Jean-Francois Cope, the leader of the main opposition party in France, met privately during his visit to Washington with several Republican House members to discuss Iran, taking sides with the most vigorous foes of trusting the Islamic regime, Newsmax has learned.
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of the lawmakers who met with Cope, told Newsmax that party leader of the center-right UMP "was very concerned about Iran and the agreement allowing its uranium enrichment that came out of the recent meeting of the P-5-plus-one," the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany.
"He told me he thought it was a terrible thing and I agree completely," said Kinzinger, a U.S. Air Force veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
During an address in Washington, the 49-year-old Cope, budget minister under former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was careful to avoid mention of either President Barack Obama or Republican opponents of his Iran overtures.
But Cope, who is widely considered a leading prospect to oppose Socialist President Francois Hollande in 2017, left little doubt on whose side he was on.
"Did we need to reach an agreement at any cost?" Cope told a packed crowd at the Hudson Institute Monday evening. "It is good for Iran, bad for us. I prefer a lack of agreement to a bad agreement and only the future will tell us. There's only one certainty: international sanctions have been affected and it relies on trust between protagonists. The regime in Tehran is inspired by different values and that doesn't inspire us."
Cope asked, "Are they really evolving? Can we trust a regime always calling for the destruction of Israel?"
Cope's remarks won immediate praise from Republican House members.
Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana, president of the freshman class of House Republicans and a leading foe of easing any Iran sanctions, told Newsmax: "I agree with Mr. Cope's assessment. We all want to see an end to Iran's nuclear program. But a bad deal is much worse than no deal at all. Sanctions are clearly working and have caused real damage to the Iranian economy. We should not lift them prematurely."
Kinzinger told Newsmax that during a half hour meeting at his congressional office, "Mr. Cope agreed with my assessment that relaxing sanctions and trusting Iran not to be build a nuclear bomb would be the equivalent of a policeman pulling over a driver for DWI [driving while intoxicated] and telling him he wouldn't arrest him so long as his foot hovered just over the pedal."
Kinzinger said he and Cope also discussed the U.S. policy toward Syria. Kinzinger, one of a handful of congressional supporters of an airstrike against the Assad regime, said that Cope told him "France felt betrayed after their government sided with the U.S. and said it was prepared to join an airstrike only to have the administration finally back down and trust [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to keep Assad in line."
During his remarks at Hudson Institute, Cope steered clear of any discussion of a possible run for president in 2017. Both Cope and his arch-rival for leadership of their party, former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, are widely mentioned as UMP candidates. So is Alain Juppe, former foreign minister under Sarkozy. In addition, there is growing speculation that Christine LaGarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, will step down from her position in the summer of 2017 and seek the UMP nomination for president.
Under new party rules, the UMP will hold its first-ever primary in the winter of 2016 and permit independent voters to participate in their primary. There will be an initial vote and, if no candidate wins a majority, a run-off will be held two weeks later.
"This primary will be held six months before the next presidential election and we adopted to insure that my party will be alone [in fielding one candidate] in the general election," Cope told Newsmax at the Hudson Institute event "And you are correct: this was directly inspired by the American system of primaries."
"I don't know if Mr. Cope will run or not," Kinzinger said. "But if he does run and wins, I will have a lot of new hope for the future of his country."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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