Ma’am in the middle of Iran nuclear deal

maamThe wee hours in Geneva today brought news of an agreement to regulate Iranian nuclear development, blocking nuclear weaponry and easing global sanctions. The agreement’s a victory for what, back in 2007, I dubbed the talking cure – a welcome turn of events after decades in which tensions escalated even as telephone lines remained silent. (It is just 8 weeks since the leaders of Iran and the United States talked for the 1st time in 34 years; just 5 days since the leaders of Iran and Britain talked for the 1st time in a decade.) The European Union-Iran statement on the agreement is here, text of Joint Plan of Action here, and a White House fact sheet is here.

The guy getting credit for all this is a woman. She’s Catherine Ashton, the coal miner’s daughter and onetime activist in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament who’s served since 2009 as the European Union’s 1st-ever High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Ashton’s early days in that post were rocky, but she persevered. She’s been in the trenches negotiating with Iran for years. The Guardian‘s Julian Borger reports that during this week’s diplomatic marathon at Geneva, while other delegates nicked out for pilaf or pizza, “Lady Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief steering the talks, often just made do with bar snacks.” And so today the media are painting Ashton as a hero – “from ‘zero’ to hero,” as the Telegraph of London rather snarkily put it.

Pivotal is the quality that an unnamed Brussels diplomat assigned to Ashton: “emotional intelligence.” There will be need for much of that as leaders work to win approval of the deal in their own states.  Most notably the United States, where some same-day reactions indicate more fondness for the hostile old status quo than for a chance to edge toward a calmer international future.

(credit for above photo of today’s Geneva announcement, depicting a chestnut-suited Ashton flanked by, from left, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius)

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