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White House Makes it Official on Ross

By Glenn Kessler
The White House announced today the worst kept secret in Washington -- that diplomatic troubleshooter Dennis Ross was leaving the State Department to join the National Security Council staff, overseeing a range of hot spots -- Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East.

Ross had been Hillary Rodham Clinton's special adviser on the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia (i.e., Iran.) He gained fame as the Middle East envoy in the Clinton administration and director of policy planning in the first Bush administration. The new job appears to come with significantly more responsibility.

In an e-mailed statement, spokesman Mike Hammer said National Security Adviser "General [James] Jones is pleased to announce an addition to our already strong National Security Staff. The addition is in the important Central Region that encompasses the Middle East, the Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia. Gen. Jones is in the midst of a several day trip to this important region.

"Dennis Ross will become Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region with overall responsibility for the region. He will work with Don Camp, Senior Director for South Asia, Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Adviser and Coordinator for Afghanistan-Pakistan, Dan Shapiro, Senior Director for Near East and North Africa, and Puneet Talwar, Senior Director for the Gulf States, Iran and Iraq."

One of Ross's biggest boosters is said to be Thomas Donilon, the deputy national security adviser. According to Ross's memoir, it was Donilon who played a key role in convincing him to stay on with Clinton after President George H.W. Bush was defeated.

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 25, 2009; 2:24 PM ET
Categories:  Foggy Bottom  
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I'm trying to read the tea leaves on this, to figure out what it says about the direction of President Obama's foreign policy.

Superficially you might think that a Hillary Clinton staffer moving to NSC strengthens the State Department voice at NSC, but I'm shying away from that argument based on looking at what Dennis Ross and his new boss Gen. James Jones (USMC, Ret.) have in common.

Both seem to be non-ideological, equally at home in Republican and Democratic administrations.

I'm not satisfied with that answer because if I could interrogate either of these men I'm confident I could tell you what their "ideology" is, it would just most likely not square up with either party's ideology. But it's the best answer I've got - and, I would think, a credit to President Obama's seriousness in foreign policy.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | June 25, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Mr Ross has always seemed like a straight shooter, understanding the complexity of the situations and America's role in solving them and being an honest broker. If his talents can be bettered used at the NSC than at Foggy Bottom, more power to him.

Posted by: cyberfool | June 25, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

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