For many years, I have been involved in business negotiations around the world. Further, I have taught negotiation strategies and techniques to both MBA and law students. In this context, I have been dismayed watching the Obama Administration’s recent dealings with Iran. One of the cardinal rules in any negotiation, especially when one party has a stronger bargaining position, is not to reward the other side for bad behavior. As the Islamic Republic of Iran moves closer to acquiring nuclear weapons, Mr. Obama has negotiated a so-called “breakthrough” deal with Iran to lift tens of billions of dollars worth of economic sanctions in exchange for an Iranian promise to stop enriching weapons-grade uranium. While this nuclear deal seems to be more akin to social work than diplomacy, initial polls show that it is supported by a war-weary American public. (In a survey taken for the liberal group Americans United for Change, and conducted by the firm Hart Research, a 34-percent plurality of respondents who had heard at least “a little” about the nuclear deal said they favor the Obama arrangement with Iran. Only 22 percent said they oppose the deal, and 41 percent said they had no opinion or didn’t know enough to answer.) However, the deal has been criticized for lacking serious oversight, and many have observed that the Iranians can continue their weapons program without any real repercussions for violating the deal. As a result, Mr. Obama has now shown that if you defy the United States and the civilized world community, you will get rewarded, a classic negotiating no-no! I am sure that this is an important lesson that will not be lost on China, Russia, Syria, and North Korea.
Since World War II ended in 1945, the United States has used a “carrot and stick” approach in its foreign policy, a system of rewards and punishments to compel countries to act a certain way. Such a strategy has not always been successful in its execution, but, at least, it is understandable to both allies and adversaries alike. But in order for such a foreign policy to work, any rewards must also be accompanied by the reasonable threat of punishment. At least that is how foreign policy is supposed to work, as both George F. Kennan and Dr. Kissinger have taught. However, the feckless Messrs. Obama and Kerry do not appear to have the sophistication (backbone?) necessary to back up any threats, so we can expect that our adversaries will continue to exploit our weaknesses, and to walk all over us as they endanger the world.
As part of this breakthrough deal, an important mistake was made in negotiations with Iran. Economic sanctions imposed against Iran have made that nation an economic basket case with high inflation and unemployment levels, and growing poverty, which the mullahs now seek to ameliorate. And yet, according to press reports in The Times of Israel, the United States has secretly released Mojtaba Atarodi, a top Iranian scientist, who was arrested in California in 2011. Although Mr. Atarodi’s criminal charges remain sealed, it is believed that he sought to acquire dual-use technologies that would be used for Iran’s military and nuclear programs. However, freedom for three Americans currently held in Iranian prisons was apparently not part of the negotiations. On the pages, I have written extensively about the plight of one of those Americans, Pastor Saeed Abedini. In my last blog about Pastor Abedini, I said how he was moved recently from the notorious Evin Prison, where he was incarcerated with political prisoners, to the more brutal Rajai Shahr prison twelve miles west of Teheran. This particular prison is regarded as one of Iran’s harshest because of its many reported cases of torture, rape and murder, and because it is populated with Iran’s most serious and hardened criminals. Recent reports from Pastor Abedini’s family members, who have visited him in prison, have said that his life is under constant threat, and he has been awakened at night to dangerous prisoners standing over him with knives who rob him. Pastor Abedini continues to suffer from increased stomach pain as Iranian prison officials refuse to give him his needed medicines, and he suffers from the deplorable prison conditions. In addition, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati and ex-FBI Agent Robert Levinson are also being held by the Iranian mullahs. In response to questions from Fox News, our nation’s State Department said that the talks in Geneva between Iran and six world powers focused solely on the nuclear issue, and while State Department officials maintained that the Obama Administration has continued to press for the freedom of the three Americans, it was just not as part of the nuclear talks. It just goes to show the continued incompetence of this president’s administration to free an Iranian prisoner while Americans suffer in Tehran, largely abandoned to die. Mr. Obama, that is just so wrong and evil. So during this Christmas season, as you and your families rejoice in the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, please continue to pray for Pastor Abedini, and the other two Americans held by the brutal Iranian regime.