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Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a luncheon at the National Press Club on Monday, March 9, 2015 in Washington. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, is considering running for the 2016 Democratic nomination as a liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton, focusing on income inequality and climate change. (Photo: AP/Andrew Harnik)

Sanders: Iran Letter Shows GOP Senators Just 'Itching for War'

Potential presidential candidate says attempt to undermine ongoing nuclear negotiations was an 'unspeakable' breach

Jon Queally

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has blasted 47 Republicans in the U.S. Senate for sending a letter this week to Iranian leaders and said the incident goes to show that some of his colleagues are simply "itching for war" when it comes to Iran.

The open letter (pdf) in question—sent on Monday and addressed to the  "Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran"—warned that its signatories would "consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement" that could be jettisoned following the next congressional and presidential elections in 2016. Despite the rhetoric of the letter, there is no evidence showing Iran has an active nuclear weapons program and the nation's leadership has repeatedly stated that it has no current ambitions for such a program.

Widely regarded as an unorthodox attempt to sabotage ongoing diplomatic efforts regarding Iran's research and uranium enrichment program for its civilian nuclear program, Sanders was among those publicly criticizing the nature and content of the letter as well as the nearly 50 senators—including the top Republican leadership and presidential hopefuls—who signed it.

"[M]y Republican friends seem to be itching for that war," Sanders told reporters on Tuesday following an event in Washington, D.C. "When you sabotage the effort to reach a peace agreement by the leader of the United States of America — the man who is charged with dealing with foreign policy — that, to me, is really unspeakable."

Making reference to the disastrous and costly wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he added, "Apparently, some of my Republican colleagues do not believe that two wars are enough... I think that is a very, very tragic position to hold." 

Sanders has made it clear he is considering running for president in 2016 as a progressive challenger to Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Politico adds:

Four potential 2016 GOP hopefuls — Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — all signed the letter.

The White House and several congressional Republicans and Democrats have criticized the letter as an attempt to politicize the issue and purposefully derail the president’s foreign policy goals.

Asked whether he would urge his Democratic colleagues to continue to support the president on a potential deal if negotiators fail to agree by the March 24 deadline, Sanders said: "The devil is in the details. We’ll have to see what happens. But I think what the American people want, what I certainly want, is to do everything that we can to reach a peaceful agreement with Iran."

Sen. Sanders also appeared on MSNBC on Tuesday evening to further discuss his thoughts on the matter:


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