“In a Staff Shuffle, Signs of Obama’s Direction on Mideast” – Helene Cooper

Obama_ross_0715 "As Mark Landler of The New York Times reported on Tuesday, Mr. Ross will be taking on an expanded role covering Iran and other Middle East issues at the National Security Council. White House officials still haven’t officially announced the move — hopefully they won’t keep Mr. Ross hanging on a limb for as long as the State Department did before announcing his job one night back in February. But several officials confirm that it is about to happen.

The big question, though, is why? Obama administration officials have been cryptic when asked about the reason for the shuffle. Does it mean that the White House is the real center of the action when it comes to foreign policy? Were there too many special envoys over at the State Department? Was Secretary of State Hilary Clinton not giving Mr. Ross enough face time? Or is Mr. Ross going to assume more of a role in Mr. Obama’s evolving Middle East policy, particularly in relations with Israel? Helene Cooper


Simple Question – I ask you all.  If you were the Dennis, would you be happy with what is happening to you?  pl


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to “In a Staff Shuffle, Signs of Obama’s Direction on Mideast” – Helene Cooper

  1. confusedponderer says:

    Laura Rozen has her doubts he’s happy

    Ross. I’ve reported on this but there’ve been various unfilled in uncertainties. But it just clicked in my small brain what’s going on with Ross.
    Say you’re Obama and you are trying to engage with Iran. You have in mind that that effort will not really get underway in a major way until after Iran’s elections. And because you want to emphasize that effort is at its basis diplomatic, an extension of US diplomacy as opposed to force, the Iran engagement policy will be run out of the State Department, and plan to be ramped up after Iran’s June 12th elections.
    The Iranians let it be known through UN channels immediately after Ross appointment floated that they will not deal with him. US actually made concessions to their objection without saying as much: Iran is not technically in Ross’s title, (special advisor to HRC on Gulf and Southwest Asia), he didn’t get the high profile roll out of Holbrooke and Mitchell nor the title that would have him reporting directly to the president as they have, nor the “envoy” title. Obama administration also made clear that undersecretary of state Bill Burns will remain US point person at P5+1 negotiations which Iran has now been invited to attend and US has indicated it will participate in if Iran comes to the table. But in the intervening weeks, Ross has served as State point person on Iran leading Iran policy review and as co-architect of inter-agency policy working in the background, although with no public press briefings so far, etc. And Obama administration decides that it so wants to see if it’s possible to get diplomacy going that it ultimately does not want his position to be the excuse or obstacle to keep Iran coming to the table. Or to put it another way, that if diplomacy is going to fail, it doesn’t want to have Iranians’ refusal to deal with Ross have been the reason it failed.
    So the plan is in advance that around the time of Iran’s elections, Ross will be moved from State to NSC, given both an expanded portfolio, but officially no longer be the State point person on Iran, as he has been. He is officially off the Iran engagment front line, even while he’s moving to the WH and given a senior strategic portfolio. Full court press to make sure nothing is standing in way of Iran possibly responding to US overture to engage.
    Then the Iranian elections happen and Iran comes undone. The move is leaked through Israeli press. And White House and State don’t do overly much to deny it but also don’t clarify very much either.
    But perhaps the audience for what Haaretz printed was indirectly Iran. We’re taking Ross off the policy guys, because he’s “too associated with Israel,” Haaretz is told. (If you want Iran to think Ross is being taken off portfolio because it objects to him being allegedly too pro Israel, you wouldn’t want to retail that to a US outlet, and Iran is out of the question too.) The underlying message: we’re getting rid of this obstacle to engagement. If you’ll engage, it will be with non Ross who is “demoted” to a job at the White House doing something vaguely strategic. And it was all set in motion before events of the past few days in Iran, it was planned to coincide with Iran’s elections and post-elections US full court push to get engagement going in a big way.
    Speculative, I admit, but rooted in various reported data points.

  2. Larry Kart says:

    But we don’t yet know what is happening to him, do we? He could be up, he could be down, he could be headed sideways. We’ve heard all those accounts, no? Whom and what are we to believe?

  3. zanzibar says:

    Laura Rozen’s point of view on the Dennis moves.
    I am interested in the possible rationale why Khamenei may not be interested in the rapproachment dialog that Obama apparently would like.

  4. Bill Wade, NH, USA says:

    Well, given that the unemployment rate just jumped over 10% for us “regular” folks, he should be happy. That said, he’s probably not happy, you have to wonder if Scty of State Clinton was trying to get rid of him and this new job is to placate him.

  5. b says:

    If he goes to the NSC Jones will “hug him to death”. Ross should really should think about that nice corner office at WINEP.

  6. Neil Richardson says:

    I guess it would really depend on the nature of his new portfolio. I’ll defer to your knowledge of the operational structure of NSC, but if he’s going to become a new uber-senior director (over Talwar, Shapiro and General Lute) who has direct access to the President, then I guess he’d be pretty happy as a recent WaPo article mentioned one of his friends describing Ross as frustrated in his current position as a senior envoy. However, if this move was designed to: 1) remove a hardliner from the upcoming negotiations with Iran and 2) keep an eye on him by “promoting” him as the next senior director for strategic planning/SAP, then I don’t think he’d be too happy. What sort of relationship does Ross have with General Jones? If the usual suspects among neoconservatives have been leaking stories to undermine Jones, then I don’t expect the general to embrace Ross with open arms. If the latter possibility is closer to the mark, since Ross was the DPP under GHW Bush, maybe Jones will cook up a portfolio amorphous enough and “strategic” (preferably one of transational variety) to keep him occupied for some time while channeling the sensitive information flow around him.

  7. Robert C. says:

    The fact that he even has a spot in this administration is an AIPAC victory.

  8. In the midst of reading a new book entitled “In The Shadow of the Oval Office” by Ivo Daalder and I.M. Destler. Whatever the merits of the book it discusses the various National Security Advisors after the Eisenhower Administration. It clearly establishes that movement between the STATE Dept. and WH/NSC and the reverse are usually orchestrated at behest of the President himself. My guess is no exception in the case of Ross who is brilliant, motivated, tireless, has deep personal and public history on Middle-East and is definitely pro-Israel. So many possible interpretations but my guess is Ross is now being blamed for the fact that once again the INTEL community completely missed the possibility of a deep disatisfaction being demonstrated by the vote whatever the official outcome in Iran. Probably Ross had the import of the election nailed. The PRESIDENT and HRC respected that, but now with turn of events wrong man in wrong place but the Administration does not want to lose his imput! I think DENNIS is a keeper and will have a long long run in DC but could be wrong. But again, another big one that appears to have eluded the INTEL community completely. Of course I only have access to open sources so maybe they (and Dennis)nailed the possible outcomes on the Streets of Iran. Clearly no one including the Administration knows how to pay this fumble by INTEL!

  9. doug says:

    Somehow I think the rumors re Jones and the pending Ross porfolio shift are related. There’s a tsunami raging.

  10. JohnH says:

    And why exactly should we care about how Dennis feels? IMHO Washington has enough Likud-ites. Putting a few out to pasture would hardly be noticed.

Comments are closed.