Oops! Top French diplomat contradicts Kerry, says a 'no' vote could lead to a better deal with Iran

The major premise of Obama administration efforts to force acceptance of the Iran deal by one third plus one of the Senate and House just got blown out of the water.

The word “gaffe” comes from the French language and famously was defined by Michael Kinsley as accidentally telling the truth.  That appears to be what happened when the France’s team at the P5+1 negotiations with Iran met with Democratic congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and Republican representative Mike Turner.  The official, Jacques Audibert, is now the senior diplomatic adviser to President François Hollande, and before that, he was the director general for political affairs in the Foreign Ministry from 2009 to 2014.  This makes him a top career diplomat, not a trifling nonentity.

Josh Rogin of Bloomberg reports:

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.”

This is precisely what the “vote no” forces are arguing.  The alternative is a better deal.  The Obama administration position is that the alternative is war.

You can imagine the telephone calls and cables that went back and forth between Foggy Bottom and the Orsay.  It didn’t take long for denials to be issued:

(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.)

Let’s hope that Secretary Kerry testifies again and is confronted with this statement.  If the four representatives are present at the hearing, all the better.

The major premise of Obama administration efforts to force acceptance of the Iran deal by one third plus one of the Senate and House just got blown out of the water.

The word “gaffe” comes from the French language and famously was defined by Michael Kinsley as accidentally telling the truth.  That appears to be what happened when the France’s team at the P5+1 negotiations with Iran met with Democratic congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and Republican representative Mike Turner.  The official, Jacques Audibert, is now the senior diplomatic adviser to President François Hollande, and before that, he was the director general for political affairs in the Foreign Ministry from 2009 to 2014.  This makes him a top career diplomat, not a trifling nonentity.

Josh Rogin of Bloomberg reports:

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.”

This is precisely what the “vote no” forces are arguing.  The alternative is a better deal.  The Obama administration position is that the alternative is war.

You can imagine the telephone calls and cables that went back and forth between Foggy Bottom and the Orsay.  It didn’t take long for denials to be issued:

(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.)

Let’s hope that Secretary Kerry testifies again and is confronted with this statement.  If the four representatives are present at the hearing, all the better.