Policymakers: Letter a Partisan Ploy to Undermine Iran Talks

Political stunt - White House and members of Congress are pushing back against the letter organized by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) on the Iran deal. The letter, signed by all but seven Republican senators, puts the negotiations at risk by “injecting excessive partisanship into the debate” and making it more likely that the U.S. will be blamed if the talks fall through. Burgess Everrett and Michael Crowley for POLITICO.http://politi.co/1Gn8hRO

--“I think it's somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran,” President Obama said in remarks to reporters. “It's an unusual coalition.” http://1.usa.gov/1BqBgmM

--Democratic senators issued strong statements against the letter, calling it “inappropriate” “bizarre” and “an outrage”. The letter is “a cynical effort by Republican Senators to undermine sensitive international negotiations,” reads the statement from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). “Understand that if these negotiations fail, a military response to Iran developing their nuclear capability becomes more likely. These Republican Senators should think twice about whether their political stunt is worth the threat of another war in the Middle East.” http://1.usa.gov/1KM77G7

See also - The Cotton letter has ignited a political firestorm. Some of the top comments and analysis:

-- Statement from Vice President Joe Biden: “The decision to undercut our President and circumvent our constitutional system offends me as a matter of principle.” http://1.usa.gov/1ER97b2

-- Response from Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Zarif: “I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.” http://bit.ly/1Bkm7Vl

--Defense of the letter by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR): We are not trying to undermine the President. “This is about stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.” http://nbcnews.to/1ExkFBx

--Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) in January 2015: “The end of these negotiations isn't an unintended consequence of congressional action. It is very much an intended consequence. A feature, not a bug, so speak.” http://huff.to/1GBCjVq

Tweet - @SBengali: Sen Cotton says a few times that Iran must "disarm their nuclear weapons." They don't have any h/t @blakehounshell http://politi.co/1GBxfk4

Cloudy with a chance of radiation - “Deterrence doesn’t have to rely on large arsenals of nuclear weapons, or even on nuclear weapons at all. A range of candidate weapons could conceivably achieve the same goal without risking global catastrophe.” Seth Baum in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on ways to avoid nuclear winter. http://bit.ly/1FFm0DH

Tweet - @BulletinAtomic: On @AJStream 1930GMT: What impact would a nuclear agreement with Iran have on geopolitics in #MiddleEast? #AJStream ow.ly/K9DAP

Menendez trial - Efforts to pass Iran legislation that could undermine the negotiations may face a setback if Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is forced out of his post as the as ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Menendez is expected to face federal criminal charges for “allegedly using his office to illegally help a friend's business interests.” Full story by John Bennett in Defense News here. http://bit.ly/1NEsiJl

Don’t rush - “Until we know the details of any agreement, it would be premature to pass judgment on how high any of these individual “bars” should be set. There are a lot of bars in play, and there is more than one combination that could be in our national interest,” writes Steve Andreasen in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

--“We must recognize that the use of military force against Iran may not accomplish that goal: It may in fact propel Iran forward… With so much at stake, the American people and their representatives in Congress would be wise not to be swayed by the early reviews.” http://strib.mn/1BnbiCa

Useful talks - The IAEA and Iran have concluded a “useful” round of talks and will meet again next month, an IAEA official tells AP. Both sides have agreed to “speed up” the process of resolving concerns over Iran’s past nuclear work, though details on the accelerated timeline are still unclear. http://yhoo.it/1E8RDpd

Quick Hits:

--“The nuclear front between Iran’s moderates and conservatives,” by Zvi Bar'el in Haaretz. http://bit.ly/18xQxbh

--“Revealed: The Devastating Aftermath of a Nuclear Attack on Manhattan,” by http://bit.ly/1Exptac


--Senate Armed Services Committee, hearing on “Postures of the Department of the Army and the Department of the Air Force.” With Gen. Raymond Odierno, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army; Mark Welsh, Chief of Staff, Air Force; Deborah Lee James, Air Force Secretary; and John McHugh, Army Secretary. POSTPONED: Original time March 5 at 9:30 AM, new time TBD. Located at G-50 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC. Webcast on the committee website. http://1.usa.gov/1aJjDWT

--Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, hearing on the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) budget. With Frank Klotz, Administrator, NNSA. March 11, at 9:00 AM. Located in 138 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC. Webcast on the committee website. http://1.usa.gov/1itSTpx

--“A New Approach to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle.” Featuring John Hamre, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS); Joan Rohlfing, Nuclear Threat Initiative; Andrew Newman, Nuclear Threat Initiative; Everett Redmond, Nuclear Energy Institute; and Sharon Squassoni, CSIS. March 12 from 9:00-10:30 AM. Located at CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington, DC. RSVP by email at PPP@CSIS.org

--“A Nuclear Deal, Iran’s Regional Role and U.S. Relations with the Persian Gulf.” Featuring Richard LeBaron, former Ambassador to Kuwait; Alireza Nader, RAND; and Ilan Goldenberg, Center for a New American Security. March 16 at 2:00 PM. Located at the Atlantic Council, 12th Floor, 1030 15th St. NW, Washington, DC. RSVP online. http://bit.ly/1MFH1mO

--“Managing and Reducing 21st Century Nuclear Security Threats.” Featuring Duyeon Kim, Carnegie Endowment; former Sen. Sam Nunn (GA), Nuclear Security Initiative; former Sen. Richard Lugar (IN), Lugar Center; Desmond Browne, former U.K. Defense Minister; and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (NE). March 16 from 6:00-8:30 PM. Located at Georgetown University, Bunn Intercultural Center, 37th St. NW, Washington, DC. RSVP by March 12 online. http://bit.ly/1wJFnM8

--Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, hearing on the Energy Department budget. With Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. March 18, time TBA, Room TBA, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington. Webcast on the committee website. http://1.usa.gov/1itSTpx