A letter by 47 U.S. Republican senators to the government of Iran has backfired spectacularly. Ostensibly, the letter was intended to warn Tehran of opposition to the nuclear deal that is being negotiated with Washington and five other governments — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. It has instead exposed the Senate Republicans as irresponsible amateurs in the practice of foreign policy and introduced partisan politics into the discussion of the deal, fracturing the opposition that is needed if the skeptics’ view is to prevail.

The “P5+1” negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program are heading toward a final conclusion. The talks now have a deadline for the end of this month, a date that is likely to stick having been twice moved back. The particulars of a deal remain unknown, but the final document will restrict Iranian capabilities without eliminating them completely. Iran’s ratification of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) permits the country to possess a peaceful nuclear program and Tehran has warned that it will maintain that right as an assertion of its sovereignty.

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