Dennis Ross reportedly has a very nice office on the State Department’s seventh floor with windows looking out towards Constitution Avenue and the Mall, but there are reports that he has little to do. Ross, a pro-Israel hardliner who has worked for AIPAC funded Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) was a late-in-the-game backdoor appointment at State. His cheerleaders at WINEP nearly torpedoed the assignment through the premature issuance of a press release praising his appointment and describing him as the soon-to-be responsible party for Iran policy. Ross is a hardliner on Iran, advocating negotiations based on Iranian concessions on all key issues as a first step to a bombing campaign.
Ross was deliberately excluded from any active role in Hillary Clinton’s first Middle East trip last month and Richard Holbrooke, who is special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, also blocked Ross’s participation in last week’s talks with the Iranian deputy foreign minister during the Afghanistan conference held at the Hague. Ross is apparently unhappy about the state of affairs.
It has been alleged that Ross has been sidelined for failing to register as an agent of Israel due to his chairmanship of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, which is run by the Jewish Agency, an arm of the Israeli government. But the JPPPI connection was widely reported before he obtained the State Department position and it is more likely that the Obama Administration has decided to aggressively pursue an understanding with Iran, a program that Ross would hardly be likely to support. If the exclusion of Ross is indeed a deliberate policy decision it is good news for those who hope to avoid yet another war in the Middle East, but Ross has many supporters in congress and pressure to engage him more fully in the Iran debate will no doubt be forthcoming.