The National Iranian American Council reports that Ambassador John Limbert, one of the 52 US diplomats who was held hostage at the United States Embassy in Iran in 1980, has published “Negotiating with the Islamic Republic of Iran: Raising the Chances for Success – 15 Points to Remember” (PDF), a guide for negotiations between the U.S. and Iran.
Limbert’s 15 points are:
- Negotiating with Iran—hard as it may be—is worth doing.
- Establish objective criteria free of legalisms.
- The past matters: Be aware of Iran’s historical greatness, its recent weakness, and its grievances from decades or centuries earlier.
- Choose intermediaries with great care.
- Talk to the right people.
- Understand that the Islamic Republic’s priority is survival.
- Let the Iranians define what is in their national interest.
- Understand the Iranian BATNA: Expect actions that may appear (to you) self-destructive.
- Give your Iranian counterparts credit for intelligence.
- Expect a case based on vague and uncertain claims.
- Expect grandstanding, political theater, and flamboyant gestures.
- Remember that power is respected, weakness despised.
- Understand that justice, often in a harsh version, in the abstract is extremely important.
- Remember that conspiracy theories have great currency—and are sometimes true.
- Expect hands to be overplayed.
What works in any negotiation—being prepared, building relationships, exercising patience, knowing both one’s own and the other side’s BATNA, understanding the other side’s real interests, among other things—can work in negotiations with the Islamic Republic.