I think that today’s (Nov. 24, 2013) interim agreement in Geneva between the powers and Iran to “freeze” the advancement of Iran towards nuclear capability is another example of a culture-gap mutual mis-reading in bargaining – in particular the powers ascribing excess importance to the contracted-upon words as conveying their literal content, rather than viewing the meaning of the written agreement as only one thin layer of a complex and evolving communication and engagement between the parties.

At the same time, the agreement is in line with my suggestion here in the last paragraph of my post on Iran from two years ago:

  • A potentially better strategy would be to encourage Iran to follow its own interest by transparently staying only on the brink of military nuclear capability, and at the same time to admit Iran as a de facto member of the “nuclear club”. If, then, Iran nevertheless prefers to curtail transparency and renounce international recognition of its power, it will not only suffer the consequences of undermining its own interests, but might ignite an escalatory pace in which it is likely to suffer much more.

This strategy has, of course, its pros and cons as any other classical brinkmanship.

 – Aviad