Diplomacy

Top French Official: If Congress Votes It Down, “We Could Get a Better Deal”

Jacques Audibert, the senior diplomatic adviser to President Francois Hollande of France, said that a congressional rejection of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) could work to the advantage of the P5+1 nations, Josh Rogin of BloombergView reported today. Audibert’s assessment, conveyed to a couple of House members, contradicts Secretary of State John Kerry’s assertion that such a rejection would cause “our friends in this effort [to] desert us.”

Earlier this month, he met with Democrat 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.

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.”

According to Rogin, Audibert’s analysis is “having an effect on how members of Congress, especially House Democrats, are thinking about the deal.”

In his comments, Audibert also disagreed with the administration’s warnings that a congressional rejection of the JCPOA would undermine the sanctions regime, arguing that if American sanctions remained in place “it would effectively prevent the West from doing extensive business in Iran.”

Kerry seemingly supported this view when he told Sen. Chris Coons last week, “And given our position in the world – and that’s not going to change in the next ten, 15 years economically – we are still the most powerful economy in the world – we will have the ability to have an impact on their transactions and ability to do business.”

The French embassy has denied Audibert’s remarks.

[Photo: IAEA Imagebank / Flickr ]