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Dennis Ross (yuck)

LobeLog http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/?p=234

Ross Is Clearly a Major Player

By Jim Lobe

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.

END ITEM

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