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Dennis Ross Expands His Portfolio

By Al Kamen
Remember when the Washington Institute for Near East Policy announced Jan. 7 how happy they were that Dennis B. Ross, a senior official in the pro-Israel think tank, was going to get some kind of uber-job, "designed especially for him," that would make him the administration's top adviser on a "wide range of Middle East issues, from the Arab-Israel peace process to Iran"? That announcement was so premature that it nearly killed Ross's chances of getting any job in the administration -- and he ended up at the State Department with a rather vague title having to do with Iran.

But eventually everything becomes true in Washington. It's been rumored that Ross is headed to the White House National Security Council, but now the picture of his duties seems to be getting much clearer. It does indeed appear to be a big job -- a very big job. His duties will include not only Iran but also Iraq and the Middle East peace process -- a move that has gotten lots of folks at the NSC very upset, not to mention special Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell.

The most controversial aspect is that Ross will take over the Iraq portfolio from Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, a three-star general who was overseeing both Iraq and Afghanistan. Now Lute will just do Afghanistan -- where he'll be working closely with envoy Richard Holbrooke -- while Iraq will be part of Ross's duties.

Interestingly, Ross has about as much experience with Iraq (virtually zero) as the new U.S. ambassador there, Christopher R. Hill. And both were key players in some of the greatest diplomatic flops of the last 20 years. Hill was point man for North Korea nuke negotiations during the Bush administration. And Ross, an early and ardent Obama backer, has lots of experience in Mideast peace efforts, having been a key player in the Clinton administration's failed effort to broker a deal.

As for Iran, there's no special envoy, at least just yet. That designation apparently will await some diplomatic thawing.

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 23, 2009; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  Foggy Bottom , National Security  
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Mr. Ross would appear to be taking on quite an extensive workload. With so much on his plate, he might welcome the chance to defer some of that burden; putting off for tomorrow that which can't reasonably be dealt with today

While the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu, once again finds himself caught between that old familiar rock and a hard place, President Obama's attempt to stabilise the Middle East situation by drawing a line in the sand - settlements and soforth - looks likely to prove an uphill task; too many other people have their own ideas about where that line should be.

But, as in so many parts of the world, the sands are never still: they constantly shift and change with the passage of each new day. Thus, it's never easy to know exactly where to draw that line nor to prevent it fading altogether from the pages of time.

Perhaps, in order to impart a greater permanence to it, the line will have to be etched that much deeper into the collective map of human consciousness.

As to how deep that might be is anybody's guess. But it is only after such a depth has been realised that anything of permanent value can ever be achieved:

Posted by: Yorke1845 | June 24, 2009 7:54 AM | Report abuse

No one can accuse the Bush administration of failing to complete the peace process in the Middle East. After all they never started one.

Posted by: Gator-ron | June 23, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Ross most likely will take over Hillary Clinton's job. She just doesn't have it.

Posted by: ridagana | June 23, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Dennis Ross probably knows a thing or two that will be helpful in dealing with Iraqi matters. After all, he was point man for Middle Eastern affairs for Presidents Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton, and most of the dramatis personae he dealt with in those days are still around and in positions of influence.

Posted by: avi31547 | June 23, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

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