Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who perturbed the Obama administration when he got 46 colleagues to sign on to an open letter advising Tehran of Congress’ legitimate role in any nuclear agreement, is not done facing off with Iran.
In New York for the U.N. Nonproliferation Treaty Conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said at a New York University event on Wednesday that all sanctions on Iran will be lifted the moment it signs an agreement:”If we have an agreement on the 30th of June, within a few days after that, there will be a resolution before the UN Security Council under Article 41 of Chapter 7 which will be mandatory for all member states whether Senator Cotton likes it or not.”
“We don’t want to get bogged down into the domestic procedures in the United States. I’ve studied and lived in the U.S.,” Zarif said. “I know enough about the U.S. Constitution and U.S. procedures, but as a foreign government I only deal with U.S. government. I do not deal with U.S. Congress.”
How did Cotton respond? Game on.
“Sanctions relief isn’t about what I like, but what will keep America safe from a nuclear-armed Iran. But I suspect Foreign Minister Zarif is saying what President Obama will not because the president knows such terms would be unacceptable to both Congress and the American people. The repeated provocative statements made by members of the Iranian leadership demonstrate why Iran cannot be trusted and why the president’s decision to pursue this deal and grant dangerous concessions to Iran was ill-advised from the beginning,” Cotton said in a statement. “These aren’t rhetorical tricks aimed at appealing to hard-liners in Iran; after all, Mr. Zarif was speaking in English in New York. Rather, they foreshadow the dangerous posture Iran will take and has taken repeatedly—including as recently as yesterday with the interception of a U.S.-affiliated cargo ship—if this deal moves forward.”
“More, they reaffirm the need for Congress to approve any final deal and to conduct oversight over the Obama administration’s actions. As we consider the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, I urge my colleagues to ensure we pass legislation strong enough to stop a bad deal in its tracks and protect the American people from a nuclear Iran.”
But the senator wasn’t done with Zarif, taking to Twitter with a challenge.
Hey @JZarif, I hear you called me out today. If you’re so confident, let’s debate the Constitution. 1/4
Here’s offer: meet in DC, @JZarif, time of your choosing to debate Iran’s record of tyranny, treachery, & terror. 2/4
I understand if you decline @JZarif after all, in your 20s, you hid in US during Iran-Iraq war while peasants & kids were marched to die 3/4
Not badge of courage @JZarif, to hide in US while your country fought war to survive-but shows cowardly character still on display today 4/4
In an earlier interview with PBS, Zarif also stated that the administration is misstating the nature of the agreement.
“Sanctions must be lifted as soon as Iran implements its agreed part. We have an agreement,” he said. “That agreement provides for the lifting of all sanctions, all economic and financial sanctions and those sanctions are lifted because the logic is very clear. The logic is if you want an agreement, you have two options — option of pressure, option of agreement. You cannot mix the two.”