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Cotton was trying to explain to CBS’ Bob Schieffer why he and 46 other Republican senators had sent a letter to Iran warning it not to make a deal over its nuclear program with the Obama administration.
“We have to stand up to Iran’s attempts to drive for regional dominance,” Cotton said on CBS’ Face the Nation.
So far so good, right? Standard conservative rhetoric about standing tall and looking tough. But here’s where things get tricky. Cotton, a first-term senator who by all indications does not know much about foreign policy, decided to elaborate on how Iran was asserting its regional dominance.
“They already control Tehran and, increasingly, they control Damascus and Beirut and Baghdad. And now, Sana’a as well.”
OK, so those are some foreign capitals, which makes Cotton sound like he might actually know what he’s talking about. Beirut is the capital of Lebanon. Baghdad is the capital of Iraq. Sana’a is the capital of Yemen.
But what did Cotton lead with? Tehran. “They already control Tehran,” he said.
It would be deeply disturbing if the Iranian government didn’t already control Tehran, given that this city of 8.3 million people is the capital of Iran.
The most frightening part of Cotton’s gaffe is that his brand of foreign-policy ignorance could spread across the Western world. Imagine if the U.S. Congress tried to tell other national legislatures how to negotiate with Iran.
We must control the spread of congressional extremism. Congress already controls Washington.
Eric Geller is a politics reporter who focuses on cybersecurity, surveillance, encryption, and privacy. A former staff writer at the Daily Dot, Geller joined Politico in June 2016, where he's focused on policymaking at the White House, the Justice Department, the State Department, and the Commerce Department.