Cablegate: Uk Ambassador to Iran On Iri Negotiating Style,

DE RUEHGB #3895/01 3341039
P 301039Z NOV 07





E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/29/2027

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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.


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.


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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.


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

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


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.

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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.


14.(C) Despite their rhetoric, Iranians understand their
weaknesses include a lack of allies and foreign investment.


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

© Scoop Media

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