Steve Kramer

Bazaar [bizarre] diplomacy

Emeritus Professor Moshe Sharon of the Hebrew University famously lectured on negotiations in the Middle East. He wrote: “To achieve their goal, the Arabs took to the battlefield and to bazaar diplomacy. The most important rule in the bazaar is that if the vendor knows that you desire to purchase a certain piece of merchandise, he will raise its price. …

“This is the wisdom of the bazaar, if you are clever enough you can sell ‘nothing’ at a price. The Arabs sell words, they sign agreements, and they trade with vague promises, but are sure to receive generous down payments from eager buyers. In the bazaar only a foolish buyer pays for something he has never seen.

“There is another rule in the market as well as across the negotiating table: the side that first presents his terms is bound to loose; the other side builds his next move using the open cards of his opponent as the starting point.

“In all its negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs, Israel has always rushed to offer its plans, and was surprised to discover that after an agreement had been “concluded” it had become the basis for further demands.” (

Substitute “Iran” for “Arabs” and “P5+1” for “Israel” and you will know why Iran has negotiated rings around the US and its P5+1 partners (US, Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France, plus Germany). Not only that – the chief Western negotiator is Wendy Sherman, whose background is particularly unsuitable for hard-nosed bartering with the wily Iranians, who know a thing or two about driving a hard bargain. Sherman’s main “accomplishment” up to now is allowing North Korea to become a rogue nuclear state.

“Wendy Ruth Sherman (born 1949) is Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the fourth-ranking official in the US Department of State. She has formerly worked as a social worker, the director of EMILY’s list [supporting pro-choice Democratic women running for congress and governorships], the director of Maryland’s office of child welfare, and the founding president of the Fannie Mae Foundation [which lobbied for, and supported causes closely associated with, Fannie Mae executives – it was discontinued in 2007]

… Sherman received her degree from Boston University in 1971 in the field of sociology and urban studies. In 1976, she earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland. She subsequently began her career as a social worker, before going into politics.” (

Returning to the bazaar – the West has the stronger hand versus Iran, but doesn’t use it. The P5+1 are richer, stronger, bigger, and even have more energy resources. Yet Iran has endlessly spun out negotiations over years, allowing Iran to achieve nuclear weapons breakout, or perhaps “only” near-breakout capability. Iran has not been penalized for being the greatest funder of global terror, nor is it penalized (or even chastised) for continually saying that Israel must be annihilated. Iran has faced no impediment to becoming the strongest Muslim power in the region, and is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles which have no use except to deliver nuclear payloads.

The P5+1, which is composed of the UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany, started negotiations with Iran in 2006, after the Security Council called upon Iran to “re-suspend enrichment and reprocessing, reconsider construction of its heavy water reactor, ratify and implement the Additional Protocol, and implement transparency measures.” None of the Security Council demands have been pursued.

Betraying its weakness, the international community was the first to present terms. Unsurprisingly, “Iran continued enrichment activities and failed to meet the Security Council’ s request, even after the P-5 +1 offered Iran a new proposal on June 6, 2006. The Security Council passed UNSCR 1696 on July 31, 2006, giving Iran a deadline of August 31 to comply. Iran still failed to suspend enrichment, which may prompt negotiations on sanctions.” (

For nine years, the Iranians have snubbed their noses at the West; run roughshod over the region by becoming the strongest backer of the anti-Western governments in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon; and enticed the Obama administration to help Iran defeat its main adversary, Islamic State.

One has to admit that this is brilliant negotiating on Iran’s part. Iran has split the US from its strongest allies in the region (Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia) and is quibbling over how much uranium it can enrich and to what extent, while readying its delivery systems for the nuclear payloads it expects to soon have. In the meantime, even without the benefit of nuclear weapons, Iran has become the powerhouse of the region, strong enough to flout all Security Council resolutions and to continue to call for the destruction of Israel, not to mention the Big Satan, America. No wonder Iran’s chief negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, is always smiling.

Conclusively, Wendy Sherman and her team are poor negotiators. But there is an alternate theory: Sherman is simply fulfilling the president’s agenda to enable Iran’s hegemony of the Arabs and Israel. In the first case, the West is suffering from its failure to implement bazaar diplomacy. In the second case, it’s even worse.

About the Author
Steve Kramer grew up in Atlantic City, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, adopted the hippie lifestyle until 1973, then joined the family business for 15 years. Steve moved to Israel from Margate, NJ in 1991 with his family. He has written more than 1100 articles about Israel and Jews since making Aliyah. Steve and his wife Michal live in Kfar Saba.