Commentary Magazine


Iran and the John Kerry School of Negotiation

Last year, I traded in my old 2003 Nissan for a new car. I wish I hadn’t and instead had the opportunity to sell it either to Secretary of State John Kerry or the American negotiating team with Iran. It’s blue book value was probably around $1,500. I’m sure if I made $1,250 my opening bid, Kerry would come back with $5,000. Maybe I could reach an agreement on that figure, but back away at the last minute and perhaps get $20,000. Now, three of the four door handles had broken on the car and it had a big rust stain on its side panel thanks to a careless parker at Dulles Airport, but perhaps I could feign grievance and demand an extra $35,000 just so Kerry could demonstrate he wasn’t guilty after all.

I wish this was a silly example, but increasingly it seems accurate. And I wish we were talking about negotiating poorly over a used car rather than allowing Iran a capability which could endanger millions of lives.

It’s worth remembering where this started: President Barack Obama entered office promising a new era for multilateralism and diplomacy. Heck, he won a Nobel Peace Prize on his rhetoric alone. He has transformed himself into the most unilateral president the United States has experienced. It’s all well and good to bash George W. Bush, but under Bush there had been a succession of unanimous or near-unanimous UN Security Council resolutions all demanding Iran cease enriching uranium. Obama and Kerry came in, however, affirming Iran’s right to enrich uranium, undercutting the will of the international community with a wave of their hand. But was it realistic to demand zero enrichment? The Kuwaitis should be thankful that Iraq did not invade them under the watch of Team Obama. After all, Obama might simply have acquiesced to Iraqi tyranny by saying it was no longer realistic to expect Kuwaiti sovereignty.

It’s not just blessing Iran’s enrichment that is problematic. The “Possible Military Dimensions” is not something which should be shunted aside. After all, if Iran’s goal was simply to power air conditioners or plasma flatscreens in Tehran’s swank northern neighborhoods, it’s doubtful they would have experimented with nuclear bomb triggering devices. But they did. Oh, Mr. Kerry, I didn’t mention that my 2003 Nissan only has three wheels? Oops, my bad. Now, it may be true that the Iranian leadership changed their mind about the direction of their nuclear program back around 2003 (against the backdrop of the invasion of Iraq, it might be impolite to add). But what’s to stop them just as easily from changing their minds again in the future? It’s a question which Kerry should answer. And if he cannot provide that guarantee, then maybe I should demand another 100 grand for my Nissan. After all, Kerry’s a man who at this point will accept anything.

The silliest part of this whole process is that the United States and, more broadly, the P5+1 had amazing leverage. Iran’s economy had shrunk 5.4 percent before negotiations ever began, and that was before the price of oil halved, with Iran’s income along with it. Most Cold War historians now acknowledge that the United States won the Cold War by bankrupting the Soviet Union, though they disagree on largely partisan lines about the degree to which Ronald Reagan deserves the credit. That’s an argument for another day. The proper analogy for Kerry and perhaps Obama would be if they threw all Western allies under the bus in order to gather up the funds to subsidize the failing Soviet Empire in its hour of need. Actually, an even better analogy would be if they donated billions of dollars to the Soviet cause, all the while acquiescing to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and its consolidation of power in Southeast Asia and Africa. It’s time to step back, see the forest through the trees, and recognize the Iran deal for what it is. And, while we’re at it, Mr. Kerry, my Nissan is yours for only $2,350,000; please excuse the cracks in the windshield and the missing trunk.

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4 Responses to “Iran and the John Kerry School of Negotiation”


    It’s a great send-up of what’s happening, Lausanne style. It would be nice if someone checked the bags of the Iran delegation each time they walk out of a session, to be sure that all the soaps, shampoos, towels and complimentary coffee pods are not spirited away.

    The most trenchant observation yet about how the Obama spirit pervades this negotiation farce was given in Victor Davis Hanson’s article today… tell them no, and they double down.

    The best armor for prevention would have been a vigilant press, but I think they love the tchotchkes in Lausanne more than the Iranians. When all hell breaks loose, they’ll still get the sweet digs.


    It’s a mistake to call Kerry inept. He’s not. The administration and Kerry have smart people working for them, but doing things which are inimical to the best interests of our beloved nation and Israel.

    They envisage a world where Iran is tamed by acquiring nuclear weapons, setting off an arms race in the Middle East. They presuppose that the extension of Iranian hegemony through out the area will calm things, and manage to retain US influence after exiting the area, while enabling the US to pivot to Asia.

    Fanciful, at best. Willingly pernicious,is more likely. America needs to be cut down to size. They are the guys to do it! What’s next? Sending aid to the “beleaguered” Houthis, claiming to wipe out AQAP? Nothing should surprise.

  3. BARRY MEISLIN says:

    What is going on at Lausanne is not clearly understood.

    For Obama/Kerry, it does not matter if the negotiations result in a “deal”, just as for the Iranians, it does not matter.

    The purpose of negotiations is negotiations; that is, the appearance—the optics—of Obama/Kerry trying their absolute best—going that extra mile—to avoid war and enable peace to wash over the world.

    Obama/Kerry know that the Iranians don’t have to agree to anything—Obama/Kerry have created the conditions for this stalemate to exist. After all, there are always extensions. And it is far better to jaw/jaw, etc….

    …While the Iranian nuclear program gathers momentum.

    And the Iranians—they, too, know that they don’t have to agree with anything. They could if they wanted. But they don’t have to. The built-in delays that negotiations facilitate—and encourage—their nuclear program. They are a feature that fits their plans, and ideological purity, perfectly.

    And even if Iran did agree to a “deal”, everyone knows, especially them, that they will not have to—and moreover, not be expected to—fulfil it.

    Deception all around.

    While everyone else is frantic about what a deal could possibly mean, and how Obama/Kerry could possibly contemplate such a farce. Will it happen? Won’t it happen? Could it happen? How, why, when?

    All this is psycho-adolescent button pushing by Obama and his decrepit administration, reminiscent of the USSR and of Obama’s own interlocutors in Teheran (though Obama is not nearly as talented in the button-pushing department, even if he is trying his best).

    It matters not. Once again, it is all optics (like everything in this Potemkin administration). No one believes it can be done. Even if it can be done, no one believes or expects that the Iranians will abide by it.

    However, it fits the goals of BOTH “negotiating” parties (Obama and Iran) perfectly: Screw the US, screw Western Europe, and especially, screw Israel. (Alas, it screws the Arab Sunni states as well; “Sorry about that guys, we really hate to do it, but we have bigger fish to fry; and Israel—well, you agree, don’t you? that it’s time for Israel to go. (What’s that, you don’t agree??)”)

    As the Iranian translator/defector declared last week (something which should have been obvious): Kerry is trying to foist Iranian demands on Europe while making it appear as though he is a negotiating adversary of the mullahs.

    But he’s not: he’s on the same side.

    In other words, Kerry is not folding to Iran against America’s real wishes and policies: he is actually supporting Iranian demands while making it appear as though he’s trying his best to resist.

    Optics. Betrayal.

    Think ObamaCare. Here, too, it doesn’t matter if it “works” or not, despite Administration protestations that it will work and is working—that it is a consummate success, a blessing for America and the American people, and getting better day by day. The important thing was to pass the law—to ram it through with nobody understanding what it was all about (except Jonathan Gruber and possibly Obama)—and then letting it work its severe malfunctions—and toxins—into the American body politic and economy.

    Optics. But, in the case of ObamaCare, the virus has been released. All that remains is to sit and watch the patient writhe in agony. Eventually.

    And the same is true of the immigration moratorium fiasco, though here, it is more obvious. Still, it was/is touted as giving the needy and desperate a chance, as turning America into what it is supposed to represent, making America true to itself, and all other kinds of trite balderdash.

    Optics. The intent was/is to place inordinate stress on the country’s already fraught economy, place inordinate stress on its citizens, create a (hoped-for) solid pro-Democratic bloc of voters, and undermine the rule of law as well as weaken the Constitution.

    So, too, with the current “negotiations”. Weaken so-called “allies” (the “colonialist” US, “colonialist” Europe, “colonialist”, “oppressing”, “apartheid” Israel) under the guise of striving for a peaceful conclusion to the Iranian “problem” while respecting that country’s “rightful place in the world”, whatever.

    All perfectly reasonable for the acolyte of Edward Said/Khalid/Rev. Wright who rules from the White House.

    Optics. Betrayal. Pure and simple.

    • MANUEL LAZEROV says:

      Very well put. Actually, it’s better for Iran if they have no deal. Having a deal would have meant that they agreed to something. This way, they can have their cake and eat it too, as well as humiliate Obama, and his buffoon Secretary of State.

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