Iran

Iran downplayed in announcement of Ross’ new job

ross

The State Department announced late yesterday that Dennis Ross will serve as the “Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for the Gulf and Southwest Asia.”  According to the State Department’s statement:

“Specifically, as Special Advisor, he will provide to the Secretary and senior State Department officials strategic advice and perspective on the region; offer assessments and also act to ensure effective policy integration throughout the region; coordinate with senior officials in the development and formulation of new policy approaches; and participate, at the request of the Secretary, in inter-agency activities related to the region.”

Jim Lobe offers some good analysis regarding why this is less significant than the position Ross was rumored to be in the running for:

There will no doubt be a wealth of commentary about what precisely this announcement will mean for Ross’s future authority and influence. But, if you compare it with the way the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) advertised it to its Board of Trustees early last month — Ross will be “ambassador-at-large” and “the secretary’s top advisor on a wide range of Middle East issues, from the Arab-Israeli peace process to Iran” — it seems to fall significantly short. Short, that is, not just with respect to with the “topness” of his status as Clinton’s adviser, but also short in terms of his geographical scope since it appears his brief will be confined to the Gulf and Southwest Asia — regions in which, contrary to the press release’s words, he has very little, if any, direct experience.

That doesn’t mean Ross will not be influential in developing Iran policy, in particular, but his role seems to be a) strictly advisory, with no direct policy-making responsibility; and b) confined to the State Department, unless Clinton asks him to work with other agencies as well. His exclusive responsibility to the secretary — there is no mention of any direct tie to the president or the White House — stands as a rather dramatic contrast to both Special [Middle East] Envoy George Mitchell and Special [AfPak] Representative Richard Holbrooke whose authorities and responsibilities are linked explicitly linked to the White House, in addition to the secretary of state. That impression is naturally bolstered by the fact that Mitchell’s and Holbrooke’s appointments were announced in person by Obama, as well as by Clinton, and they will be reporting to the White House, in addition to the Secretary.

Peace Action West generated more than 5,000 emails to President Obama opposing the appointment of Ross as an Iran envoy (see our reasons why in this earlier post).
While we are wary of any influence Ross might have over Iran policy, this is clearly a less prominent position, and removes Ross as the prominent public face of Iran policy.

Thank you to those of you who took action through our Citizen Diplomat campaign; your overwhelming response on this inside-the-beltway issue made a difference. Now we must continue to be vigilant and drown out Ross and others inside and outside the administration who will pushing for a harsher approach to Iran.

Categories: Iran