Wednesday, 15 January, 2020

Women Involved in Iran Nuclear Deal

By: Bobbie

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s chief diplomat, was front-and-center as European and American political leaders congratulated each other over a historic nuclear agreement with Iran.

But diplomatic sources said a corps of other women also played crucial roles in the long process of forging a deal, including Helga Schmid, Mogherini’s deputy; Wendy Sherman, a top U.S. State Department official; and Catherine Ashton, the previous EU foreign policy chief.

“Schmid has been a linchpin in these negotiations. It is Schmid who negotiated the agreement itself as well as the five annexes,” said a senior western diplomat. “Sherman coordinated the resolution of the Security Council, and played a major role in bilaterals between Iran and the U.S.”

Key to Mogherini’s success in that role, according to aides, was an effort to maintain the good relations Ashton had already built with Iran.

“By chairing the meetings, by calling for plenaries with Iran, she managed to set the agenda and drive the process,” said Catherine Ray, a spokeswoman for Mogherini.

During the final days of the talks as the issue of sanctions threatened an agreement, Ray said, that included “putting oil in the wheels” of the deal and pushing the negotiators to come up with “something solid.”

Mogherini — a 42-year-old former Italian foreign minister who until assuming her EU post in November 2014 was little-known outside her native country — won praise for her role, and along with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was the one to announce the accord to the world. But diplomats in Brussels also hastened to acknowledge Schmid’s work.

“She was the real negotiator, the key person in the negotiations alongside Sherman and Abbas Araghchi [Iran’s deputy foreign minister],” said an EU official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Schmid “had the technical knowledge, while Mogherini had more of a political one,” the official said.

Schmid and her team of seven or eight people, which include a Commission official from the Energy DG, worked to draft up what Nathalie Tocci, a special advisor to Mogherini and director of the Italian think tank Istituto Affari Internazionali, called “technical bridging proposals.” “The pen has been in the EU team’s hands,” Tocci said.

Schmid participated in all the U.S.-Iran bilateral talks, an EU official said. She was at the final meeting with Kerry and Sherman in Lausanne, where “she spent the whole night texting Mogherini to inform her on how negotiations were advancing.”

Unlike Mogherini, Schmid is an experienced diplomat who has played an instrumental role in several years of negotiations with Iran. She has been the the number-two in the EU High Representative’s office since 2010, and was previously a political advisor to Germany’s former Foreign Affairs Minister Joschka Fischer.

Schmid, an elegant 54-year-old diplomat who speaks impeccable French and English, studied humanities at Munich University and the Sorbonne in Paris. As a negotiator, she has a reputation for being both tough and empathetic. Schmid is also widely considered to be the negotiator behind the interim accord Ashton was able to reach with Iran in 2013.

“Schmid represents the continuity between Ashton and Mogherini, and was a link in these negotiations,” said Stefano Stefanini, a former Italian ambassador to NATO and diplomatic advisor to former Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

Stefanini described Schmid as a smart negotiator. “She is German in the sense that she is cautious, she thinks a lot about the issue, and knows where the red lines are,” he said.

The other key player in these negotiations was Sherman, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. “Kerry relies on Sherman even more than Mogherini on Schmid,” Stefanini said.

Though Ashton did not participate in the most recent round of talks, the work she did during her tenure as EU foreign policy chief from 2009 to 2014 was seen as helping to ease negotiations with Iran.

Ashton, who chaired the group of six countries for four years, played a crucial role in drafting the 2013 “Joint Plan of Action” that would freeze Iran’s nuclear program on a temporary basis. The plan was aimed at giving Iran and the P5+1 powers additional time to reach a permanent agreement.

Many say Mogherini has worked hard to brush off criticism from diplomats who at first found her too young and inexperienced to deal with sensitive issues. She is now hailed for her diligence and strong communication skills.
“She may not have the charisma Solana had,” Tocci said. “But she has a good political nose, she has a lot more visibility than Ashton.”

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