The 2016 U.S. Senate race in Missouri has its first skirmish: the controversial letter, signed by 47 Republican senators, claiming any arms agreement with Iran would probably be temporary.
Sen. Roy Blunt signed the missive, penned by Senate rookie Tom Cotton of Arkansas. In statements and appearances since it was released, Blunt has defended his signature. The letter was no more than an “op-ed,” he said, referring to opinion pieces published in the newspaper.
After an initial silence about the controversy, likely Democratic Senate nominee Jason Kander waded into the argument this week.
“United States senators can’t throw a fit in the form of a strongly worded letter,” he said in a statement.
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That isn’t technically correct. Senators throw fits all the time.
But Missouri’s Senate election may well turn on foreign policy, a rarity in politics, so that means the discussion is worth our attention.
Almost all Republicans and Democrats agree the U.S. must stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon. The issue is how to best accomplish that goal.
The Senate Gang of 47 does not seem to have considered what will happen if the Iranians accept their letter at face value. The Iranian government might conclude any deal would only be temporary and walk away from current negotiations with the U.S. and other countries.
And then turn their attention to finishing their nuclear weapon.
Last week, I asked Blunt if he would vote for war in order to stop production of an Iranian nuke.
A hypothetical question, he replied. The U.S. could always impose stronger penalties on Iran and force them back to the negotiating table if talks collapse.
But it’s just as possible the Iranians would decide talks with a divided United States government are pointless. Maybe they’d just fire up the centrifuges and dare the international community to react.
It’s possible the letter has made a nuclear Iran more likely — and war a lot less hypothetical.
Kander says that he doesn’t like the letter but that Congress should play a role in considering any final arms agreement.
What happens if Congress rejects the agreement? It isn’t clear.
U.S. troops are currently involved in Iraq and Afghanistan. War drums are pounding for boots on the ground in Syria. We have more than 10,000 troops in Kuwait.
Missouri voters should ask both candidates if they support war with Iran. Voters should also demand a straight answer.