Speed Reads


Iran's foreign minister explains international law to Senate Republicans

The next time Republicans in the Senate try to explain treaties and the U.S. Constitution to Iranian officials, they may want to pick someone other than a foreign minister with a masters and PhD in international relations from the University of Denver, plus two degrees from San Francisco State University. Javad Zarif, who is also Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, responded to a letter from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and 46 other GOP senators with an explainer of his own.

Not only are the senators shaky on their own Constitution's separation of powers, Zarif wrote, according to Iran's Tasnim News Agency, but "the authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfill the obligations they undertake with other states, and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations."

That's important, Zarif added, because "the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by U.S. domestic law." He continued:

Change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Iran's peaceful nuclear program.... I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with 'the stroke of a pen,' as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law. [Zarif]

Iran's foreign minister ultimately dismissed the GOP letter as having "no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy." But it also gives some propaganda ammunition to Zarif and Iran, notes Akbar Shahid Ahmed at The Huffington Post. Zarif used "the GOP misstep to seize an advantage that the Obama administration has said it does not want to give Iran: the chance to say the nuclear negotiations could fail because of the U.S."