Good News: Iran’s Negotiators Raise Cotton Letter

From Switzerland, a rare bit of good news with regard to the ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear weapons program:

Iranian diplomats twice confronted their American counterparts about an open letter from Republican senators who warned that any nuclear deal could expire the day President Barack Obama leaves office, a senior U.S. official said Monday.

The official, noting the administration’s warnings when the letter first surfaced, said the GOP intervention was a new issue in the tense negotiations facing an end-of-month deadline for a framework agreement.

The letter came up in nuclear talks Sunday between senior U.S. and Iranian negotiators, the official said, and the Iranians raised it again in discussions Monday led by Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Let’s assume the anonymous official’s statements are true. If Iran’s Foreign Minister “confronted” American negotiators over the letter, what is the significance? The concern Iran would have about the letter is that any executive agreement entered into by the Obama administration may not survive Obama’s presidency. As the Cotton letter said, such an executive agreement could be revoked by a later administration, or Congress could enact legislation inconsistent with the agreement, for example by imposing stronger sanctions. If the Iranians did “confront” John Kerry over the letter, no doubt they wanted to know how Kerry can guarantee that any agreement will survive past 2016.

There is one, and only one, answer to that question: submit the agreement to the Senate for ratification as a treaty by a two-thirds vote. Absent such action, the agreement will be, as John Kerry has said repeatedly, non-binding. Clarifying that fact with the Iranian regime can only be a good thing.

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