Sen. Cotton defends letter, says more Iranian sanctions needed

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 64 views 

After a high-profile week centered around a controversial letter to Iranian leaders authored by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas’ junior senator and a Republican, said he’s far from done with his efforts interjecting himself in the U.S.-Iran discussion.

Cotton, who appeared on this week’s TV edition of Talk Business & Politics on KATV Ch. 7 in Little Rock, told host Roby Brock that details of the President’s negotiations with Iran to stop a potential nuclear threat “make this too dangerous for the world to accept.”

Cotton and 46 Republican senators – including U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark. – sent a letter to Iranian leadership earlier this week outlining the need for Congressional approval of a deal and suggesting their dissatisfaction with the current trajectory of U.S.-Iran negotiations. Cotton has faced broad criticism about the letter, from conservative Fox News anchors Megyn Kelly to former Democratic Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Kelly suggested Cotton’s letter alienated Democratic Senators, and Dean compared the letter to Jane Fonda’s infamous visit with North Vietnamese forces.

“We wanted to be crystal-clear that Iran’s leaders got the message,” Cotton said of the direct correspondence. “If Congress doesn’t approve a deal, Congress will not accept a deal.”

While 46 GOP colleagues signed the letter, Cotton says his staff sought the signature of several Senate Democrats, but none signed on. When asked if an open public letter was the most constructive way to convey his concerns and work towards changes, Cotton said it was about raising awareness that Congressional input was needed.

“I can tell you that many senators in both parties have grave doubts about the deal that the President is negotiating and they certainly believe that Congress should have a chance to weigh in on any deal,” Cotton said.

Some details of the negotiations that have been released don’t do enough to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and suggest that whatever is agreed to could sunset in 10 years. Cotton says that is poor – and dangerous – public policy.

“The administration should go back to their original position, which was consistent with the United Nations Security Council resolutions. Iran does not have a right to enrich uranium. They don’t even have a legitimate need to enrich uranium,” he said. “Iran has a clear model if it wants to disarm. South Africa and Libya both unconditionally disarmed their nuclear programs. As [Israeli] Prime Minister Netanyahu said, ‘if Iran wants to be treated like a normal nation, it needs to act like a normal nation.'”

When asked what his next move may be if a March 24 deadline passes without an agreement between the U.S. and Iran, Cotton said he has been and will continue working on other alternatives.

“Well, I’m going to do everything I can to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. I’m going to do everything I can to ensure that the world, that the United States does not face that kind of existential threat,” he said.

“That includes speaking out – as I and 46 other Senators did this week – against, against the idea that Congress won’t have any say in this deal. Pretty soon, March 24th – the new deadline for this round of negotiations – many Democrats have said, if there is no deal by that point, they would support sanctions legislation, on which I’ve been working, not just this year, but for the last two years. There is also legislation that require time for Congress to review any deal and potentially have an up or down vote. I’m going to be working on that legislation as well in addition to speaking out against the threat to the world and to our children of a nuclear Iran,” said Cotton.