Very concerning news from the very excellent Nelson Report tonight — that Dennis Ross will become Special Envoy for Iran, reporting directly to SecState-designate Clinton, rather than to the White House. Chris Nelson has great sources everywhere, and, while he is much more an Asia hand than a Mideast expert, I have to take his reports quite seriously. Of course, Ross, who has virtually no independent expertise or experience that I know of regarding Iran, signed on to that September Bipartisan Policy Center report drafted by hard-line neo-cons Michael Rubin and Michael Makovsky, as I reported here in October. Such an appointment should give pause to anyone worried about the lingering possibility of war with Tehran.
Nelson also reports that Richard Haass will be Special Envoy for Israel-Arab affairs, apparently something of a compromise between Ross and Dan Kurtzer. For the direction he is likely to take, particularly regarding the Palestinian and Syrian tracks, see my article on his recent report co-authored with Martin Indyk. They also wrote a version of their policy recommendations in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs.
Nelson reports that Richard Holbrooke will become and Special Envoy for India and Pakistan and Anne Marie Slaughter head of Policy Planning, among many other likely appointments of particular relevance to Asia policy.