Iran nuclear negotiations

The Lindsey Graham Show (Pilot: Crash and Burn)

"US Republican Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham speaks during a US Senate Armed Services Committee on global challenges and US national security strategy on Capitol Hill in Washington." (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

“The best deal comes with a new president. Hillary Clinton would do better. I think everybody on our side except maybe Rand Paul could do better.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

It is worth noting that Mr. Graham is apparently considering a run for the GOP presidential nomination, which would in turn bring him to contest Rand Paul’s ambitions. Still, though, the “Ouch!” about Palmetto senior senator’s jab is mutivalent. Then again, it is also predictable.

And if for some reason one is so interested in having a chuckle at Mr. Graham’s expense―no, really, we understand if you’re not interested in anything having to do with this once-respected statesman who has lately and so greatly tumbled into tinfoil and hatred―Darren Goode of Politico poses an interesting question: “Lindsey Graham: Too green for the GOP?”

No, really. That’s the headline.

Graham, who bases his climate views as much on Scripture as on science, balked when asked whether the GOP needs a moderating voice — akin to the pro-science, pro-climate-action role that former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman played in the 2012 Republican primaries ....

.... And unlike Huntsman, Graham isn’t about to lecture people who disagree with him or aren’t willing to join the cause publicly.

“I’m OK with the science behind climate change. But if you’re not, that’s OK with me,” Graham said. “But what is our position about the emissions? What’s our position about the Clean Air Act? What would we do as Republicans to ensure that the next generation enjoys a healthy environment, being good stewards of God’s green earth?”

And that’s what counts as “too green for the GOP”.

Chris Warren, a spokesman for the Koch-affiliated American Energy Alliance, put it simply: “I don’t think anyone is taking Lindsey Graham’s presidential bid too seriously.” We need not wonder why.

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Schneider, Howard and Doina Chiacu. “U.S. Republican Graham says Hillary could have reached better deal on Iran”. Reuters. 5 April 2015.

Goode, Darren. “Lindsey Graham: Too green for the GOP?”. Politico. 5 April 2015.

Mr. Paul’s Priority

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) listens during a news conference on military sexual assault November 6, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  A bipartisan group of senators are pushing to create an independent military justice system with the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images).

It’s pretty simple. To the one, we can all grasp the idea of taking a bit of time to charge up before a long, hard run. To the other, there is a question of priorities:

Should an aspiring presidential candidate break a self-imposed silence for …

• … a matter of war and peace?

• … a civil rights question of vital importance and escalating clamor?

• … the satsifaction of some lobbyists in Iowa, where you hope to win the Ames Straw Poll later this year?

Whatever you or I might decide, we are not Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

Scott Conroy of Huffington Post explains:

Despite the Paul camp’s avowal of reticence in the week leading up to his announcement, in a story published in Politico on Wednesday afternoon, an anonymous Paul aide was quoted affirming the senator’s support for a bill backed by the ethanol industry―an influential lobbying bloc in Iowa.

At least we know what is important to Sen. Paul. You know, because he is about to spend months telling us how much he cares about this issue or that. His priorities are clear.

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Image note: WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 06: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) listens during a news conference on military sexual assault November 6, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. A bipartisan group of senators are pushing to create an independent military justice system with the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images).

Conroy, Scott. “Rand Paul Opts For An Extended ‘No Comment’ On Indiana Law, Iran Deal”. The Huffington Post. 2 April 2015.

A Matter of War and Peace

This would probably be a good time to pay attention to the news cycle:

Detail of cartoon by Randall Enos, 4 April 2015, via Cagle Post.For most independent experts, assessments of the preliminary framework tend to range from good to surprisingly good to astonishingly good. Among congressional Republicans, those parameters vary from bad to Neville Chamberlain to oh-God-oh-God-we’re-all-going-to-die levels of opposition.

The question, however, is not what GOP lawmakers intend to do; the now infamous “Iran letter” from 47 Senate Republicans already makes clear just how far the congressional majority will go to sabotage American foreign policy. Rather, the pressing matter at hand is whether Democrats will help the Republicans’ sabotage campaign.

(Benen)

It is easy enough to grasp the Republican position; this is about the New American Century, and an opportunity to create a new worldwide rivalry akin to the Cold War in the guise of a series of blazingly hot wars across the Middle East and into South Asia.

More mysterious is the Democratic motivation. In the face of Republican warmongering, we find ourselves wishing that just once the Democrats could actually go about their jobs with some degree of collective competence.

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Image noteDetail of cartoon by Randall Enos, 4 April 2015, via Cagle Post.

Benen, Steve. “To sabotage or not to sabotage, that is Congress’ question”. msnbc. 5 April 2015.

An Important Moment

President Barack Obama.

We might take a moment to offer our congratulations to President Obama, his administration, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the negotiating partners of the P5+1, who announced today that they have achieved a tentative framework regarding the future of the Iranian nuclear program.

ReutersIran and world powers reached a framework agreement on Thursday on curbing Iran’s nuclear program for at least a decade, a step toward a comprehensive accord that could end 12 years of brinkmanship, threats and confrontation.

The tentative agreement, after eight days of marathon talks in Switzerland, clears the way for talks on the future settlement that should allay Western fears that Iran was seeking to build an atomic bomb and in return lift economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The framework is contingent on reaching an agreement by June 30 and all sanctions on Iran remain in place until a final deal is reached.

(Charbonneau and Nebehay)

To the other, we should not pretend such naïveté as to expect that the hard part is done. If reaching a framework proved so difficult, we can only wonder what challenges will frustrate the next deadline, 30 June.

And, yes, in the moment it is perfectly acceptable to tell the #GOP47 to go screw. That warmongering conservatives are disappointed, or, who knows, even outraged by the thought of a peaceful, diplomatic resolution is their own damn problem, and ought to stay that way.

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Charbonneau, Louis and Stephanie Nebehay. “Iran, world powers reach initial deal on reining in Tehran’s nuclear program”. Reuters. 2 April 2015.

A Delicate Question (Hashtag GOP Forty-Seven Paultopian Mess Mix)

Somebody stop him.

Any number of political thoughts occur. This man wants to be president, for instance. Or, Why are you still trying that line? Better yet: You still don’t get the point you’re trying to make?

Start with Dave Weigel for Bloomberg:

During a town-hall meeting with employees of a cloud computing company, Kentucky senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate Rand Paul said he signed Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton’s letter to Iran’s leaders to help the Obama administration craft a better deal.

Which is pretty much what he had said a week before, but as we noted then, it took him a couple days. And after this much time, Sen. Paul (R-KY) still does not seem to comprehend the point he is trying to make. Steve Benen tries to put it into context:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), looking thoughtful.  (Photo credit: Unknown)As we talked about the other day, the senator’s posture is arguably the worst of both worlds. For far-right politicians like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), last week’s unprecedented stunt was at least coherent – he and other Republicans wanted to derail the diplomatic efforts, betray President Obama, undermine American foreign policy, and push the world closer to a military confrontation with Iran. Putting aside whether or not the letter was disgusting, there was at least an obvious parallel between the letter and its objectives.

There is no similar logic to Rand Paul’s argument. He’s opposed to a war with Iran, so he signed on to a letter than would push us closer to a war with Iran. He wanted to help the White House “negotiate from a position of strength,” so he put his signature on a letter designed to weaken the administration’s negotiating position.

The fact that Rand Paul signed the letter is a problem. The fact that Rand Paul apparently didn’t understand the point of the letter he signed is a much more alarming problem.

It might be hard to ignore the amount of failing to comprehend people are willing to attribute to the Kentucky junior.

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The Latest #GOP47 Absurdity

U.S. Senate letterhead, from "An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran", authored by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), and released 9 March 2015, in an attempt to scuttle P5+1 negotiations and foster war with Iran.

As the #GOP47 themselves run out of excuses for their attempt to sink P5+1 negotiations in hopes of fostering a war with Iran, the conservative press will, naturally, attempt to step up to fill the silence.

Deroy Murdock of National Review burnishes his conservative credentials―as if contributing to FOX News and declaring his patriotic pride in torture wasn’t enough―trying to provide an astoundingly immature defense for the #GOP47:

National ReviewBefore U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and 46 of his GOP colleagues are frog-marched to the gallows and hanged for treason, one vital point of confusion must be cleared up. Say what you will about the Republicans’ open letter “to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The Cotton/GOP letter regarding Tehran’s atom-bomb talks with Obama was not sent to the ayatollahs. Had Cotton & Co. actually delivered their communiqué to Iran’s mullahs — perhaps via a Swiss diplomatic pouch or something even more cloak and dagger — their critics would be on less swampy ground in calling them “traitors,” as the New York Daily News screamed.

Either through befuddlement or deceit, many of the Republicans’ detractors have echoed this gross inaccuracy.

This is a unique defense, to be certain, at least among professionals. Resorting to the, “Well, the #GOP47 didn’t actually do anything”, is the kind of useless pedantry we can get from internet discussion boards and news site comment threads.

But yes, that is Deroy Murdock’s defense of the #GOP47: The #GOP47 didn’t actually ‘send’ the letter.

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The Arkansas Junior

“Cocky, blindly partisan and, by measures I happen to agree with, a ‘complete crackpot,’ Cotton’s ‘open letter to the Islamic Republic of Iran,’ amazingly co-signed by 46 ostensibly older and wiser Senators, managed to further politicize the Middle East peace process and throw President Obama’s diplomatic negotiations with Iran into turmoil.”

John Cole

It’s a one-two punch:

Editorial cartoon by John Cole, The Times-Tribune, 13 March 2015.This apparently is fine and dandy with Cotton. People are talking about him, after all, which in the dysfunctional universe of DC politics counts for more than actual substance or accomplishment. And he’s most certainly keeping his deep-pocketed, pro-war, right-wing supporters in the Israel lobby happy. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that Cotton will be a better senator for them than for the people of Arkansas or the United States.

We might sugest filing under, “Ouch”, but the Arkansas junior is so punch-druk that he probably doesn’t feel the blow.

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Cole, John. “Child’s play”. The Times-Tribune. 13 March 2015.

What Your Republican Neighbors Want

"U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks in Washington on Dec. 2, 2014." (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

“The fact that Rand Paul signed the letter is a problem. The fact that Rand Paul apparently didn’t understand the point of the letter he signed is a much more alarming problem – especially for someone who would like to be the leader of the free world in 22 months.”

Steve Benen

Yes, it really does come to this.

And do be certain to thank your Republican neighbors; this sort of petulant ignorance and dangerous incoherence is exactly what they voted for.

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Benen, Steve. “Iran policy trips up Rand Paul”. msnbc. 16 March 2015.

Republican Governance

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, heads to the Senate floor for a vote on July 9, 2014. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

This is how it goes:

At the recent CPAC gathering, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a likely Republican presidential candidate, seemed to stumble on one of the basic facts of the Middle East. “The reason Obama hasn’t put in place a military strategy to defeat ISIS is because he doesn’t want to upset Iran,” the Florida Republican said.

"@JohnKerry takes @marcorubio to school ok Iran nuke talks not linked to Iran ISIS war strategy at foreign relations session" (Andrea Mitchell/@mitchellreports, 11 March 2015, via Twitter)The senator seemed confused. In reality, President Obama has put an anti-ISIS military strategy in place, and that’s fine with Iran, since Iran and ISIS are enemies.

I’d hoped that Rubio just misspoke, or had been briefed poorly but an aide, but apparently not―at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this afternoon, the far-right Floridian continued to push this strange theory, pressing Secretary of State John Kerry on the point. “I believe that much of our strategy with regards to ISIS is being driven by a desire not to upset Iran so they don’t walk away from the negotiating table on the deal that you’re working on,” Rubio said. “Tell me why I’m wrong.”

And so, Kerry told him why he’s wrong.

(Benen)

The emerging theme of Republican congressional governance seems to be a downward spiral. And yes, this one just tumbles from there.

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Image note: Top―Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, heads to the Senate floor for a vote on July 9, 2014. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) Right―Tweet from Andrea Mitchell of msnbc, 11 March 2015: “@JohnKerry takes @marcorubio to school ok Iran nuke talks not linked to Iran ISIS war strategy at foreign relations session”.

Benen, Steve. “Kerry teaches Rubio the basics about the Middle East”. msnbc. 11 March 2015.

The Senate GOP in Crisis

Mitch McConnell

“It is a useful thing when a political party reveals itself as utterly unsuited for national leadership.”

Fred Kaplan

In a way, everyone else is taking it well. That is to say, even the Iranians are trying very hard to enjoy themselves in the moment, and why not? It is not every day the United States Senate goes out of its way to afford a foreign nation the opportunity to school it on American constitutional issues. Or, as Akbar Shahid Ahmed explains, for Huffington Post:

After sparking a furor in Washington Monday with a letter signed by fellow Republican senators warning Iran against nuclear diplomacy with the Obama administration, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) went to the extra trouble of having his message translated into Farsi for Iranian leaders. Among his targets: foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Cotton needn’t have bothered with the translation. Zarif is more than capable of reading the Republicans’ letter in English. He attended prep school in San Francisco, San Francisco State University, Columbia University, and the University of Denver’s School of International Studies (where, Zarif told The New Yorker’s Robin Wright, a professor who had taught GOP foreign policy icon Condoleezza Rice once quipped to the young Iranian, “In Denver, we produce liberals like Javad Zarif, not conservatives like Condi Rice.”)

Zarif, leading his nation’s negotiations with the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China, put that education to use in his response Monday to the Republican message, which suggested that Iran’s leaders “may not fully understand our constitutional system.”

Zarif answered that it was Cotton and the 46 other Republican senators who signed his letter who suffered from a lack of “understanding.”

“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,” Zarif said, according to Iran’s government-controlled Tasnim News Agency.

He suggested that the Republican warning that a successor to President Barack Obama could undo any agreement with Iran was baseless. Zarif said the “change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor.”

Yeah. See, it’s one thing to say there is a problem in that Mr. Zarif has a point. But the problem isn’t that an Iranian foreign minister has a point, rather that he needs to make it at all.

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