Sacré Bleu! Top French Official Jacques Audibert Contradicts Kerry on Iran DealPosted: July 31, 2015
Josh Rogin writes: Secretary of State John Kerry has been painting an apocalyptic picture of what would happen if Congress killed the Iran nuclear deal. Among other things, he has warned that “our friends in this effort will desert us.” But the top national security official from one of those nations involved in the negotiations, France, has a totally different view: He told two senior U.S. lawmakers that he thinks a Congressional no vote might actually be helpful.
His analysis is already having an effect on how members of Congress, especially House Democrats, are thinking about the deal.
The French official, Jacques Audibert, is now the senior diplomatic adviser to President Francois Hollande. Before that, as the director general for political affairs in the Foreign Ministry from 2009 to 2014, he led theFrench diplomatic team in the discussions with Iran and the P5+1 group. Earlier this month, he met withDemocrat Loretta Sanchez and Republican Mike Turner, both top members of the House Armed Services Committee, to discuss the Iran deal. The U.S. ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, was also in the room.
“He basically said, if Congress votes this down, there will be some saber-rattling and some chaos for a year or two, but in the end nothing will change and Iran will come back to the table to negotiate again and that would be to our advantage…He thought if the Congress voted it down, that we could get a better deal.”
— Loretta Sanchez
According to both lawmakers, Audibert expressed support for the deal overall, but also directly disputed Kerry’s claim that a Congressional rejection of the Iran deal would result in the worst of all worlds, the collapse of sanctions and Iran racing to the bomb without restrictions.
“He basically said, if Congress votes this down, there will be some saber-rattling and some chaos for a year or two, but in the end nothing will change and Iran will come back to the table to negotiate again and that would be to our advantage,” Sanchez told me in an interview. “He thought if the Congress voted it down, that we could get a better deal.”
(Before the publication of this article on Thursday, Jacques Audibert, the Elysee Palace office and the French Embassy in Washington were asked for comment, and did not respond. After its publication, the embassy released a statement saying it “formally denies the content of the remarks” attributed to Audibert by the two members of Congress, and U.S. Ambassador Hartley described them as “inaccurate.” Audibert tweeted that he “never said or suggested that a no vote from Congress … might be helpful or lead to a better deal,” and has not responded to requests for an interview. On Friday, two more members of Congress who met with Audibert, Republicans Paul Cook of California and Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, issued a statement that they “can confirm that Congresswoman Sanchez’s account of the meeting is accurate. We disagree with recent claims that seek to refute her account.” Representative Turner said that he stands by his description of the meeting.)
Audibert’s comments as recounted by the lawmakers are a direct rebuttal to Kerry, who in remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations on July 24 said that if Congress voted down the deal, there would no chance to restart negotiations in search of a tougher pact….(read more)
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