Editors’ Note: The open letter to Iran’s leaders written by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and signed by 46 of his fellow Republican senators has provoked an intense debate about the letter’s substance as well as the protocol of its release. In the spirit of parodies published in The New Yorker and Slate, Jeremy Shapiro — editor of Brookings Order from Chaos blog and fellow with the Center on the United States and Europe as well as the Project on International Order and Strategy — offers his take on how Tehran might creatively respond.
Dear Mr. Tom Cotton et al.,
Thank you so much for your letter of March 5. Because of the long enmity between our countries, we do indeed have very little insight into your very complex and opaque system of oligarchic rule. To be fair to our confusion, the unique mixture of archaic constitutional rules, unwritten customs, and unelected power centers make America’s bizarre system of governance difficult to understand for even the most careful observer. We appreciate your effort to so carefully explain it to us in language that we can understand and to warn us against its tendency to betrayal.
In this vein, your letter confirmed our long-held suspicion that the real power in America lies in more fundamentalist religious institutions that are not under the control of those with whom we are told we must negotiate. Indeed, the very notion of a legislative body in which members regularly stay for decades helps us to understand how the essentially pro-Iranian sentiment of the American people has been so long and so systematically thwarted. This system of competitive power centers also helps explain why America can at once claim to be seeking a negotiated solution with us and yet, at the same time, use covert and forceful means to oppose our efforts to bring stability and protect minorities in Syria, Lebanon, and Bahrain, among others.
This has all been most helpful. But while we appreciate your warnings, as a peace-loving nation that follows the more conventional rules of international relations, we will continue to negotiate in good faith in due recognition of your country’s status as a sovereign nation. We see now that internal divisions in Washington means there are two clocks against which our negotiation is timed, one counting down toward an agreement with us; one counting toward an unprovoked attack on our homeland. For our part, we can only hope that the first clock moves faster.
Of course, we will honor any agreement reached, but in heeding your warning, we will maintain constant vigilance to verify that America does the same. We take this stance not in a naïve belief in the faithfulness of American diplomacy, against which your letter so eloquently warned us. Rather, we do so in the hope that we can give some succor to the moderates and dissenters within your population and contribute, perhaps, in some small way to the stirrings of a democratic — hopefully Islamic — revolution in your country, which might rid the American people and the world of such avowedly perfidious diplomatic tactics.
With our sincerest regards and our fondest hope that your liberation is at hand,
Mohammad Javad Zarif
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Islamic Republic of Iran
[On COP 24 U.N. climate negotiations] In some ways, the biggest challenge in Katowice is just going to be the sheer amount of text that'll be produced.