‘Nuclear-t’ Negotiations

The word “art” generally conjures thoughts of great paintings, architecture, sculpture, literature and music. The term “art of negotiations” expresses an interesting, seemingly oxymoronic concept. Coupling the word art—historically associated with the highest expression of a civilization’s culture—with the act of making money should create a tension between body and soul; between spiritual and physical in an increasingly secular world.

In today’s climate of declining culture, it seems the word “art” more often than ever before refers to the “art of negotiations.” Books whose titles include various configurations of these words can be found in numerous sections of the bookstore: business, psychology, history and politics. Some books instruct what and how to negotiate; others share examples of failure in negotiations. Soon, these bookshelves will be stocked to overflowing with the parade of books that will certainly follow the Iran-versus-the-world nuclear negotiations. One would think that with Iran on one side of the scale and the rest of the world on the other, the odds would favor the world. That is not the case. Iran has the world just where it wants it, on the verge of a nuclear deal, a deal so far tilted in Iran’s favor that the Persian soon-to-be superpower is posting in the press news meant to close the deal.

Two particularly interesting snippets of information emerged from Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at last week’s Munich Conference. Brimming with optimism, Zarif declared that presently there’s a window of opportunity to come to finalize a deal: “This is the opportunity to do it, and we need to seize this opportunity. It may not be repeated.” Heightening the urgency, Zarif claimed that extending the nuclear talks beyond the looming March deadline would not be “useful” or “conducive to an agreement,” and would not be “in anyone’s interest.”

Almost conspiratorially, Zarif shared with the other world leaders that failing to clinch said deal—understood to be a  multilateral agreement over Tehran’s nuclear program—would undermine the leadership of President Hassan Rouhani. This was more threat than shared secret, as Rouhani is considered to be a pragmatist within Iran’s ultra-conservative theocratic regime.

Foreign Minister Zarif made the rounds during the Munich conference, meeting with, in addition to Secretary of State John Kerry, all the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, EU leadership and Germany, which is to say the parties which have been negotiating with Iran. He even convinced European Union High Representative Mogherini to echo his timetable when she said publicly that the time is ripe to reach an agreement.

Zarif turned Iran’s position from adversary to partner by maneuvering masterfully in the “art of negotiation.” He was able to get the West to perceive negotiations along his timeline, making encouraging statements when necessary (“we need to seize this opportunity”) and fear mongering when it served him (“this opportunity may not be repeated”), in addition to threatening the collapse of Iranian President Rouhani’s relatively liberal (emphasis on “relatively”) government. Zarif achieved this neat trick by, from the onset of the negotiations, never accepting the world’s goal of a permanently nuclear-free Iran. He constantly emphasized Iran’s natural, inalienable rights to nuclear power, disingenuously claiming it was strictly for civilian purposes.

With the fall of Egypt’s government, the destabilization of Syria and Yemen, and the rise of ISIS, Iran insinuated itself into the West’s plans, offering its services as regional “cop” to restore a semblance of calm to a region overrun by fighting in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. With its burgeoning role in the Middle East, Iran compelled world leaders well beyond the original explicit mandate of the nuclear talks, gaining leverage needed to exploit Europe, the U.N., and the U.S.

The U.S. so desperately wants Iran on board that it has effectively broken away from the other nations and is negotiating directly with Iran. In exchange for Iran’s assistance, Zarif demands that all sanctions against his country be lifted, He then noted with irony that the sanctions actually increased Iran’s number of centrifuges 100-fold, from 200 to 20,000. It seems that America will succeed in reducing the number to between 7,000 and 9,000, an apparent U.S. victory in negotiations—until one learns that only 2,000 would be needed for civilian purposes. By being left with roughly four times that amount, Iran achieves its objective in negotiations: nuclear warfare potential and the lifting of sanctions. These terms were in large part negotiated by Iranian-born Special Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, who is considered Obama’s closest ally, and Secretary of State John Kerry, who only last week was voted “the least effective secretary of state in the past 50 years” in a Foreign Policy Magazine survey of professors, the vast majority of whom are liberals, at the top 25 foreign policy schools in the U.S.

Considering the players in the negotiations, is it a wonder that Iran achieved its goals?


Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@hamodia.com.