriotism stacks up impressively against the anonymous authors of the editorial. Having served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect the constitutional right of the editors of the New York Daily News to make fools of themselves, Senator Cotton is owed an apology. With the Daily News’s abuse of him put on display by Morning Joe’s producer on MSNBC this morning, Senator Cotton appeared for an interview to defend himself. The interview is posted below and accessible here.

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