I need a constitutional lawyer. Except I’m not sure that one would help because based on my initial conversations with historians, academics – no one seems to be able to put their finger on whether or not the letter written by 47 Republicans to the “Leaders of Iran” was a breach of law or just a breach of “protocol”.
It seems to be the latter quite frankly. Mostly because the “Logan Act” has never been enforced since its inception in 1799. Never. Not a single time. The text of the Logan act is fairly simple: making it a crime for citizens to engage in “any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government … with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government … in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States.”
So … it’s politics. As usual. The Act allows Democrats to work the word “traitor” into the same sentence as the names of those who signed the letter. The Iranian government quick to not miss a beat, or opportunity, and remind everyone they can play politics and snarky diplomacy as well as anyone offered publically to be a third party negotiator between the US President and Republicans on Capitol Hill. Suddenly this is all turning into a “Saturday Night Live” skit.
The important question is: will this letter jeopardize the negotiations between the two parties? According to former US Ambassador Victor Tomseth it likely won’t. “Iranians and their politics are both fractured … it’s not likely the letter will have a long term impact on the negotiations.”
For those like Kelsey Davenport from armscontrol.org this is in some ways the realization of a scenario long feared. “Unity within the US government is now key” she said on this weeks “Hashtag.”
The fear of many involved in the negotiations must be one of either side finding an excuse to walk away. Everyone seems to agree that an agreement is in the interest of Iran: a country that is very plagued by continued sanctions.
The question remains however, if the negotiations fall apart: will the Iranian delegation use this letter as one of their reasons for walking away from the table?
Should that happen, the US should be prepared to re-define and re-address things like the “Logan act,” as the blame game will be full on, inside the beltway.