Not sure if this is the October Surprise anyone was expecting, but since it involves Iran, there would be a certain symmetry to it. The New York Times has reported that Iran and the US have agreed to direct negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. Iran is insisting that these occur after the election so that they know who they are negotiating with. This, of course, makes sense given the statements of Governor Romney, his campaign, and his advisors regarding Iran and its nuclear energy program. The speculation in the article is that should Governor Romney get elected that neither the US nor Iran will want to actually have these talks. This is an excellent example of how personalities and relationships matter. The Times reports that this development is the result of very quiet, very low key diplomacy by the Obama Administration over the past three plus years coupled with the increases in economic sanctions. That these efforts appear to be bearing fruit is a positive sign, but Iran's guarded response demonstrates that they have received the messages from the Romney campaign regarding potential, future policy towards Iran and the Middle East. This too is an excellent example of how hard it is, given the nature of the US political system and the way it interacts with our news media (such as it is...) to use the information portion of national power. It does not matter if an administration is disciplined and focused when there are over 500 other elected federal officials in Congress and often dozens of potential presidential candidates, given that we are now running two to four year presidential campaigns, hundreds of authoritative analysts and advisors and commentators (and I mean that loosely in both command of the facts and actual quality of analysis) all with their own messages being blasted out 24/7. It seems like the Iranians have learned a lesson from President Reagan - "trust, but verify".
* Adam L. Silverman is the Culture and Foreign Language Advisor at the US Army War College. The views expressed here are his own and do NOT necessarily reflect those of the US Army War College and/or the US Army.