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Uproar Follows GOP Letter to Iran

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By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Correspondent for In Homeland Security

In an apparent breach of constitutional powers, 47 Republican senators sent a letter to Iran in an effort to derail President Barack Obama’s negotiations with Iran and other world leaders regarding a nuclear agreement. The White House has so far refrained from labeling the move “illegal,” but Vice President Joe Biden called it “beneath the dignity of the institution I revere.”

The letter was addressed to the “Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”GOP letter to Iran

U.S. senators wrote: “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen, and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

Under the U.S. Constitution, the power to conduct foreign policy is clearly given to the president only. Moreover, this is further clarified through federal law such as the Logan Act. The Senate only has constitutional power of America’s foreign relations after the foreign policy is conducted and after negotiations through treaty ratification. Foreign policy functions of Congress are at the request or consent of the president. Only if the deal is signed by the president, and then reaches the Senate, can they officially act to ratify or oppose its ratification; and not before.

Senator Tom Cotton drafted the letter to Iran’s leaders by stating it was educational. He said the Iranians might not understand the American process but clearly this was a direct injection of the Senate into the White House operations.

This letter may be a death blow to the current agreement in process. Tehran has problems about the deal of its own. Hardliners want no deal at all and this interference might stop it even before it reaches the U.S. Senate.

White House Press Secretary John Earnest was blunt in expressing frustration, stating that the senatorial letter throws “sand in the gears” of the president’s efforts and that “writing a letter like this that appeals to the hard-liners in Iran is frankly just the latest in a strategy, a partisan strategy, to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy and advance our national interests around the world.”

Regardless of the letters end effect, the posting of a letter to Iran from the U.S. Senate is the second major move that involved the legislative branch’s interference with executive powers and functions. The first was the Congressional invitation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke March 3. This involved a strategy of intermingling his agenda with American politics, invoking greater resentment and opposition for any nuclear agreement and thwarting President Barack Obama’s efforts. The overstepping of authority of Congress was to invite and engage a foreign leader without the consent of the White House. But more important, Congress played a direct role in foreign policy in opposition to the president of the United States. Instead of one head of state before foreign leaders there are now essentially two, as Congress is making the world apprized: first with Israel and now in Iran.

Ultimately, there is a future crisis ahead with the complete breakdown of properly constitutionally delegated powers; especially without any firm repercussions or judiciary response. This crisis without repercussions applies to both respective branches in various ways: the executive (e.g., the failure to enforce laws as in the case of illegal immigration) and the legislature (e.g., the failure to abide by laws as in the case of representing themselves an official rival conduit for foreign affairs).

Note: The opinions and comments stated in the preceding article, and views expressed by any contributor to In Homeland Security, do not represent the views of American Military University, American Public University System, its management or employees.

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