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Iran - The Psychology of Trust in Negotiation

Posted on the 14 November 2013 by Charlescrawford @charlescrawford

My latest piece at Commentator is up, this time about Iran and why it is so difficult to build trust:

Have sanctions against Iran worked as intended, by causing intense economic and other pain to the point of persuading Iran’s population and leaders alike to change course and cooperate normally with international opinion? Perhaps yes.

Or perhaps the Iranians are merely ducking and weaving to buy themselves the space to give themselves a nuclear weapons option, this time by throwing out all sorts of superficially attractive ‘compromises’ that leave their key goals unhindered.

Or perhaps they are torn between choices – they are ready to back down on weaponization if (but only if) they are persuaded that the West is sincere in normalising relations.

Or perhaps the negotiators are sincere in offering to back down, but they simply don’t know that hard-line elements back in Iran are pressing on with their weapons programmes.

This is where intelligence is vital – a lot is at stake in this one (not least Israel’s very survival) so we need to strive to find out everything we can about what is actually happening in Iran’s inner policy circles and deep within the key installations concerned.

Wait …

But that means using MI6 and GCHQ and all that howwid undemocratic eavesdropping, including on German citizens with known connections to the former KGB doing their stolid best to sell honest civilian nuclear technology to Iran? Can’t have that!

This is another issue that is very hard for most of us to follow as mere human beings, since a lot turns on highly technical interpretation of specific tehnologies and associated processes: is it 'safe' or not to accept that if Iran continues to use these technologies with those proposed safeguards and verification, there is no serious risk that Iran will 'weaponise' its uranium?

Plus, of course, what we in the UK might regard as 'safe' may differ sharply from what Russia, the USA, France, Saudi Arabia and above all Israel regard as 'safe'. Because safety is partly about measuring objective capabilities, and partly about assessing current and future intentions/ambitions. What if we now give today's more moderate Iran leadership the benefit of the doubt, but then they develop with our acquiescence supposedly peaceful-only technologies that can be used by the next generation of hardliners to build nuclear weapons?

Thus the final point of my article. These issues are at the far cutting-edge of our intelligence efforts, and what we find out - or fail to find out - may have momentous implications for global stability. This means MI6 and GCHQ working flat out on their own and with partners to scour for clues of all shapes and sizes to help us assemble a picture of what is 'really' happening on many fronts simultaneously.

This in turn requires both SIGINT/COMINT ('signal' and 'communications' intelligence) and HUMINT ('human' intelligence) of the highest order. The bravest people in the world may well be the people deep in the Iranian system secretly working for Western intelligence agencies, risking their lives to get key information to us and knowing that if something goes wrong they will die in a horrendous way.

Thanks to Snowden and all that, their lives are now even more precarious. The facile Western chatterati moaning about 'eavesdropping' do not appear to care much about their fate.

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