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Just as a side note…

While we wait for Godot and Iran to decide to join the next round of negotiations with the P5+1, there are some diplomatic personal issues at hand. It matters a great deal who sits around the table and leads the negotiations, and for the past few years there have been some strong female politicians and diplomats involved.

Wendy Sherman Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman testifies on Capitol Hill October 13, 2011 in Washington, DC. The Senate held a hearing to discuss the possibility of further economic sanctions on Iran in light of the recently revealed plot to assassinate a Saudi diplomat in Washington, DC.

(Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman / Brendan Hoffman-Getty Images North America)

After Clinton leaves, the US team might be radically changed. Until now, undersecretary Wendy Sherman has been in charge. Rumours of her leaving are unsettling, as she is widely considered highly competent and very familiar with the Iranian nuclear file. New comers will have to ‘start from scratch’ and the Iranians are like going to enjoy that. Al Monitor’s Barbra Slavin writes that Sherman might be handing over the job gradually:

 While some members of the US negotiating team are departing, the head negotiator, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, is likely to stay on for at least a while and has a good relationship with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass

Sherman’s European counterpart Helga Schmid (we’ve written a profile on her earlier) is staying on the team for sure though. Which is reassuring. As the Christian Science Monitor put it on Jan 15, 2013:

Iran last met with the so-called ‘P5 plus 1’ powers — the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, and Britain — in Moscow in June, but the negotiators made little progress in reaching an agreement.  In spite of some reports within the international community that the talks may be delayed, Mr. Mehmanparast said Iran’s deputy nuclear negotiator, Dr. Ali Bagheri, has been communicating with his European counterpart, Helga Schmid, and that another round of talks with the ‘P5 plus 1’ is expected later this month.

Disregard the last line though… Iran hasn’t yet agreed to talks in January. See Laura Rozen’s excellent and ongoing updates on that at Al Monitor’s Back Channel (it is always well worth a read — Rozen is greatly appreciated by us here at the Gates. Imagine our excitement when she started follwoing us back on twitter. it was considerable :-))

But I for one am glad to know Sherman and Schmid are still on the team trying desperately to use diplomacy to end the Iranian drive for nuclear weapons!

PS – Reuter’s Crispian Balmer has an intersting analysis on what last night’s Israeli election might mean for the Israeli policy vis-a-vis iran. Read it here.