Report: Top French official says if Congress rejects Iran deal, a better deal could be achieved

Hollande's senior adviser expresses misgivings about the nuclear deal reached with Iran according to Bloomberg report; official tweets denial of report.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
July 31, 2015 04:13
4 minute read.
Kerry and Zarif in Vienna

Secretary Kerry Poses for a Group Photo With Fellow EU, P5+1 Foreign Ministers and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif After Reaching Iran Nuclear Deal. (photo credit: STATE DEPARTMENT PHOTO)

 
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Contrary to US Secretary of State John Kerry's warnings on the grim consequences that would result if Congress rejects the nuclear deal reached with Iran earlier this month, one senior French security official reportedly thinks that such a move by the US legislature could bring about a better deal. 

A report in Bloomberg View details a meeting held earlier this month in Paris between two US lawmakers and Jacque Audibert, the senior diplomatic adviser to French President Francois Hollande.   

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Early Friday morning Audibert tweeted a denial of the report through the French Embassy in the US Twitter account.

"During the meeting with the members of the US Congress on the 17th of July, I never said or suggested that a no vote from the Congress on the JCPOA might be helpful or lead to a better deal," he wrote. 

"I insisted repeatedly on the fact that the deal itself was the best possible," he added.

The lawmakers, Democrat Loretta Sanchez and Republican Mike Turner, both members of the House Armed Services Committee, met with the French official in Paris earlier this month to discuss the Iran deal.

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."

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“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 Josh Rogin of Bloomberg View.

“He thought if the Congress voted it down, that we could get a better deal,” Sanchez added. 

Bloomberg's Rogin wrote in his report that a spokesman for the French embassy in Washington issued a statement saying it "formally denies the content of the remarks."

According to the report, Audibert also disagreed with Kerry's assertion that if the Congress doesn't lift US sanctions against Iran, the international sanctions regime would collapse and American competitors would rush into Iran to do business.

Audibert reportedly told Sanchez and Turner that if US sanctions were kept in place, it would effectively prevent the West from doing extensive business in Iran.

“I asked him specifically what the Europeans would do, and his comment was that the way the US sanctions are set in, he didn’t see an entity or a country going against them, that the risk was too high,” Sanchez said.

According to the report, Audibert also expressed to Sanchez and Turner some misgivings about the deal that was reached with Iran, including his belief that the deal should have been negotiated to last forever, not start to expire in as few as 10 years. He also told the lawmakers that "he didn’t understand why Iran needed more than 5,000 centrifuges for a peaceful nuclear program." In addition, the French official reportedly "expressed concerns about the robustness of the inspections and verification regime under the deal, according to the lawmakers."

“We have Kerry saying the French are just going to bust in there and do this and this, and here we have somebody who seems to disagree with that,” Sanchez told Bloomberg View. 

According to the report, upon returning to the US from France earlier this month, Turner confronted Kerry in a closed door briefing with the question as to whether he was surprised with Audibert's belief that the world powers could have gotten a better deal with Iran. 

“The secretary appeared surprised and had no good answer as to why the national security adviser of France had a completely different position than what the secretary told us the same day,” Turner told Rogin.  

Kerry earlier this week told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that if Congress rejected the nuclear agreement reached in Vienna the United States would be isolated and the the possibility of war would be "almost inevitable."

"If we walk away, we walk away alone. Our partners are not going to be with us. Instead they'll walk away from the tough multilateral sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place," Kerry said.

The secretary of state asserted that Iran would never capitulate under endless sanctions pressure.

“I’ve heard people talk about dismantling [the Iranian] program,” Kerry added. “That’s not going to happen.”

Congress began a 60-day review period last week, during which it may choose to vote to approve or disapprove of the deal. A resolution of disapproval would have to come to a second vote with two-thirds support of both chambers in order to overcome a presidential veto.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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