Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The way negotiations are conducted in the Arab middle east is wonderful.

So, lets say you have two sides, lets call them Ahmed and Abdul that are negotiating through a mediator. Both have certain interests and demands of the other. The mediator is trying to construct a compromise document that will be the basis of an agreement. Now both Ahmed and Abdul will verbally promise absolutely anything to the mediator as long as it doesn't make it into the agreement. If one of Ahmed's conditions for an agreement is that Abdul's son's donkeys must stop grazing in Ahmed's yard, Abdul will promise to force his son to slaughter the donkeys. Once that promise is made, Abdul will ask that the condition remain outside the document because he will take care of it within his own family and putting it into the document undermines Ahmed's control of his own son. The moment the agreement is signed leaving out the donkey clause, Ahmed will enter into lengthy negotiations with his son. Eventually he will declare that they have reached an agreement that half the donkeys will be moved to a different grazing area, but the consensus within the family is that the other half of the donkeys must stay continue grazing on Abdul's land.

The way the Iranians conduct negotiations is even better.

First, before you get into negotiations you must have pre-negotiations on the terms of the negotiations. You will discuss what can be discussed, what must be discussed and what can't be discussed. Second, once you get into negotiations, you will not know if you are negotiating with the person that is capable of making a commitment. Third, the negotiators' conditions and terms will change day by day with no particular pattern. Fourth, verbal promises made are not worth much (see # 2,3). Fifth, once an agreement has been reached verbally you will realize that you have really agreed on none of the conditions and negotiations must start again in order to write all the conditions down (see #3). Sixth, once an agreement has been reached on paper you will realize that the person you were negotiating with who swore that he is authorized to negotiate isn't authorized to commit to the document agreed to (see # 2 again). Seventh, if you actually do reach and sign an agreement with someone authorized to commit to it, you will realise the agreement is only good while the other side is incapable of asking for better terms. Eighth, you will also realize that the other side is continually trying to improve its position so that it can very soon try to renegotiate the contract. Ninth, in the next negotiations the previous agreement and all others will be completely ignored and you will start all over.