Driving a Bargain with Iran

The Lowy Interpreter has a must read guest post about what Iran’s nuclear negotiators have learned from the country’s hair-raising traffic maneuvers. Here’s my favorite:

Principle 2: Wear them down

Driving — When you drive the wrong way down a one-way street, and meet someone coming the other way, turn your engine off and start eating lunch. Eventually they will reverse.

Nuclear negotiating — Take extended periods to ‘review’ new proposals. Hand out ambiguous promises of new cooperation. Your nuclear program has been the flavour of the month for a while. It won’t be forever.

Clever stuff, but also revealing. A good negotiator will know how someone’s culture informs their bargaining style. That doesn’t make the style illegitimate; people will try to advance their interests in the ways they’re most accustomed to. In France, for instance, losing one’s temper can sometimes get you off the hook for a minor traffic infraction. As a friend put it recently, the law is a starting point for the discussion, not the final word. The key is to measure someone’s bargaining style through the lens of their culture, and to formulate your own positions in such a way as to make them more attractive through that lens as well.