‘Obama Has No Idea How to Negotiate with Persians’

AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski
AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski

In the wake of the Iran “framework” agreement Thursday, President Barack Obama celebrated–but the Iranian regime pushed for more concessions, disputing the White House’s “fact sheet” on the deal and insisting the parties had agreed to end sanctions immediately. Iran’s reaction was a clear sign that  between now and the end of June, an already-bad deal is going to get worse as the Iranians see just how much Obama wants an agreement, and use that to make new demands.

A friend from Los Angeles, observing the sorry spectacle, told me: “Barack Obama has no idea how to negotiate with Persians. Making new last-minute demands is part of the game.”

He shared with me the story of his father, whose first experience in real estate had been selling a home in Beverly Hills to a Persian couple. The price and the terms had been agreed, and everything seemed on track–but then the Persian couple began making new and unreasonable demands.

At first, he did not know what to do when faced with a bargaining “partner” who kept reneging on promises already made and demanding compliance with terms that were never on the table.

He approached a Persian friend at his synagogue for advice.

“Have you gotten visibly angry yet, and stormed out of the room?” the Persian friend asked.

“No,” he replied.

“Ah, so they believe the deal is not done. They think there is more you are prepared to give them. Next time, try getting angry.”

And so, at the next meeting with the Persian couple, my friend’s father threw a tantrum at the first new demand. “The deal’s off. I’m tired of your lies and broken promises. I won’t sell to you at any price. You’re dead to me.” And he left.

The couple called the next day and agreed to his terms.

It’s not as if such methods are totally unknown to Obama. During the debt ceiling talks in 2011, he famously walked out of talks. He also made last-minute demands for an additional $400 billion in tax revenues that destroyed the deal already on the table for a “grand bargain” (thus horrifying his aides).

But that may have been less a matter of clever negotiating tactics than a simple refusal to negotiate with Republicans, period–the only so-called “terrorists” to whom he will not surrender.

Obama should have pulled his negotiators out of Lausanne when March 31 came and went. No doubt he thinks he was brave to tell them to stay.

No doubt the Iranians know better.


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