SOME TRUTH TELLING – AT 10:05 A.M. ET: In a brilliant piece in the Weekly Standard, Mideast authority Elliott Abrams lays down some truths, based not on his opinions, but on easily accessible facts.
First, Abrams quotes a discerning cable sent by political counselor Victor Tomseth at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on August 13, 1979, a few months before the embassy was seized in what became known as the Iranian hostage crisis. The cable reads like so many of those sent by some American diplomats in Berlin in the early 1930s, warning of what was to come. Their warnings were ignored. Are we ignoring warnings about Iran today?
From the cable:
“Perhaps the single dominant aspect of the Persian psyche is an overriding egoism … that leaves little room for understanding points of view other than one’s own.” There is also a “pervasive unease about the nature of the world in which … nothing is permanent and … hostile forces abound.” Persians therefore see themselves as “obviously justified in using almost any means available to exploit such opportunities” to protect themselves. Tomseth then adds that Persians have a poor understanding of causality, “an aversion to accepting responsibility for one’s actions,” and resist “the idea that Iranian behavior has consequences” on American policy.
From these analyses, explained at greater length, the cable draws lessons. First, “one should never assume that his side of the issue will be recognized, let alone that it will be conceded to have merits. … A negotiator must force recognition of his position upon his Persian opposite number.” Second, the Iranian negotiator will not seek cooperation or a long-term relationship of trust; instead, he “will assume that his opposite number is his adversary” and will “seek to maximize the benefits to himself that are immediately available.” Third, “linkages will be neither readily comprehended nor accepted.” Fourth, and especially relevant now, “one should insist on performance as the sine qua non at each stage of the negotiations. Statements of intention count for almost nothing.” Fifth, “cultivation of good will for good will’s sake is a waste of effort.” And finally, “one should be prepared for the threat of breakdown in negotiations at any given moment and not be cowed by this possibility.”
Abrams then goes on to reveal stunning information about the European Union's Catherine Ashton, who essentially is leading the current nuclear talks with Iran:
Prior to 2008, Ashton’s only involvement in world affairs was six years (1977-1983) as a high official of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). CND is a leftist organization that, while Ashton was one of its leaders and the Soviet Union was an expansionist power, called for unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom and the prevention of any deployment of nuclear weapons there. CND has a long history of denouncing U.S. policy just about everywhere—from the Vietnam War to today’s Middle East.
And, on the American delegate, Wendy Sherman:
Sherman, who leads the U.S. delegation, is now under secretary of state for political affairs. In the Clinton administration, Sherman was counselor to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and “policy coordinator” on North Korea. At the end of her tenure, she wrote in the New York Times that North Korea is “a country of immense pride.” She added that after the Albright trip to Pyongyang in October 2000, where Albright happily exchanged friendly toasts with her hosts, “North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, appears ready to make landmark commitments about the missile program. To ensure the survival of his regime, he has to improve the country's disastrous economy by reducing the burden of a vast missile program and opening the doors to trade.”
There is no record of Sherman acknowledging that her judgment on North Korea was wrong or suggesting that from the experience of failed Clinton and Bush policies toward North Korea she has taken any lessons at all. While talks continued for years, North Korea continued the development of nuclear weapons and of missiles—a somber thought in the context of the Iran negotiations.
COMMENT: Be alarmed. Be very alarmed. There may well be a deal with Iran, a deal shaped by the same mentality that made agreements with North Korea. I don't think Obama would have any problem with that, although I hope I'm wrong.
Look for signs of stalling...by Obama, saying that talks are going well and need more time. Then look for an agreement to be announced after the election, when Obama has nothing to lose. That is speculation, I emphasize, and again I say that I hope I'm wrong.
But why would anyone put Wendy Sherman in charge of the American negotiators anyway?
April 21, 2012