Thu, 07 Jul 2022

Wendy Sherman has helped Democratic presidents negotiate now-failed deals with North Korea and Iran

Veteran US diplomat Wendy Sherman is the woman conveying Washington's messages about NATO expansion in Europe to Moscow ? but the ?hard-nosed? negotiator was previously involved in sealing security deals with Pyongyang and Tehran.

Neither the Clinton-era Framework Agreement with North Korea nor the Obama-era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) acted as the enduring restraints on nuclear proliferation that they were meant to be.

Who is Wendy Sherman?

The 72-year-old diplomat heading the US delegation in recent talks between Russia and NATO is a veteran of the Democratic Party. She has held senior public offices and executive positions in political organizations associated with the party, including pro-choice PAC EMILY'S List. Sherman is currently the second-highest ranking diplomat at the Department of State, serving as deputy secretary under Antony Blinken.

Sherman and North Korea

In the Clinton administration, Sherman liaised with Congress on behalf of Foggy Bottom. After a short stint at the helm of finance giant Fannie Mae, she returned as an ambassador-ranked counselor to then-Secretary Madeleine Albright, a woman whom she credits for teaching her how to negotiate on behalf of the US as a woman.

During that period, Sherman was involved in negotiating the 1994 agreement with North Korea, which for a time partially froze its nuclear weapons program.

Downfall of North Korea deal

Under the so-called Framework Agreement, Pyongyang agreed to suspend production of weapons-grade plutonium from spent nuclear fuel rods in exchange for a number of concessions, like regular fuel aid and construction of light water reactors to meet its energy needs. The deal was only a partial success at best and ultimately failed, as neither party appeared committed to keeping its end of the bargain.

The Bush administration finally ended it in 2002, an act that Republican ultra-hawk John Bolton apparently took great pride in. Pyongyang conducted its first nuclear test four years later. North Korean diplomats jokingly dubbed Bolton the father of their nation's nuclear weapons program.

Sherman and Iran

In the Obama administration, Sherman was appointed an under secretary by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and led the US delegation negotiating a nuclear agreement with Tehran. The multilateral deal known under the abbreviation JCPOA offered Iran a relief of international economic sanctions and business rapprochement with the West in exchange for accepting restrictions on its nuclear industry. Touted as the best and most realistic way to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the deal was considered by many as the crowning achievement of Obama's foreign policy.

However, the deal was denounced by Israel and many Republicans, with President Donald Trump later branding it the "worst deal ever made" before ultimately pulling Washington out of the agreement abruptly in 2018.

A year later, Tehran began gradually stepping back from its own commitments from the deal, branding the US as untrustworthy. The Biden administration has stated its intention to salvage the agreement, but after months of negotiations and now with a more hardline government in power in Tehran, it is unclear whether this can be achieved.

'Doesn't show weakness'

According to sources friendly to Sherman, she has been masterfully commanding the attention of the Russian delegation during this month's talks on NATO expansion. Evelyn Farkas, who worked alongside her in various capacities, described her to The Hill as "tough," "hard-nosed" and somebody who "won't let the Russians get away with any baloney."

"Certainly, the Russians, the North Koreans and the Iranians wouldn't expect this from a woman, but she can go head-to-head with them and doesn't show weakness and doesn't show fear and doesn't try to mollify her negotiating counterpart," she said.


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