Editorial: Utah senators increase risk of war

First Published      Last Updated Mar 11 2015 06:02 am

Lee, Hatch join a foolish campaign.

It will be up to history to judge whether the latest partisan stunt joined by Utah Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch amounts to an act of End Times warmongering or merely another bit of cringe-worthy buffoonery on the global stage.

Chances are that the foolish, dangerous and arguably felonious attempt by the Obama Derangement Caucus of the Senate will soon be forgotten. Unless, as President Obama himself muttered the other day, the Senate Republicans make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran to push the region, and the world, that much closer to nuclear war.

Our delegates to the World's Greatest Deliberative Body were among 47 senators — all Republicans — who signed a condescending open letter to "the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran." The letter, drafted and circulated by überhawk Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, explains to the powers that be in Tehran that any agreement they strike with Obama over Iran's nuclear program would either be subject to Senate ratification — if it is a formal treaty — or amount to a mere executive agreement that could be scrapped by the next administration, which will take office a mere two years hence.

As if the people in Iran's Foreign Ministry didn't know that.

It appears that Cotton, Lee, Hatch and their colleagues are petrified that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are on the verge of giving away the nuclear store to the mullahs of Iran. Even though the long and sensitive negotiations, which also involve the governments of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, have produced no drafts to oppose.

A nuclear-armed Iran is very much a thing to be avoided if at all possible. But, so far, the talks the Senate Republicans seem determined to undermine are the best hope of avoiding such a situation. Or at least pushing it back toward a not-so-distant day when the religious supreme leadership of that nation has left the stage and is succeeded by a more representative, and less confrontational, regime.

By seeking to undermine not only these negotiations, but also the political authority of this and all future presidents to conduct America's foreign policy, the senators seem determined to build tensions in the Middle East, endanger Israel and greatly increase the chances that the United States will wind up taking military action against Iran.

Which is a possibility that becomes even more frightening when it is remembered that the faction of Americans pushing this course of action is the same crowd that demanded the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq. The one that was not welcomed by rose-petal strewing Iraqis, found no weapons of mass destruction and did not plant the seed of democracy in the Middle East — though it did embolden Iran and create the Islamic State.

Coming as it does on the heels of the bellicose address to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — and the pugnacious promise by Utah's Rep. Jason Chaffetz that, if he were president, he would bomb Iran — it seems that today's Republican Party is no longer led by statesmen who believe that politics ends at the water's edge, but by hyper-partisan sword-rattlers who, not that long ago, would not have won the support of grown-ups such as Hatch.

It is notable, and frightening, that Cotton released the letter on his way to an off-the-record meeting with leaders of the National Defense Industrial Association. An arm of the Military Industrial Complex that another Republican — Dwight Eisenhower — warned us about 54 years ago.