Divining the News (DTN)

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Dennis Ross not the Boss on Iran

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Why State’s having a hard time explaining Dennis Ross’s job

Wed, 02/25/2009 – 9:59pm

When Dennis Ross‘s job title as “special advisor on the Gulf and Southwest Asia” was finally announced in an after-hours State Department press release Monday evening, it wasn’t exactly the high-profile rollout that U.S. special envoys Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell, presented side-by-side with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Clinton, had previously received.

Indeed, the three-paragraph State Department press release on Ross’s job was so vague that State Department spokesman Robert Wood soon found himself besieged by questions about what tasks and indeed what countries exactly were included in Ross’s portfolio.

“Is it Iran? And if it’s not Iran — if it’s Iran, why is it not written in the statement?” one journalist asked Wood Tuesday.

“Well, let me just start off by saying, the secretary is very happy that Dennis Ross agreed to serve as her special advisor for the Gulf and Southwest Asia,” Wood answered gingerly. “What Dennis is going to be charged with doing is trying to integrate policy development and implementation across a number of offices and officials in the State Department. And, you know, he is going to be providing the secretary with strategic advice. He will be also trying to ensure that there’s a coherence in our policies and strategies across the region.”

“Let me be clear,” Wood added. “He’s not an envoy. He will not be negotiating. He’ll be working on regional issues. He will not be — in terms of negotiating, will not be involved in the peace process. But again, he is going to be advising the secretary on long-term strategic issues across the region.”

On Wednesday, Wood provided more clarity on the list of countries that fall into Ross’s portfolio — Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Yemen, apparently — but it was hard to escape the impression that State [Dept] is diplomatically flummoxed about how to describe Ross’s job.


“I understand the Iranians have let it be known that they won’t deal with him,” said one former senior U.S. official who has dealt with Persian Gulf issues. –more–

H/T Mondoweiss


The Washington Post reports:

On Iran, an Apostle of Patience

Thursday, February 26, 2009; Page A19

The administration official who oversees the Iran file is William Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs. Although Dennis Ross will take a broad strategic look at the region in his new post of State Department adviser, senior officials stress that Burns is the address for Iran policy.

Previous posts here:

Obama picks anti-Iran man [Ross] for Iran post

Written by morris

February 27, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Dennis Ross, iran, israel

Tagged with , ,

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