Monday, October 7, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Pressed for More Pressure on Iran

And This Actually Helps the Administration

It ought to be required that every national leader be conversant in game theory.  A formal education in the subject, or an instinctive informal education in game theory is necessary for any leader to successfully negotiate a difficult situation.

President Obama lacked this skill, which is why the United State now finds itself in a fiscal crisis.  But the President may have finally caught on, we will know as the budget/debt ceiling fight plays out.  And now there is another place for the President to show his skills, Iran.

Apparently at long last the economic sanctions against Iran are working.  The nation itself has always been sort friendly to the United States even as the leadership was not.  So there is tremendous support in Iran to end the confrontation with the U. S. and to get back to normal relations.  And now Iran is making a move in that direction.

So what is needed by the President is some gesture towards Iran.  He needs to come up with some slight concession, a concession that will not have a material impact, but will show that the U. S. is willing to move and will also reward the politicians in Iran who are moving towards less confrontation.  This is what basic game theory would say to do, if your opponents makes a positive gesture, you do also; if they stop or reverse, you punish them.

Adding complexity to the issue is IsraelIn fact the Israeli government wants the U. S. to move in a more hard line direction.

Is this two canny leaders playing their roles as dictated by game theory?
Maybe, and maybe they are doing it not knowing they are doing it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pressed the U.S. for stronger sanctions on Iran even as it pursues nuclear talks, in an emerging conflict between the two allies amid a thaw between Washington and Tehran.

Mr. Netanyahu, who met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday, also said Iran needed to completely dismantle its "military nuclear program" before the West should roll back financial pressure or the threat of military force against Iran's nuclear installations.

Now in game theory world this is a good thing, in fact one hopes that it is an orchestrated thing.  If Mr. Obama goes ahead and makes some small gesture towards Iran, not only will it be rewarding the potential allies in that country but it will also be seen as defying Israel, which will further reinforce the effectiveness of the gesture.

So maybe Mr. Netanyahu is in on the game, maybe he understands his role here and is playing it to perfection.  Or maybe this could be a real and serious American/Israeli rift.  It’s the Middle East, we don’t even know what we don’t know.

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