In this week’s news: 47 Republican senators, led by Sen. Tom Cotton, launched a letter at Iran warning that any nuclear deal signed with the current US administration would never be endorsed by Congress.
The GOP’s “bombshell” received ample press coverage, as were the reactions (or rather, rebukes) it drew from both the White House and Tehran. In Washington, US President Barack Obama pointed out the “irony” in the newfound alliance between American conservatives and Iranian hardliners.
In Iran, while Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif sparred with Cotton on Twitter over the “astonishing” missive and issued a “passive-aggressive” official response, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rushed to denounce it as a sign of the “collapse” and “decay” of the United States. And a “trick.” And “sneaky and crafty.” And “backstabbing.”
The language of Khamenei’s dismissal was so colorful that, aside from being reported everywhere, it prompted The New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz to spoof it, writing that in the wake of that letter (now trending under #47traitors), Khamenei had offered “to mediate talks between Republicans and Obama.”
Plenty of commentators weighed in, too. Doyle McManus at the LA Times said that while the letter wasn’t illegal, it was “not smart” and “bad form” – essentially, a mistake that would give Iran a reason to “stiffen its negotiating posture” – “Qom Theological Seminary 1, Harvard Law 0.” Then again, it was a Harvard Law professor, Jack Goldsmith, who debunked the letter’s “embarrassing” constitutional reasoning.
On Vox, Max Fisher published a breakdown of the “basics” – and far-reaching significance of the letter, which he called “patronizing” and possibly “deliberately condescending” (a tone Zarif certainly picked up on in Cotton’s tweets. ICYMY); and on Foreign Policy, David Rothkopf raked Cotton over the coals for providing the “worst single example of partisan meddling” in modern US history. Is it time to take Borowitz’s fictional (but almost believable) Khamenei up on his offer?