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Viewing cable 07BAGHDAD3895, UK AMBASSADOR TO IRAN ON IRI NEGOTIATING STYLE,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07BAGHDAD3895 2007-11-30 10:10 2010-11-28 18:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXRO1775
PP RUEHDIR
DE RUEHGB #3895/01 3341039
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301039Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4580
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC//NSC//
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 003895 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
LONDON PLEASE PASS TO GAYLE 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/29/2027 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER IR IQ
SUBJECT: UK AMBASSADOR TO IRAN ON IRI NEGOTIATING STYLE, 
TACTICS 
 
BAGHDAD 00003895  001.3 OF 003 
 
 
Classified By: by CDA Patricia Butenis for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
1.(C) UK Ambassador to Tehran Geoffrey Adams, in a series of 
meetings with U.S. Embassy Baghdad and MNF-I officials, 
outlined his recommendations on how to negotiate with 
Iranians.  Ambassador Adams thought that Iran had several 
goals from talks with the U.S., both superficial and 
substantive.  In negotiations, he advised being steady and 
firm, tough but not aggressive, and at the same time, seeking 
to engage and draw attention to mutual interests.  He 
outlined Iran,s preconceptions and its obsession with and 
mistrust of  the West, which, he said, can blind it to its 
interests.  He warned that the Iranian participants would 
likely have very strict instructions what they could say and 
that it would be difficult to get them off script, though the 
element of surprise could work.  Adams added that the 
Iranians would be very nervous of negative repercussions if 
they made a misstep, and they would likely report on each 
other.  Answers to questions and proposals would more likely 
only come at follow-on meetings, and decision-making in Iran 
is slowed by the need for consensus, so patience is needed. 
That said, it was important to rid the Iranians of their 
standard notion that time was on their side.  End summary 
 
2.(C) British Ambassador to Iran Geoffrey Adams offered 
advice in negotiating strategies with Iran in a series of 
meetings with U.S. officials and military officers in Baghdad 
November 24-25.   The following is an amalgamation of three 
meetings, held in advance of the fourth round of 
Iran-Iraq-U.S. trilateral discussions on Iraq.  Adams, who 
has served in Tehran for almost two years, said his 
observations were borne of much experience, to include a 
&master class8 when Iran captured at gunpoint 15 British 
Navy personnel in March 2007.  British Ambassador to Kuwait 
Stuart Laing also joined the discussions, as well as British 
First Secretary in Tehran Alex Pinfield.  Among those present 
on the U.S. side at various briefings were Ambassador 
Crocker, MNF-I Commanding General Petraeus, Pol-Mil Minister 
Counselor Ambassador Marcie Ries, MG Kevin Bergner, Special 
Advisor David Pearce, and IRPO Director Jillian Burns.  The 
British ambassador,s views of Iran,s strategic interests 
and the internal political situation to be reported septel. 
 
3.(C) Iranians, goal, in Adams, view, is to 
institutionalize talks with the U.S. and keep open the 
possibility of broadening the agenda.  While he heard that 
the Iranians were disappointed in the &lack of substance8 
in previous bilateral talks with the U.S, they felt they 
derived good publicity from participating.  Adams predicted 
the Iranians will seek to keep them going both to engender 
their prestige and to keep tabs on what the USG is thinking. 
He also thought the talks had triggered a useful internal 
debate in how to make the best use of the talks and their 
strategic interests.  Adams added that he believed there is a 
significant lobby in Iran against holding talks with the U.S. 
 
 
Assumptions 
--------------- 
 
4.(C) In talks with Iranians, Ambassador Adams recommended 
being steady and firm, tough but not aggressive, and at the 
same time, seeking to engage.   He stressed that Iranians are 
obsessed with the West and this obsession at times blinds 
them to their interests.  In this light, the US side should 
be aware of the following preconceptions on the Iranian side: 
 
-- the USG seeks to remove the current regime and replace it 
with a pro-Western one. 
 
-- USG policymakers spend an inordinate amount of time and 
energy thinking about (and plotting against) Iran.  As such, 
Iranians assume that everything we do or say has meaning and 
has been carefully thought out and coordinated, both 
internally and with the UK; there are no accidents. 
 
-- The current U.S. administration is politically very weak, 
facing major internal opposition, and as such, the threat of 
US military action against Iran is not realistic. 
 
-- Iran sees the U.S. as a tough, determined adversary that 
can be manipulated and wounded. 
 
Mistrust 
---------- 
 
 
BAGHDAD 00003895  002.4 OF 003 
 
 
5.(C) The legacy of the Iran-Iraq war, when the international 
community was either silent or sided with Saddam (even when 
he used WMD against Iranians) must be kept in mind.  Iranians 
mistrust the outside world, to include the very same Western 
powers and Sunni Arab states that are now seeking to ensure 
that pro-Iranian Shias do not dominate  power in Iraq. 
 
Short Leash 
-------------- 
 
6.(C) Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) government negotiators 
arrive with precise and detailed instructions from which they 
do not deviate, out of fear of professional repercussions. 
They will go through all their talking points.  The USG 
should not expect substantive responses to questions or 
initiatives in real time.  This problem can be obviated to an 
extent by scheduling &lots of breaks,8 allowing IRIG 
officials time to confer amongst themselves and to seek 
guidance via telephone from Tehran.  However, given the fear 
of a misstep on the IRI side, the USG should not expect real 
engagement from the IRI outside of their instructions. 
Answers to questions and responses to suggestions are likely 
to come at follow-on meetings, although some questions never 
get answered. 
 
Preparation 
-------------- 
 
7.(C) IRIG officials will likely prepare in detail for the 
talks.  They may consult with Iranians with extensive 
experience with Americans, such as academics who have 
participated in Track Two talks or worked in the U.S.  He 
also mentioned that the head of Iran,s Chamber of Commerce 
Mohammad Nahavandian is also perceived as a U.S. expert and 
is likely consulted.  Adams doubted that Iran would seek 
advice in negotiating with Americans from other countries. 
Adams repeatedly said, &Iranians are not stupid,8 meaning 
they follow all the issues closely, even if they at times 
misread the signals. 
 
Slow Process 
---------------- 
 
8.(C) In light of the short leash negotiators have, plus the 
collaborative and multi-polar nature of IRI decision-making 
and the extreme sensitivity of the topic of direct USG-IRIG 
talks, the USG should not expect immediate &big steps.8 
Any progress will be slow and come only after much 
deliberation and discussion in Iran, with push-back from 
those circles opposing talks.  If the IRIG concludes that a 
policy shift is in their interests, it can do it and find a 
way to justify it, but will first have to achieve internal 
consensus. 
 
Stay Calm 
------------ 
 
9.(C) It is important with the Iranians not to lose one,s 
temper or show that one is upset.  Trading accusations allows 
the IRIG to rely on a familiar script; far better is to ask 
unexpected questions that will take them &off-script.8 
When asked how to best broach continued IRIG support of JAM 
splinter groups despite IRIG assurances to the Government of 
Iraq to stop the flow of weapons, Adams recommended keeping 
the tone  matter-of-fact and raising issues in question form, 
i.e. &given your assurances that you are seeking to help 
Iraqi forces re-establish peace and security, how can we 
explain the ongoing training of JAM-related illegal 
combatants in Iran?8 
 
Agenda 
--------- 
 
10.(C) Don,t offer an agenda beforehand, otherwise the 
agenda itself will become subject to ongoing negotiations. 
 
Establish Mutual Interests 
------------------------------- 
 
11.(C) Seek to show a commonality or intersection of national 
interests that will justify Iran taking actions suggested by 
the USG.  Prove to them that &if we fail in Iraq, they fail 
too.8  Draw them out on their contradictory tactics in order 
to spark debate within the IRIG.  Assess what the Iranians 
want out of the talks, beyond their publicly stated position 
of wanting a timetable for a withdrawal of foreign troops. 
 
BAGHDAD 00003895  003 OF 003 
 
 
 
Clock Ticking 
----------------- 
 
12.(C) IRIG interlocutors assume that time is on their side 
and hence default towards inaction.  Convince them that now 
is the time to act, and that not doing so will hurt their 
interests and that the situation could get worse.  In a 
related vein, the IRI must be convinced that the USG is 
prepared to stop dialogue (although not necessarily close the 
channel) if there is no progress.  At the same time, realize 
internally that the negotiators cannot take a bold move 
without consultation, a reasonable degree of patience is 
required, and progress may take time. 
 
Put the Ball in Their Court 
-------------------------------- 
 
13.(C) Ask a lot of questions, always put the ball back in 
their court.  Doing so will encourage internal discussion and 
debate in Tehran, as well as put pressure on them to deviate 
from their prepared script.  Wrong foot them by saying 
something unexpected to try to take them off script.  Focus 
on accountability, asking for clarifications of actions that 
contradict their stated commitments.  Keep your message 
clear, including redlines, and do not be too subtle. 
 
Weaknesses 
-------------- 
 
14.(C) Despite their rhetoric, Iranians understand their 
weaknesses include a lack of allies and foreign investment. 
 
Publicity 
---------- 
 
15.(C) Iran is very sensitive to press coverage that makes 
them look weak.  At the same time, the IRIG has a &high 
threshold for embarrassment8 when they are accused of 
illicit activities.  After the talks, the IRIG will seek to 
present the exchange as &businesslike,8 with the US and 
Iran on equal footing, where the IRIG &gave nothing away.8 
BUTENIS