Comments: Like it or Not, the United States and Iran are Partners: Seven Principles for Moving Forward Negotiations

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Albie , Thomaston ME   03/05/08
HELLO, MEDIATE.COM BUDDIES. Albie Davis checking in to say hello from Maine, where we are iced in the house. A good time to reflect upon the ICCM "Seven Principles" statement. I've read it now about five times and still feel lost. Whom is the audience for this statement? Is it to be seen as the thoughts of the four authors or of ICCM members? Is it a first draft awaiting input from others? OR, Is it a "done deal." I'm going to assume it's a first draft upon which those who are interested can put their two cents. As Mary Parker Follett said in the mid-1920s, "All polishing is done by friction." This draft contains gems of wisdom here and there, but is in need of polishing. Here are some of my preliminary thoughts. AUDIENCE. Let's assume it is not people who perceive themselves at professional mediators, since it seems to be coming from such people to others. Who are the others? I'd like to hear people's thoughts on whom should receive such a statement. VOICE. Who is speaking? I could live without the emphasis on “professional mediators,” which in excess, discounts the importance of finding people whom the involved parties trust to play a role in jump-starting communication. And, ignores the historical and cultural use of “nonprofessional AND competent” people to play the mediation-type role. INTENT. Once we identify “audience(s),” what do we want them to feel, think and do? TONE. I'm not too crazy about the "Like it or not" tone of the title which evokes "You're either with us or against us" mentality. As I move in to the statement, it seems to vacillate between approach and avoidance of its audience, whomever they are. And between “in-group” and “out-group;” and, in the end, “you need us, the professionals.” CONTENT. If one decides that seven principles is the way to go, are these the seven core principles? Intuitively, they don’t feel right to me, but I’m going to give it more thought. Saul Alinsky (Rules for Radicals) says, “The price of an attack is a constructive alternative.” I’m not ready for that, but, as an example will just reflect upon the first principle. First, a key myth about negotiations must be dispelled, namely, that one can never negotiate with any other entity that it doesn’t trust. Is it an “inviting” first principle to dispel a myth? And a negative myth at that? Perhaps a first principle on this topic might be, “When faced with a conflict where the parties involved reject the notion of even talking with one another, special attention must be given to finding people, principles and incentives for building trust.” PROCESS. If the Seven Principles statement comes from ICCM members, what process, if any, would be a community-building process for those who have signed the founding ICCM statement. Is the Seven Principles piece an emergency statement where members must trust their leaders to come up with something quickly and get it out to the world, or is it something else? For those of you who are “Sleeping in Seattle,” I eagerly await your awakening.” Warm regards, Albie Davis

Mark Kane, Seattle WA   03/01/08
I think that the article presupposes that there are two "interested parties" involved here. In fact, there are at least four. Americans and Iranians who want the level of American-Iranian tensions eased, and Americans and Iranians who need each other as enemies so each can blame the other for it's failures and problems at home. The current administrations of both the US and Iran seem to need each other as enemies more than they need each other as partners in negotiation. Until this dysfunctional impasse is solved internally in each country there is scant hope for meaningful negotiations. I hope the situation improves with the next US administration, and I read that the Iranians are not too happy with their own President.

William , Tacoma WA     02/29/08
RE: Peter Adler's Comment
Peter, thanks, for your comments. For the reader let us be certain that in your remarks to me you were addressing the New York Times op-ed "Attack Iran, With Words" By Reuel Marc Gerecht which I commented on through the ICCM listserve -- NOT the ICCM "Like it or Not, the United States and Iran are Partners: Seven Principles for Moving Forward Negotiations" as the Comment URL line erroneously indicated.

In accord with the principles of ICCM I wish to shy away as much as possible from the topic of "Negotiating with Iran" as your Comment Subject line reads, and instead through a generic approach focus upon your questions and remarks. Although "good faith" negotiations is much harder to define than is "bad faith bargaining" we are well aware that even in our own country so-called operative descriptions have been functioning for years via numerous administrative and regulatory agencies as well as judicial bodies. And certainly the European Union has made little distinction between "good faith negotiations" and "good faith efforts" regarding its interactions with with Microsoft including negotiated agreements as well as compliance to judicial or regulator decisions expected to be respected in accord with the "rule of law". Let the above assertions stand so we can avoid becoming enveloped in various appeal processes or acts of civil disobedience or the exercise of situational ethics. Be it noted that "good faith" is not a nebulous abstract concept despite cultural variances.

Nonetheless, I will respond to your challenging question as to what is "good faith negotiations":

"Good faith" is earnest and sincere in that the opposing disputants desire to work toward mutually acceptable agreements which -- in their specific respective circumstances and point in time -- said disputants would regard the overall substantive results to be fair and equitable even if not fully equal; it involves a recognition that each disputing party is indeed the other partner needed to attain such results; it recognizes that the negotiation process is fragile thus there is nothing "macho" in breaking up the process, yet there are laurels for keeping the table together and the process productive; it focuses upon causes instead of blame; it diligently addresses matters of data, structures, values and relationships instead of acerbating nonproductive behaviors by self and others; it encourages the disputing parties to honestly think how they themselves have contributed to the conflict -- and perhaps still are; it sets forth the functional ethic that neither the escalation of demands nor instances of regressive negotiations will occur; it recognizes the need for procedural satisfaction of all parties from developing logistics, negotiation "rules", and the agenda to the language of the agreement, the monitoring process, and the future dispute resolution clause in order to effectively deal with potential matters of conflict aftermath; it reminds self and others of the negative consequence on all the innocent beings of all side should the conflict be unduly protracted or not resolved through non disruptive or nonviolent means; it makes the diplomatic distinctions between "threats" and "warnings"; it emphasizes principles to be addressed instead of unyielding demands; it will not tolerate "first, fair and final offers" as credible components of any negotiations; preferred positions and proposals; it exercises patient persistence and persistent patience as the opposing disputants still strive to achieve overall substantive results which they will regard as fair and equitable even if not fully equal; it is credible, it is good faith.

Peter, where in the the USA-Iran conflict have you observed the above to have occurred -- by either side?

Now let us address "jawing" which you neither defined nor described. Is it being boisterous? Is it repeating ad infinitum the same demand on a single issue agenda? Is it talking to everyone worldwide except to one's adversary? "No" is the correct answer to all three questions.

"Jawing" consists of candid yet productive discussions nose to nose, eyeball to eyeball directly to the opposing party -- yea, in their presence. Here I have no dispute with Mr. Gerecht. Here he and I both advocate direct high level negotiations between the US and Iran, and I applaud his eagerness that such occur, as he stated, "before its too late". Thus clearly I am not saying negotiations cannot occur between parties who distrust one another. Quite the contrary, for such is one of the biggest myths about negotiations as stated and illustrated by historical examples in the ICCM article "Like it or Not, the United States and Iran are Partners: Seven Principles for Moving Forward Negotiations".

Where I disagree with Mr. Gerecht is an underlying attitude and impatience that while negotiations ought to be attempted to resolve international difference they may also serve to protect nations' political public relations backsides should they decide to engage in military action. I do think there is in his writing a too easily perceived notion that negotiations can serve a nation well even if at times it be a perfunctory exercise thus transforming its failure into a permissible pretext for war.


William F. Lincoln

Bill , Tacoma WA     02/28/08
a bit of jawing with Peter
Peter -- on the run, thus this will be brief and crisp.

"Goodfaith" is built on earnestness, on sincereity , and patient persistance /persistant patienc; in real knowledge that both process and substantive equity and ownership has to be sought / assurred; that one shunns "first, fair and final offers" simply 'cause such do not constitute negotiation; that candor has an honorable purpose; that in diplomatic talk there is a noted distinction between "threat" and an alert or warning; that incentives override punishments; that ther is assertive motive not to turn a data, value, structural or even relationship into a broader behavioral conflict -- one for which there may be no recall.

Should negotiations go on forever without progress? No, not at all. Do negotiation tones need to be soft and mellow? Hardly.

But just as negotiators / mediators are to be creative, i.e., "out of the box", why do we not also become more creative and less damaging when thinking of addressing possible failure in the negitiation process?

Good faith can demand creativity, in fact it welcomes it!

Must run.


Peter Adler, Keystone CO   02/28/08
Negotiating with Iran

Thanks for posting this. It’s a very provocative piece and raises lots of questions, not the least of which are:

Exactly what does “good faith” mean in this particular context of extreme distrust? In the chess game going on between the U.S. neo-cons and the Iranian hard core mullahs, how would each side know good faith if they saw it?

Exactly what is the code of negotiation ethics that you would propose instead of what Gerecht is describing? What is the violation he is flirting with?

Lots of negotiations take place between people who distrust and dislike each other in the extreme. Despite that, people who dislike and distrust each other figure out ways to do business together. Are you saying no negotiations are preferable to what Gerecht is advocating?

Why shouldn’t Americans (or anyone else) enter into negotiations to (a) learn more; (b) make demands; and (c) try to prevent stupid and unnecessary military confrontations?

Bill, I fervently believe, like you and many of our other colleagues, that there are better and smarter ways to resolve these kinds of dilemmas but I actually appreciate the bluntness and transparency of Gerecht’s thinking. I don’t think it flirts with anything. It is “power” talking to “power” which is the lowest equation of negotiation. It would be nice to see that equation raised up a rung or two but, as Churchill said, “Talking jaw to jaw is better than going to war.”

Peter S. Adler, Ph.D.
President & CEO
The Keystone Center
1628 Sts. John Road
Keystone, Colorado 80435