The White House is worried they may offend Iran. As reported in Politico, Samantha Power, ambassador to the UN, stated “We in the administration believe that at this time, increasing sanctions would dramatically undermine our efforts to reach this shared goal.” The shared goal being the reduction of Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Samantha Power is the Irish-born, Harvard-educated human rights advocate who in the heat of the nomination battle called Hillary a “monster” in an interview with The Scotsman done in London, England. The self-righteous globe trotter has had a great deal of influence on Obama’s foreign policy outlook, having worked with him since his days as a freshman senator. She pulled the rookie into Darfur and argued for military action in Libya – which is good – but she also seems to be behind his current insistence on using the presidential veto against the Iran sanctions that Congress has put together – which is not so good.

The problem of negotiating with an adversary that uses violence and terror has been studied through the analytics of game theory for decades now, increasingly so since 9/11. One can quibble over whether the current regime in Iran is strictly terrorist. The fact is, however, that Iran has supported, financially and tactically, terrorist islamic organizations for decades. That means that in reaching a nuclear deal with Iran, you are dealing with a regime that has close ties to terrorism, whether the current top officials are part of the loop or not. How do you negotiate with such a regime on an issue as vital as nuclear capability? Terrorism and Game Theory, a paper by USC’s Todd Sandler and Rhodes College’s Daniel Arce, states that “each adversary acts on the beliefs of the opponents anticipated actions.” And uncertainty caused by power struggles between the moderate and fanatical factions within any terrorist organization lowers visibility on the part of the government negotiating with the terrorists. As well, in negotiation theory there is what is called the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, or BATNA. What this means is do you have a back-up plan if negotiations fail and is it credible? A BATNA is often used in fact as leverage in negotiations and not just a a safety net. Or as Senator Menendez put it, ” a credible threat of future sanctions will require Iran to cooperate and act in good faith at the negotiating table.”

It’s not as if sanctions are a new and radical policy change. Iran has had sanctions imposed on it by the EU, Canada and of course the USA for years now. The current bill would step up the pressure to another level, that’s all. So why is Obama so touchy on the issue? Does Samantha Power have his ear to such an extent that anything that doesn’t fit with Kennedy School of Government policy perspectives gets dismissed out of hand? The President needs to remember who he is dealing with in Tehran and what they have been and are capable of doing, and turn his ear away from his advisor’s whispers just a little.

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