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12 March 2015


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ALS: The key is diffusion of responsibility. Simply put, the Senate wants a proactive role on Iran but no responsibility for the outcome.

Rand Paul told Kerry that the intended audience for the letter was the Obama Administration. The Senate's insularity is almost a force of nature.

Babak Makkinejad


I have a question for the Committee:

Does the fact that the President of the United States is an African-American and the 47 signatories European-Americans have any bearing on this matter?



You know I like you, but your analysis ignores the other half of the Congress that is made up of left wingers hellbent on dragging this country into a new Progressive utopia centered around Panem..I mean the Imperial City...I mean DC.

A lot of you are making the mistake of thinking the Dems are standing on principal because they happen to be on the correct side of this issue
issue. They're not - its just another circle the wagons moment around Cocoa Messiah

Adam L Silverman


If that was the case, then the traditional way to do this was for them to send the letter to the President and/or his lead on the negotiations the Secretary of State and then issue a press release indicating they'd done so with a summary of their concerns. This was a stunt to gain maximum exposure.

William R. Cumming

Looking more and more like non-proliferation issues may be on the agenda in the 2016 Presidential campaign. Any links or discussion of the Clintonian or Bushian views on non-proliferation? I would argue that since Truman most American President's have done little for non-proliferation.

And Atoms-For-Peace led IMO to weapons proliferation and continues to do so today.

See book IN MORTAL HANDS [2007]!

alba etie

What would you think of Senator James Webb as POTUS ? -( I do not believe Mrs Clinton will run . )


Tyler, that last comment? How is the name helpful to our discourse?

Adam L Silverman


That's why I included the following:
"This critique, or parts of it, as I indicated, deserves a much longer dedicated post of its own. Moreover, it is not intended to ignore any of the institutional issues or problems with the Democratic Party, which is, itself, a post of its own. This line of argument is solely intended to try to help us better understand how we could have reached the point where 47 senators would write a letter to a foreign power that is currently in negotiations with the US. Finally, this critique is not a condemnation of individual Republicans - as in Americans that formally or informally affiliate with the GOP as a political party."

In a comment over a week ago you wondered why you bothered voting for a GOP majority if this was the type of leadership/results you were going to get. This is part of that answer. Last Fall we were all assured that the establishment GOP had reasserted control, so everything would go smoothly in the new GOP majority Congress. This was naive and foolish reporting - all the establishment had done was get anti-GOP establishment candidates to stay on script. I'm not trying to knock the idea of the GOP or its existence, but it faces a huge issue right now: where is its unifying, coordinating, center of gravity as a political party and movement? Its not with the House leadership, nor with the Senate's. Its not with the RNC. There are so many different sources of deep pocketed funding right now that have been unleashed by the Citizens United decision that what you have is a number of GOPs, because potential Republican candidates are no longer beholden to the party structure for funding or direction. When you know you can get your next campaign financed if you ignore your Party's leadership, that leadership is in name only. I'm happy to do up a post when I have time laying out what I think are the Democrats problems, and like I wrote in the original post, the above really needs to be a more in depth and nuanced and deeper dive as well in a separate post, that's separate from the immediate issues that contributed to the 47ers actions. And its definitely separate from who, ultimately, benefits from those actions.

Will Reks

"But..but..but.. the Democrats do it too!"

Yes Tyler, the Democrats are evil too. News at 11. I also can't wait until the Chocolate Deity (am I doing it right?) is gone. T-minus 680 days.



I must take issue with some of your criticisms.

“The second concern … is that there is really no institutional coherence within the Congressional GOP caucuses in the House and Senate and the national Republican Party”

Members of congress are not elected nationally neither are members of the Senate. There is zero reason for concern that there is no institutional coherence with the House caucases. Were there “institutional” coherence there would be very serisous cause for concern amongst the citizens of the congressional districts within each of the sovereign states whose interests the elected representatives are sworn to serve. The same holds true for the Senate. Our government is not like that of France where the departments are subordinate to the national government.
“…the institutional degradation of Congress….” The constitution gives the power to establish rules of procedure for the House of Representatives to that body alone.

“… the next time a Democrat did something that a Republican didn't like…”

If they were smart they would follow the example of the guy who said the Democratic Party left him, Ronald Reagan; and have the FBI run a new version of ABSCAM and idict a few members. That would be all the message members of Congress would need.


speaking of senator cotton, this little gem was in a wapo column a couple of days ago. and with his increasing profile and likely growing clout within the gop, should be of concern to all as it indicates a very dangerous and disturbing view of the country he envisions -- an appreciation of kim jong un style of governance..

(i wonder if he realized that dick cheney/halliburton could have been exhibit a):

While in the House in 2013, Cotton introduced an amendment to prosecute the relatives of those who violated sanctions on Iran, saying that his proposed penalties of up to 20 years in prison would “include a spouse and any relative to the third degree,” including “parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids.”


Adam L Silverman


I'm not suggesting that our government is like that of France. If I did not communicate it clearly, I apologize, but the point I'm making about institutional coherence is in regards to being a legislative majority bloc with Congress. No one expects any member to be in lockstep all the time, of either party. However, over the past four years, the House GOP leadership clearly is unable to rely on its membership to conduct basic business, hence as a legislative majority there's no institutional (institution bring the House GOP majority, not the House of Representatives) coherence. Now that the GOP has the majority in the Senate, we're beginning to see similar issues. Because it was not the sole purpose of the post, there's a lot that has been left out of the discussion. This includes the rules each chamber sets and how they get used both as sword and shield; whether our legislators should be delegates or trustees; that our system is set up to build coalitions for each issue once the legislators are elected, yet our party system pushes the other way; that neither party, nor our two party system really does a good job of representing the interests of Americans; and the significant problem that arises when at most 1/3 of voters turnout for midterm or off cycle elections, so the majority that produces the victory represents about 18% of the citizenry; and these are just the tip of the iceberg. Again, this is not a reflexive GOP bad, Democrats good post. It is, however, trying to get at who benefits by exploiting the reality of a fractious GOP majority in a post Citizens United world.


Adam Silverman has done a masterful job of delineating the particular issues still being negotiated. However, there is a persuasive case to be made that the outcome does not turn on how those detailed matters are resolved. It is a question of political will.

This is a political issue of great magnitude in its essence. Since Rouhani's election cleared the way for renewed talks with the explicit blessing of Ayatalloh Khameini, Iranian desire for a settlement has been manifest. A deal has been there for the taking. It has been up to the Obama White House to decide whether it was prepared the offer Iran the minimum it needed to make the deal palatable to them. Obama has equivocated in his
characteristic manner. Hyper-sensitive to vocal criticism from Capitol Hill, the Republicans in particular, from the Israelis and from the Saudis - he has been reluctant to confront his opponents squarely.

The audacious Netanyahu challenge has brought the issue to a head. Now, after some unusually frank comments, Obama has retreated. All the talk is aimed at playing down the fight, to placate the Israelis by referring
to Netanyahu's high stakes gamble in affronting the President as just as passing squabble, he has lost a critical opportunity to put his enemies to rout. He seems incapable of realizing that an aggressive strategy to
delegitimize Netanyahu while coloring the Republicans as engaging in un-American behavior could have opened valuable political space for him to move swiftly to close the deal with Iran. As to Israel, Netanyahu's candidacy in the Israeli election could have been crippled had Obama been blunt in calling into question the special relationship were voters to choose a leader whom he now saw as persona non grata in the White House. As to the Republicans, Obama could have used the patriotism and
loyalty card effectively to define their challenge over Iran as a reckless attack on the independence and authority of the United States. He didn't have the stomach to do either.

As a consequence, the opponents of an accord were emboldened to continue efforts to torpedo the talks. Hence, the Cotton letter.

As for the argument against an agreement, it was elaborated by former Ambassador James Jeffrey in a Foreign affairs article. There, he offered us an informed, articulate statement of his views on how to think about the nuclear negotiations with Iran and attendant political matters. It is organized around two premises and an
overarching thesis.

The first premise is that there is likely to be an
accord whose terms he finds unsatisfactory. The second is that there will remain ample opportunity to reopen the package of compromises it incorporates and to contain its spill-over effects on regional affairs (which he deems pernicious) for however long the agreement is in force .

The thesis is that anything short of an Iranian unconditional surrender that turns the country into a ward of an American controlled United Nations in perpetuity is intolerable and must be opposed by those sharing this view, at home and abroad, using all means available.

Each of these three affirmations is open to question. It can be argued that developments over the past week have significantly raised the odds an agreement being reached. This despite puffs of optimism re. progress on the technical issues arising over Montreux. The modalities of those technical issues never have been the heart of the matter.

Jeffrey stresses methods for reversing and/or picket-fencing an agreement that he expects to be signed.
However, the very likelihood of those actions which he prescribes actually being taken is strong disincentive for the Iranians to balk. Rouhani laid it on the table this week: no lifting of the sanctions, no deal. Yet, Obama seems to have toughened (rather than loosened) the terms in the interview with Reuters; and Kerry has sent similar signals.

These moves may be related to the moves to mollify Netanyahu and the Republicans. This ill-conceived approach puts the talks in jeopardy and represents a strategic miscalculation of the first order.

Swami Bhut Jolokia

A snarky letter to the 47 Senators:


Swami Bhut Jolokia

Is it helpful to the extent it tells us more about Tyler than it does about the President.

Allen Thomson

> And it is definite that both Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress - the Speaker, Majority and Minority Leaders of both chambers and the chairs and ranking members of the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees - have been briefed on some/all of the details. This information is to satisfy the Congressional oversight role, is highly classified, and not for disclosure.

I'd think that the Armed Services Committee chairs would have also been briefed, in which case the Republican senators were: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain; Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Corker.

Of these, three signed the letter: Senator Mitch McConnell; Senator John McCain; Senator Richard Burr and one didn't: Senator Richard Corker.

Senator Corker has explained why he didn't sign, but why couldn't the three signers issue a statement along the lines of "Information we received in the course of Administration briefings on the Iran negotiations leave us profoundly concerned that US national interests may be seriously harmed if the agreement is implemented in the form indicated in those briefings. It was this concern that motivated our decision to sign the letter."

Assuming that's true, of course.

alba etie

Respectfully disagree - Senators Richard Lugar & Sam Nunn were both very good on foreign policy writ large -

Babak Makkinejad

Atoms-for-Peace was an inducement to get other countries to sign NPT.

And US destroyed NPT; in my opinion.


"I wish Cotton was a watermelon." Our Gang.


It get worse- some R's are now claiming that the letter was 'just a joke'- a 'light-hearted reminder' of the Sentate's perogative. Senate aides described the letter as a 'cheeky reminder' of the role of Congress.

Unbelievable- can these people be serious? This is one of the most important negotiations in decades (at least since INF and START treaties) and these people treat it as joke. They should be sent home immediately.


alab etie,

I agree they were however that was not my point.


This whole escapade is just another distraction to keep us from the issues that really matter.

Here's an investigative journalism article that actually affects Americans:



Some light can be shed on the Iranian attitude by looking at Zarif's remarks a few days back in response to Obama's toughening of his own attitude toward Iran. Some thoughts on Zarif's meaning follow:

Here is an attempt to summarize in succinct, denotative terms what Zarif's might mean. It is based entirely on inferences from what is on public record.

1. The Iranians are not fools: they will not be bullied by the United States; they do not trust the American government; they see themselves as negotiating an agreement with the international community - not with
the Obama administration

2. They will not enter into an agreement that leaves the United States government the prerogative unilaterally to judge compliance with its terms and/or to take corresponding action.

4. They do not believe that the Obama administration (and even less so the American political Establishment) contemplates "normalization' of relations with the IRI in any conventional sense of the term. They can point to two statements by Obama himself within the past week to
validate that judgment. (Q: is there a consensus in Iran that they should seek normalization?)

4. They recognize that American attitudes and policy re. the ISI are sensitive to the purposes of Israel and Saudi Arabia which will continue to inflect Washington's policies

5. A deal that places Iran on probation indefinitely is unacceptable

6. A deal that conditions the lifting of sanctions on a purely American determination of whether the terms of probation (of whatever period) are being complied with is unacceptable.

7. A date certain should be set by which various categories of sanctions are lifted.

8. Insisting on a UNSC ratification of any accord is a sine qua non for meeting those Iranian concerns

9. The readiness of the Obama administration to go that route is the litmus test for appraising American intentions

10. The approach outlined by Zarif is a deft way of smoking out the White House to see who's in charge, what degree of conviction there is in the Oval Office, and what the political balance in Washington is.

(Comment of Richard Dalton, former UK Ambassador to Tehran:

"I don't see why the US should shy away from UNSC ratification of the
deal - but I imagine they would be reluctant to allow detailed oversight
of implementation to the extent of tying US hands through making the
UNSC a superior judge of the deal.

Thinking aloud, I can see a number of possible elements or stages in
UNSC consideration:

1. The parties send agreed parallel letters informing the UNSC and the
IAEA Governing Board of the agreement and its contents.
2. Agreed Presidential statement or Resolution recording that the
Council takes note or endorses, encourages the parties to implement,
promises further consideration…
3. All of the above plus the action required under the deal to modify
UNSC sanctions, requiring the IAEA to keep the Council informed…. "the
Council remains seized…"
4. All of the above plus monitoring of implementation, e.g. review of
deadlines for stages of implementation, including the performance of the
states undertaking sanctions-lift.

Maybe the P5+1 would accept the first three, and the Iranians are
feeling their way towards the last?"

Likely outcome? Anyone's guess. My personal guess is : no agreement



Nice click bait. Save the whales, the navy uses sonar! Stop bombing in bombing ranges, stop flying from airfields - because, shock, - jet engines make noise. Get real. There is no increase in domestic dissent from this hodge podge of old, old issues.



Thanks for the clarification I infered exactly the opposite from what you originally intended.

"...at most 1/3 of voters turnout for midterm or off cycle elections, so the majority that produces the victory represents about 18% of the citizenry;"

Do we need a discussion about statistics? Citizens under 18 have never been allowed to vote and yes they are represented in Congress by whomever is elected and sworn in. They should bitch to Mom and Dad about thier failure to show up for a few hours two days every two years - (primary and general election days). Individual responsiblity is a reality. Don't blame me because 2/3 of eligable voters don't vote in mid-terms. (The only elections where I didn't vote in person in the last three decades were the ones I was at sea on a submarine (and even then I had an absentee ballot.) or in a hospital due to an emergency.)

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