Sent to you by Sean McBride via Google Reader: UPDATE: Ross
Super-Envoy Post May Not be Done Deal via by admin on
I understand from various sources that Dennis Ross’ prospective status
as Middle East super-envoy and, as the WINEP memo disclosed by The
Nelson Report claimed, Clinton’s “top advisor on a wide range of Middle
East issues, from the Arab-Israeli peace process to Iran,” is not yet a
done deal.

Media and other reports that Ross would not only get the Iran
portfolio, but would also act as the effective overseer of virtually
all U.S. Middle East diplomacy, including the work other possible
special envoys (such as Richard Haass or Dan Kurtzer on Arab-Israeli
affairs), was based virtually exclusively on the internal memo sent
from WINEP’s top leadership to its board of trustees that was leaked to
Chris Nelson. The memo itself appeared to be an effort by WINEP’s
leadership to impress its funders with its influence and power. As to
the leak to Nelson, it is unclear whether it was authorized — in order,
for example, to make Ross’ exalted authority a fait accompli to ensure
that no one important would speak out against the idea lest s/he
antagonize the Ross — or whether it was the unauthorized initiative of
a WINEP official who was trying to impress Nelson and his influential
readers with his or her insider dope.

In any event, it appears that the leak provoked some influential
Democratic donors to protest the idea of Ross’ reported pre-eminent
status to the transition team and that they, in turn, were assured that
the deal was not yet sealed. (There was already a lot of pre-existing
resentment directed at Ross on the team because, unlike other
prospective high-level foreign-policy officials, Ross has not been shy
about speaking and commenting publicly about his policy preferences
during the transition period. The assumption is also that it was Ross
himself who informed WINEP, which then produced its triumphant memo — a
version of events which, if true, suggests that the presumptive
super-envoy may lack the kind of discretion and discipline that would
normally be expected in a job of such potentially enormous import.)

From what I’ve been able to find out, Ross has been offered a new State
Department position designed to effectively manage the relationship
with Iran in all its various forms, from nuclear proliferation, to
support for non-state actors like Hamas and Hezbollah, to Iraq, and the
Gulf, etc. (although at least one anti-Ross source told me that even
that much has not been nailed down completely). But what has almost
certainly not yet been agreed is that Ross will enjoy some kind of
pre-eminent status as was suggested in my and other reporting and in
the WINEP memo. In other words, instead of effectively managing the
work of other special envoys — or, for that matter, the work of the new
Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs (Beth Jones?) — as
it pertains to Iran, Ross will be expected to co-ordinate his work with
theirs as one member of a team of equals.

Given Ross’ lack of experience with and knowledge about Iran — not to
mention his long-standing ties to WINEP and other key components of the
“Israel Lobby,” or his participation in and his endorsement of that
dreadful Bipartisan Policy Center report by Michael Rubin and Michael
Makovsky — the notion that he will have any major role on U.S. Iran
policy under Obama is still alarming to those who hope for a fresh,
less antagonistic approach toward Tehran. But the apparent likelihood
that he will not be given the authority to effectively oversee all of
Middle East policy from the “seventh-floor office …designed especially
for him,” as the WINEP memo put it, offers at least some consolation.
And, given WINEP’s boastfulness and indiscretion — as well as enough
protests by major donors and Democratic activists to the transition
team in the coming days, and particularly in advance of Clinton’s
confirmation hearings next week — he may not even get that
seventh-floor office, at least not one “designed especially for him.”

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