Monday, January 23, 2006

Can We Negotiate the World's Way Out of the Iran Nuke Mess?

For many months, if you watch TV news, you have seen Iran go forward toward making nuclear weapons. There have been talks, on and off, between European powers and the US on one side and the Iranian government on the other. Europe and the US made dire threats of economic blockades and so forth. Iran then elected an even more stubborn nut case as Prime Minister.

This new guy, whose name westerners can’t pronounce or remember, claims the Holocaust never happened and preaches Israel should be pushed into the sea. Meanwhile, at home in Iran the Islamists push a repressive regime of closing newspapers, blocking western music and thought, etc. Western threats of blockades have not worked, and produced a worse situation. Can a deal still be struck?

I think so. Still, Western negotiation strategy must change. Thus far the goal has been to threaten Iran into submission, and the strategy has been threats. Forget it. Iran is Persia. It has been around thousands of years, and its people are proud of their successful history. Surrounded by Arab nations and mostly Muslim, they maintain their own language of Farsi (Persian). They are tough and they know what they want.

Instead of ever more nightmarish Western threats, none believable, the West needs to work on discovering what Iran really needs. I suspect that nuclear weapons, which will cost billions of dollars to develop or buy parts of, are not the real need. The closer they get to having nukes, the broker Iran gets, and the closer to Israel making a first nuclear strike. Bad stuff.

We found out after the Cold War that what Russia really wanted was not world conquest but to believe the West (US, et al.) no longer was planning to invade. I don’t know whether we were planning this, but they thought so and had reason to believe it.

My guess is Iranians in the street have similar fears of invasion. After all, whether for reasons you may approve or not, nearby Afghanistan and Iraq have been invaded . We need to find their real fears and fearlessly address them, without compromising our own security.

Negotiation 101: Learn the real needs of your negotiating partner, forget pounding the table, and address the needs.

If we apply this, we can defuse the Iran Nuke situation.

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