by Dr. Ofer Israeli
Despite the sophistication, guile and resolve exhibited by the Persians, the Islamic republic can be defeated.
Persian civilians and government representatives have been giving and taking with foreigners for thousands of years, employing a different type of business or political discourse than the West is familiar with. Due to its basic principles these negotiations will, more often than not, primarily serve the Persian interest.
Therefore, we should not be surprised this was the case throughout the negotiations between Iran and the United States and other world powers. The Iranian delegation won significant results through its dogged adherence to the four negotiating principles of the Persian bazaar.
Firstly, the Persian bazaar approach to negotiating aims to secure the maximum result, which is predetermined and from which there is no intention of backing down. From the Persian point of view, the negotiating process is not designed for facilitating a compromise between the opposing sides. It is also not designed for reaching a middle ground between the sides' original proposals. Its goal is singular in purpose, which is to allow the Persian side to meet its objectives. If not -- the negotiating process is delayed until an unknown future date, when the conditions are deemed more favorable to achieving the objectives. In the meantime, the Persians will buy time and learn to live with the situation, as difficult as it may be.
Secondly, the only measuring stick for success in negotiations is achieving the goal, which as stated has been predetermined. Any other outcome will be perceived as a stinging defeat, which will eventually be rejected by the highest echelons of power. No attention, therefore, is paid to the high price of the negotiating process. Iran avoided compromising its goals despite the draconian sanctions imposed on it for years, which were some of the harshest sanctions ever imposed on one country by the international community.
While Western negotiators may give in on certain issues in order to shorten the process, which also means paying a larger price and losing more, the Persians will hold steadfast to their positions until their goal is achieved and until they completely exhaust the opposing negotiators.
Thirdly, while the Western economic approach sanctifies the "win-win" principle, the Persian approach sanctifies the imposition of its objectives on the adversary. Any compromise on the basic principles, even a compromise that seemingly serves the Persian interest, is considered weakness that sullies the good name of the chief Persian representative, who has bent for the foreign representative. Success, on the other hand, will enhance the representative's prestige and personal status, while also illustrating the supremacy of the Persian nation.
Fourthly -- honesty and truth telling is the norm for Persians in the closer circles of family and business associations. In contrast, these rules almost completely do not apply to the world of international politics. And if they do apply -- it is only because it is temporarily fitting. Therefore, any problem raised by the other side will be met with a future solution, which will be backed up by impressive promises that will supposedly bridge the gaps. After all, there is no honest and truthful intention to stick to the deal, which will be violated at a time deemed suitable -- most likely when the other side no longer has the leverage with which to enforce the main points of the deal.
Throughout the negotiations between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers, the Iranian representatives operated in accordance with these four principles of negotiation. Of course, we can identify certain points in time where the Iranian negotiators gave in and supposedly acted in contradiction to these fundamental principles, but this was only to create the appearance of a positive dynamic while absolutely adhering to their national interests, outlined by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Despite the bitter defeat of signing the deal, which is bad for Israel, Jerusalem must examine the possible avenues of action at its disposal and act with determination to make them happen. Despite the sophistication, guile and resolve exhibited by the Persians, the Islamic republic can be defeated. One way to do so is to adopt some of the Persian strategies described here, and is a subject worth expanding on separately.
Dr. Ofer Israeli is a senior adviser on international strategy and teaches foreign policy decision-making at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
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