Ross Is Clearly a Major Player

Since Secretary of State Clinton set out for the Middle East over the weekend, it has seemed increasingly clear to me that Dennis Ross, contrary to my earlier speculation, pretty much got the job that he and WINEP were hoping for. Not only has he claimed an office on the coveted seventh floor, but Obama’s conspicuous placement of Ross’ name between those of Mitchell and Holbrooke in his speech on Iraq at Camp Lejeune last week strongly suggested that he considers Ross to be of the same rank and importance as the other two.

More to the point is what Clinton and those around her have been saying during the trip, including, most remarkably, the report by an unnamed “senior State Department official” that she told the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that she was “very doubtful” that diplomacy would persuade Iran to abandon its alleged quest for nuclear weapons. This, of course, very much reflects Ross’ own view (as well that of neo-conservatives) and will no doubt bolster hard-liners in Tehran who believe that Obama’s talk of engagement is simply designed to marshal more international support for eventual military action, be it a bombing campaign or a blockade to cut gasoline imports. That Obama essentially confirmed today’s New York Times report about a proposed deal with Moscow whereby it would go along with increasing sanctions against Iran in exchange for Washington’s non-deployment of anti-missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic only adds to the impression that some version of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s September ’08 report on Iran strategy (drafted by hard-line neo-cons Michael Rubin and Michael Makovsky and signed by Ross), which I wrote about here, is in the process of being implemented. (I was going to write about this later this week, but the Moon of Alabama beat me to the punch. See also Stephen Walt’s analysis of Clinton’s scepticism on his Foreign Policy blog).

Adding to my growing sense that Ross occupies a critical role in policy-making, at least in the State Department, are what Clinton has had to say so far on her trip about Gaza, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority. As Marc Lynch reports in his truly excellent blog, also on the Foreign Policy website, “her remarks suggest that rather than seize on the possibility of Palestinian reconciliation, Clinton prefers to double-down on the shopworn ‘West Bank first, Fatah only’ policy” strongly advocated by Ross. In that respect, you should definitely read Tuesday’s extended colloquy between Lynch, Brookings’ Tamara Wittes (who is more optimistic), and Carnegie’s Nathan Brown, who shares Lynch’s “disappointment” about Clinton’s performance. As Lynch notes, it seems that Clinton is stuck “in a bit of time-warp” regarding Hamas’ power in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority’s abject failure to enhance its legitimacy, and the Arab League’s renewed efforts to both unify itself and to reconstruct a Palestinian government of national unity. This insensitivity to Palestinian and Arab public opinion bears all the hallmarks of Ross’ failed Mideast diplomacy during the 1990’s.

I also have the impression that Ross and the so-called “Israel Lobby” whose interests he represents believe that enhancing conditions on the West Bank, combined with diplomatic engagement with Syria, will somehow be sufficient for Washington to regain its credibility in the region and rally the Sunni Arab states — along with the European Union, Russia, China, etc. — behind a policy of confrontation with Iran.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. I, certainly. am not trying to be alarmist because I have a strong belief in Iran’s ability not only to stand this pressure (after all this is what Iran has been doing for the past 30 years and came on top) but also muster an even stronger resolve to punch through all the remaining barriers so as to shine as a great nation. That is Iran’s destiny, with the help of the US or not. I am a firm believer that Iran and its people are the best of friends for the US and its people. But Iran will not blink and will never be on the wrong side of history.

    Jim, you are right the moves so far has solidified the position of Iran’s hardliners who are witnessing before their eyes what Obama’s deceptions and intentions are… namely, to isolate Iran now and come hard on it later. That is why there is a relentless effort to bring Syria into the fold. Obviously, the Neocons and the Israeli-dominated Obama administration is trying to isolate Hizbullah and Iran by courting Syria. Iran already knows this and that explains the Iranian Housing minister trip to Syria with a letter from AhmadiNejad (notice, no phone call to Bashar Asad was made and nor did the Foreign minister of Iran took the trip… my suspicion: this is a warning to the Syrian government). Add to that the revelation of Obama’s letter (revealed in the NYT) to Russia’s Medvedev, and the sinister act of name-changing the “Persian Gulf” to a fictitious name “Gulf”… all that and more and the picture is starting to reveal itself.

    My suspicion, Iran would accelerate the centrifuge installation of the advanced IR-4 which can churn more LEU and at a much faster pace. Obviously, the Obama administration has chosen the side of criminal Israel and the rest of the Arab dictators. What a “vision” and what a “change!”

  2. Dennis Ross (or for that matter Rush Limbough) have a lot in common with the old Soviet Politburo politicians. They are stuck in some ideology and never understand the realities.

    Fear of Iran is as much about Nuclear Weapons as Joe the plumber should worry about the $250,000 limit on taxation. Iran has always been a reminder of a failure that US and Israel wants to erase. Ahamadinejad’s campaign slogan was “we can and we will”. The Iranian revolution of 1978 was all about how regular folks can challenge an imperial army which was armed to its teeth with US and European weapons. Folks in the third world are not suppose to feel that way. But they do, cats are out of the bag and that is how the world is going to be from now on. If Dennis Rosses of this world would cling on to their yesterday’s model, as they simply have no other solution. If they take the leadership position they can take the rest of us down a disastrous path.

    Just to show how irrational the arguments are against Iran one should look at sanctions. The goal of sanctions is to persuade Iran to accept nuclear fuels to be supplied to it by outside powers. If they don’t accept it, well there would be more sanction, and even sanction on import of gasoline.

    Could things get any more irrational? You want to use sanction to persuade Iranians that they should trust in you supplying them with fuel in future.

  3. In the light of what Ex-president Bush did to where ever he chose to visit—along with his military—during the 8 years of his ppresidency; I might dare surmise that he turned the US into a creature which spreads joy where ever she DOES NOT get the chance to go! What do you think?

  4. Now, why am I not hugely surprised by this state of affair? After the excesses of the last administration the Americans in particular and a large number of people outside, were expecting for some miracle. They clung desperately to the positive noises that Obama was making in his campaign. But people forgot that Obama is, above all, a politician. Remember the truism that in a rat race the creature that comes first is also a rat? After making some gestures over the closure of Guantanamo prison but being careful not to extend these humanitarian considerations to its counter part in Afghanistan, he has shown what every politicians believe and practice; that there is nothing wrong in having a little bit of pregnancy. Rapid changes in his policy and rhetoric towards Iran provide the evidence of his ability as a fast learner.
    What is sad and scary is that like the neo-cons he still believes in the pronouncement of the neo-con bible, a-la Fukuyama, that history has ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the US is the only superpower left. Like all new presidents, he has promised to reduce the budget deficit but wants to achieve this while sticking to the policies of his predecessor and fighting a depression as well. We can only wait and see whether Afghan (and possibly Iran) is going to end in some kind of ignominy like the Suez fiasco suffered by a dying British empire.

  5. We must all remember that Denny Ross is little more than Marty Indyk’s personal puppet. And that WINEP is really AIPAC’s brother by another offshore banking mother.

    Sadly, no one in the MSM will provide this information and Charlie Rose will do everything for Indyk on his federally funded public relations program five nights a week.

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