Listen: Iran, United States, Harvard Kennedy School discussed on Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast
"I actually think it's not about trust. I think it's about respect the people across the table from you have interests you may not think they're legitimate interest but they have interests and they have politics that they have to deal with and I need to understand that and I want them to understand my interests and my politics and see if we can find a place where some of their interests can be addressed but I never lose sight of the objective which in the case of Iran was to make sure they never have a nuclear weapon the hello and welcome to the Harvard Kennedy School policy cost. I'm your host talk. Moyo today joined by Ambassador Wendy Sherman who is professor of the practice of public leadership and the Director of the Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership Ambassador Sherman served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the United States Department of State between two thousand eleven and two thousand fifteen during her remarkable career. She has been at the table for some of the most. It's challenging negotiations in recent history. She's held talks with the late. North Korean detail Kim Jong Il she sat across the table with Iranian officials to hammer route the twenty fifty nuclear weapons deal and she's bought what she's learned about authentic leadership diplomacy and succeeding as a woman in a male dominated field to a new you book which is titled. Not for the faint of heart lessons encourage power amp assistance. Welcome to policy cost embassador chairman. It's great to be with Talker so my first question given your diplomat has to be about protocal. May I call you Andy Ambassador so let's let's start with the reflections so you've worked as a diplomat. You've been at the table and some of the most challenging negotiations what's the common thread. What a some of the things things that you think about nausea look back on those times in the work that you've done particularly in the context of you coming to the Kennedy School teaching courses on negotiation and leadership well. It's very interesting that you ask that because about to teach my first course here at the Kennedy School in the second half of the fall semester and it's called leadership. I've been negotiations away from the table. Everything you need to know to get the job done and the reason for the courses that a lot of students think that the way you really get a deal done is to be in the room at the table. The table when in fact it is all the things that happen away from the table that really get the job done in any negotiation and what are some of those things some of those things include the history the norms the culture of the parties sitting at the table. people negotiate differently depending on their culture. The history among and between parties may have a lot to do whether there's any respect at the table let alone alone trust it has to do with politics and power Do you understand the power relationships. Do you understand all the stakeholders. Do you understand the politics that are playing out not only in in our country been in any other country or with any other party in the context of their organization Tation. It has to do with policy development. what's going to be your objective at the negotiation. What are the right and left guard rails. How will you know if you succeed and it also has to do with setting the table all the tools that archer disposal to set the table including your arena which is communications and public affairs affairs can very much shape what happens in the room so this a little bit about some of those elements in detail so culture. I know when I was reading your book talk a little bit about the cultures of interplay that came into the negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal and you talked about one specific example about how women and men don't shake hands and you did the you put your hand to your chest in a little bow. That's an example what other examples of of culture and sort of interplay and impact that that you've seen happen. I'd start in the Iran situation with history. Most Americans think that history begins in nineteen seventy nine when the Iranians took Americans hostage for four hundred forty four days at the start of the Iranian revolution in fact for the Iranians history starts back in the nineteen fifties when the United States working with British intelligence knocked off democratically elected prime minister are because we were afraid that Iran was going to nationalize all the oil and make it difficult for us and for Great Britain so the Iranians hostility towards the United States historically started long before hours because we put in place the Shah of Iran who was whereas very good to the United States but truly a horrible dictator to his people and brought about the Iranian Revolution in the case of with North Korea. The United States obviously fought a war on the side of South Korea against the north the north at at the time of the Korean War was the growing economy in the southwest the poor economy now the south is the behemoth in Northeast East Asia along with of course Japan and the north is the poor cousin so where you start what the history is how how people negotiate differently. Some countries are very transactional. I'd say the North Koreans are more transactional than the Iranians are the Iranians artist transactional. I mean means. They're ready to do a deal if they can get what they need and you can get what you need. They're quick to quicker to do a deal. I think than some uh-huh the Iranians are much more sophisticated negotiators very legalistic very complex. It's not to say either of these. Negotiations are easy. They're quite quite difficult but people have different negotiating styles some countries negotiate top down others negotiate bottom up and the same would be true for businesses and any organization so the history matters so when you walked into for example Iranian negotiating table. It was fairly hostile EILLY. You looked at with distrust I mean how do you get from that given the history to a point where you're actually talking and bill developing some trust that are you working towards common ground which we'll talk about later on. I actually think it's not about trust. I think it's about respect. I don't think that given the history between the United States in Iran that one can really have a basis for trust and I think it is however about having some respect act that the people across the table from you have interests and you may not think they're legitimate interest but they have interests and they have politics that they have to deal with and I respect that they have interests and that they have politics and I need to understand that and I want them to understand my interests and my politics and see if we can't find a place where some of their interests can be addressed but I never lose sight of the objective checked which in the case of Iran was to make sure they never have a nuclear weapon and a which point. Did you feel that you've got to a place where there was respect. And how did you know you would there. We got to know each other quite well. Because we spent hours and hours and hours with each other and remember this was a multilateral negotiation so I not only had to get get to know the Iranians but I had to get to know the English. I had to get to know the French I had to get to know the Germans the Russians the Chinese and all of their delegations what all of their interests were the European Union. I had to understand. US politics I I joke all the time that I negotiated inside the US administration. I negotiated with Capitol Hill. I negotiated with interest groups in the United States. I negotiated with each one of the partners in the negotiation and bilaterally and with them as a group I negotiated with Israel which had a huge interest in what we were doing it and negotiate with all the Gulf countries I negotiated in any country that had had an interest in this and yes occasionally even negotiated with Iran. It is a very complex time intensive process and all the while I was doing the negotiation I was the under secretary of state responsible for all the rest of the world so one of the things that you would do one of the things that I was doing but not the the only thing I went to fifty four countries while I was the under secretary over four years from twenty eleven to two thousand fifteen some of them more within once so it was a privilege to have the job but in exhausting job it was and you were saying that you got to know the other party at the table fairly well and that the relationships that you built over the time started to develop into respect yes I think respect for each other's positions and interests even if there was not agreement agreement respect that we couldn't get to a solution unless we all sort of came to agree on what with the objective was during this negotiation a Russia for instance invaded Ukraine and took over Crimea and and that was a situation where the United States was going to have to take some significant action to sanction Russia for this but at the same time I I was negotiating table with the Russians trying to solve another problem and I had gotten to know Sergei Rehab cough my counterpart quite well because we had actually work together with Secretary Kerry and Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov to negotiate the Syria Chemical Weapons Agreement so I know new Sergei rather well by now as a negotiator and he I was had great respect for his skill and you went up to him at a cocktail. I think I think in your book you mentioned that it was actually morning coffee. A coffee said it was a very busy room and I went over to him and I said Sergei. How could you possibly do what you have done and it took him a moment to realize is when I was talking about and then he realized it was Ukraine. He looked at me for a moment. He said nothing is Amiss and he walked away and the reason he walked away was to say to me. If I stay here we you're going to have a fight and that will not serve our purpose in this room. We will have to deal with this issue for sure but not right now not right this moment while we're trying to ensure that Iran doesn't obtain a nuclear weapon so it makes sense yes makes perfect sense and you have to be able to walk and Chew Gum and run and skip all at the same time right and and that's what we did as a essentially. He compartmentalized yes he was able to say there's something else that we're working on. Its focus on that and we'll come come back to two that. Did that. Increase your respect for him or was that just it you know Did you feel very very skillful diplomat so it increased is my respect for his skill right okay so let me just come back to sort of getting to know the parties at the table and building up to a point of respect. It didn't always go through very smoothly. MD's apart in your book that you describe where you said something in a Senate hearing I think it was and you said that deception is in the DNA to the Iranians and that made it all the way to Tehran and how that affected and how we when you look back on that what's the lesson there you stop there.."