Lessons from the Negotiation that Led to the Iran Nuclear Deal – Emily B. Landau and Gilead Sher (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
At an INSS seminar on the negotiations with Iran, investigative journalist Jay Solomon asked how Iran went from a weak negotiating position to attainment of such a good deal from its perspective. In 2012 Iran faced an economic crisis that threatened the regime, feared a possible Israeli attack, and was concerned about the collapse of the Assad regime. By July 2015 Iran had secured a deal that alleviated all of these concerns.
Solomon identified five main reasons: Obama’s own fear of an Israeli attack that pushed him to engage diplomatically; the shift in the “DNA” of key personnel from the first Obama administration to the second, with Kerry significantly less hawkish on Iran than Clinton; Kerry’s domination of the negotiations, which was not planned in advance; Obama’s sense that the negotiation was a key to his legacy, which meant that Iran could hear the ticking clock; and the fact that Iran and Russia were working together behind the scenes of the negotiation.
At the negotiating table, the international negotiators began making concessions to Iran in order to secure a deal, and in the hope that a more cooperative approach on their part would elicit a similar response from Iran. That did not happen.
The concessions sent only one message: that the bargaining partner had “blinked” first, exposing the extent to which it desired, and indeed was dependent on, a deal. The concessions that were offered also signaled to Iran that more concessions could be extracted.
Secretary Kerry’s assumption had been that by the time that sunset clauses come into effect beginning in 7-8 years, they will not present a serious threat because the nature of the Iranian regime will have fundamentally changed, but what we have seen since the deal was signed is a more aggressive Iran.
Emily B. Landau is head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at INSS, where Gilead Sher is head of the Center for Applied Negotiations.