Nuclear talks with Iran just wrapped up in Geneva and the first reports are promising. One senior Obama official told the New York Times that the talks were
“intense, detailed, straightforward, [and] candid…”With a lot more work to be done, talks are set to resume at the beginning of November.
Their success or failure may rest in the hands of lead U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman.
Sherman has been tasked with determining whether the new moderate government of Hasan Rouhani is serious about making, what she has called, “transparent, meaningful, and verifiable actions” or whether this is just another stalling tactic, a way to get some economic relief while stringing the U.S. along.
Sherman’s career path has been unusual, as noted by Foreign Policy:
Sherman, a rail-thin woman with a shock of grey hair, has followed an unusual path to her current post as the undersecretary of state for political affairs, the No. 3 position in the State Department. A Maryland native, she studied sociology and urban studies in college and then got a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland. She met her husband, journalist Bruce Stokes, in 1978 after they’d gotten together to talk about low-income housing. Unlike most of her peers at the State Department, Sherman’s first jobs were in partisan politics and social work, not diplomacy. She was the director of EMILY’s List, which provides money to pro-choice, female, Democratic political candidates, and she ran the successful Senate campaign of then-Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. She also served as director of Maryland’s office of child welfare and as the president and CEO of the Fannie Mae Foundation, the charitable arm of the mortgage-lending giant.
Sherman left Fannie Mae in 1997, when Albright made her the State Department’s counselor, one of its top posts. … After leaving government in 2001, Sherman spent several years working for her former boss at Albright Stonebridge, a consultancy. During the 2008 Democratic primary, Sherman served as one of candidate Hillary Clinton’s top foreign-policy advisors. As secretary of state, Clinton, in turn, brought Sherman back to the State Department in 2011 as the undersecretary of state for political affairs. “I joke that I remain a community organiser,” she told National Journal this summer. “My caseload has just changed.”
Sherman isn’t new at negotiating with antagonistic nations. She was previously on former-Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s team that negotiated with North Korea in the 1990s.
Albright has since called Sherman her “watchdog” for separating fact from fiction in negotiations.
Those talks with North Korea appeared on the verge of a real agreement to stop their nuclear program but ended up fizzling out in the waning days of the Clinton presidency.
Later, when Bush assumed the presidency, Sherman urged the new administration to restart talks with North Korea, believing that a deal was close. Instead, Bush cut off direct talks and, in 2006, North Korea conducted a nuclear weapon detonation test. He later reopened negotiations in 2007 but it was too little too late.
Sherman is determined not to let this negotiation slip through her fingers. Here is what she has been tasked with getting Iran to agree to, according to Foreign Policy:
Washington wants Iran to stop enriching uranium to a purity level of 20 per cent, reduce its existing stockpiles of that type of uranium, put its nuclear facilities under strict international supervision, and shutter its heavily fortified underground uranium-enrichment facility near Qom.
In return, Iran wants to be freed from the oil and banking sanctions that has destroyed their economy. For that to happen, Iran has to play ball.
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