McCain Stands Behind Republican Letter to Iran

Senator John McCain says Republicans stand behind a letter to Iran's leaders despite an outpouring of criticism.

Elad Benari ,

John McCain
John McCain

Republican Senator John McCain said on Thursday that Republicans stood behind a letter to Iran's leaders threatening to undo any nuclear deal despite an outpouring of criticism.

According to Reuters, the senator from Arizona said the Republican senators could have taken more time to talk about it, but stressed he had no remorse.

"Maybe we should have had more discussion about it," McCain told the news agency. "I certainly think I should have signed it, and I think that the message needs to be sent."

The letter, signed by 47 of the 54 Republican senators, warned Iran that any nuclear deal made with President Barack Obama, a Democrat, could last only as long as he remained in office - a highly unusual intervention into U.S. foreign policy-making.

McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham, another frequent critic of Obama's foreign policy, spoke extensively in the Senate on Thursday defending the letter.

"We're not going to let you tell us we have no voice in lifting the sanctions we created," Graham said, according to Reuters.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton approached his fellow lawmakers and asked them to sign the letter last week.

The letter infuriated the White House and generated many harshly critical newspaper editorials as well as legal questions about whether the senators violated U.S. law by seeking to communicate directly with a foreign government.

The letter was fiercely criticized by Obama, who said on Monday, “I think it's somewhat ironic to see some members for Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran. It's an unusual coalition.”

Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement on Monday night the letter was "expressly designed to undercut a sitting president in the midst of sensitive international negotiations" and was "beneath the dignity" of the Senate.

"This letter, in the guise of a constitutional lesson, ignores two centuries of precedent and threatens to undermine the ability of any future American president, whether Democrat or Republican, to negotiate with other nations on behalf of the United States," Biden wrote.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a likely Democratic presidential candidate, lambasted the senators who wrote the letter and asked, "And one has to ask, what was the purpose of this letter?" "There appear to be two logical answers. Either these senators were trying to be helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the commander-in-chief in the midst of high-stakes international diplomacy. Either answer does discredit to the letters' signatories," she added.

Meanwhile, current Secretary of State John Kerry reacted to the letter on Wednesday by claiming that senators will not even be able to change the terms of any nuclear agreement with Iran because it won't be legally binding.

"We've been clear from the beginning: We're not negotiating a, quote, legally binding plan," Kerry said, adding, "We're negotiating a plan that will have in it the capacity for enforcement. We don't even have diplomatic relations with Iran right now."