Sen. Tom Cotton’s Farsi Version of His Explosive Letter to Iranian Leaders Reads Like a Middle Schooler Wrote It

Did the Arkansas Republican use Google Translate when assembling a Farsi version of his letter to Iran on the subject of ongoing nuclear negotiations?


Who needs diplomacy when you have Google translate? That appears to have been Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton’s thinking on March 9, when he released an open letter signed by himself and 46 other Senate Republicans warning Iranian leaders that any deal reached in the ongoing nuclear negotiations would be “nothing more than an executive agreement.” The 37-year-old Republican also tweeted a Farsi translation of the letter, printed on U.S. Senate letterhead, at Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif — “in case you need a translation,” Cotton wrote.

Unfortunately for Cotton, the Farsi version of his letter was a bungled mess, poorly translated, and reads a lot like a middle schooler’s attempt at an essay on U.S. constitutional law and the nuclear negotiations with Iran. Cotton also didn’t do himself any favors by tweeting one of those lackluster translations at a man who speaks fluent English: Zarif, the foreign minister. Rouhani’s English isn’t bad either.

To provide a sense of just how bad Cotton’s Farsi version of the letter is, Foreign Policy has put together an approximation of how the letter reads to a Farsi speaker.

An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran:

It has come to our attention that while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government, you may not understand our constitutional system. Thus, we pen two features of our Constitution to your attention — the power to make international and the different personalities agreements and of federal officials which you seriously consider while the negotiations are progressing.

First, under our Constitution, the president negotiates international agreements and Congress plays the important role of ratifying them. About a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote. A so-called legislative-chairmanship agreement forces a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (because of rule laws, which means a three-fifths vote in the Senate). Anything that hasn’t been approved by Congress is not more than any chairmanship agreement.

Secondly, our Constitutional ranks have different personalities. For example, president can only perform two four-year terms, but senators can serve that an unlimited number of six-year terms. For example, today, President Obama in January 2017 will go, while most of us will stay in power more than that — perhaps decades.

The meaning of these two articles of Constitution is that we any agreement related to your armed nuclear program is not passed by the Congress is that not anything more than an agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei don’t consider. Whoever replaces the president could remove such a chairmanship agreement with the movement of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.

We hope while the nuclear negotiations are progressing this letter enriching your knowledge of our constitutional system and mutual clear understanding elevating.


Foreign Policy has reached out to Cotton’s office for comment and will update this story if and when they respond.

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