The world famous economist John Kenneth Galbraith said it best:
“There are few ironclad rules of diplomacy but to one there is no exception. When an official reports that talks were useful, it can safely be concluded that nothing was accomplished.”
Call it common sense or call it experience. Galbraith could have been a fly on the wall during recent nuclear discussions between Iran and representatives of the Western world.
Iran met in Baghdad with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, the group dubbed 5+1. After two days of talks they came to a conclusion: Iran and the 5+1 should meet again. For round two of these talks they opted for a venue change: Moscow.
The inexperienced observer would, quite understandably, conclude that the two days in Baghdad were well spent and resulted in success. Why else would there be reason for a follow up so soon afterward?
The experienced observer, however, knows better.
As more details emerge it becomes evident that, once again, Iran has out-maneuvered, out-strategized, outplayed and outsmarted the Western world.
The meeting in Baghdad took place in the context of nearly a half-year of small group meetings, only two of which were successful.
The Obama administration was banking on the belief that these pseudo-secret meetings would bear their fruit at the public, much heralded meeting of the 5+1 in Baghdad. The United States truly believed that in Baghdad it would lay down a real foundation for dialogue about nuclear issues with Iran.
Imagine the Americans’ collective shock, then, when Saaid Jalili, the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator, was asked about those small meetings that had taken place between Iranian and Western representatives – and said he had no knowledge of them.
One source even reported that Jalili just nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders and said something to the effect of “let’s move on.”
Those meetings did, in fact, take place. I have been getting reliable reports about them for months. The White House was so ecstatic about the meetings that in March administration officials were saying they had cracked the Iranian nut and that real progress was being made thanks to those meetings.
There were even those in Washington who went so far as to suggest that sanctions against Iran might no longer be necessary.
Imagine – the United States was dangling the lifting of sanctions and the Iranian response was as blase and unconcerned as if those sanctions had been leveled against some other country.
And it may actually already have happened. The Iranians recently announced they struck oil in the Caspian Sea. That is the first oil discovered there in over one hundred years. The drilling went deep into the seawaters. It had to have been a sanctioned, co-sponsored effort. You see, the Iranians do not have the capability to drill that deep. Only the U.S. has that technology.
It seems that, with no fanfare and with well-kept secrecy, the U.S., perhaps unilaterally, lifted the sanctions that would have prevented the Iranians from getting the oil drilling technology needed to drill in the Caspian Sea.
Imagine – the White House was toasting and the Iranians were dissing.
Maybe now the administration will finally realize just how wily the Iranians are; how with relative ease they agreed to divide up into teams and meet periodically in capitals across Europe and then deny it happened.
There is another ironclad rule in diplomacy: If it appears too good to be true, it probably isn’t. The Iranians lured the U.S. into complacency and the U.S. fell into their diplomatic trap.
The U.S. team, of course, tried to shake Saaid Jalili’s memory. They said, Remember the Paris meetings with Dr. Ali Bagheri, deputy secretary of the Supreme National Security Council? And remember the Vienna dialogue with Hassan Rahani?
Jalili said he had no idea what they were talking about and that the discussion in Baghdad with the 5+1 was the only one they had and that it started from square one.
This was a major blunder and a colossal waste of time by and for the U.S. and the 5+1. They were had, and all because of wishful thinking, diplomatic style.
Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and social and political commentator. He maintains The Micah Report website (www.micahhalpern.com). His latest book is “Thugs: How History’s Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World through Terror, Tyranny, and Mass Murder” (Thomas Nelson).
Micah D. Halpern