Obama ‘embarrassed’ for GOP over Iran letter as criticism rises

U.S. President Barack Obama. (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
President Barack Obama continued to hammer Senate Republicans on Friday over the letter most of them sent to Iran regarding its nuclear program. A new poll shows that a plurality of Americans also believe the GOP’s letter was inappropriate.

Sent to leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the letter – signed by 47 Republican senators – attempted to thwart President Obama’s authority in negotiating a nuclear peace treaty. It stated that a nuclear agreement made without congressional approval might not last beyond the Obama administration and continues to be at the center of mounting criticism from the American people, the military and European leaders.

READ MORE:P5+1 in ‘secret talks’ to lift Iran sanctions if nuclear deal reached – report

In an interview with Vice News, Obama said the senators’ intrusion into sensitive foreign diplomacy and their evident lack of respect for the role of the presidency is “not how America does business.”

"I'm embarrassed for them," he told Vice founder Shane Smith. "For them to address a letter to the ayatollah – the supreme leader of Iran, who they claim is our mortal enemy – and their basic argument to them is: 'Don't deal with our president, because you can't trust him to follow through on an agreement'...That's close to unprecedented."

Among the signatories joining the letter’s author, Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.), were senior members of the Republican Senate leadership, such as Charles Grassley (Iowa), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.), as well as potential 2016 presidential candidates Ted Cruz (Texas), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Rand Paul (Ky.).

Additional Republicans have added their support, among them former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, another possible 2016 presidential candidate, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.

Of the 1,000 American adults polled by HuffingtonPost/YouGov, some 42 percent said they thought the letter was inappropriate. When asked about whether they trusted Obama to negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran, 36 percent put their trust in him, while 31 percent put their trust in congressional Republicans. A remaining 33 percent were unsure. The poll was conducted on March 10-11.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry told members of Congress he was in “utter disbelief” over the letter, which he called inaccurate and irresponsible.

READ MORE:Biden fury at GOP senators' letter to Iran alleging nuke deal may be pulled post-Obama

Retired Major Gen. Paul D. Eaton told the Washington Post that he thinks the actions of the senators were “mutinous.”

“I do not believe these senators were trying to sell out America. I do believe they defied the chain of command in what could be construed as an illegal act,” Easton told the newspaper.

What Senator Cotton did is a gross breach of discipline, and especially as a veteran of the Army, he should know better...to directly engage a foreign entity, in this way, undermining the strategy and work of our diplomats and our Commander in Chief, strains the very discipline and structure that our foreign relations depend on, to succeed.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei condemned the senators’ letter, saying the “other side is known for opacity, deceit and backstabbing,” Mehr news agency reported.

READ MORE:Iran’s supreme leader slams ‘backstabbing’ Americans over senators’ letter

Little is known about the nuclear deal being negotiated, but leaked information over the past several weeks indicates that it would allow Iran to develop a civilian atomic program under strict supervision, which would make it very difficult to build a nuclear weapon.

Talks on Iran's nuclear program are scheduled to continue in Switzerland next week.