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January 22, 2009

A Critical Decision in the Midst of the New Administration

Obama has taken office. His first day was filled with phone calls to the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the president of the Palestinian Authority. It is evident that Obama is making an early effort to deal with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, an effort that was lacking in the administration of George. W. Bush.
Yet, we have seen little confirmation as to who will take on the difficult role of dealing with Iran. The three rumored front-men for the job are Dennis Ross, George Mitchell, and Richard Haas. Though these three men come from politically impressive backgrounds, their areas of expertise are distinctively different.
http://niacblog.wordpress.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gifThis morning, Obama announced Mitchell’s appointment as Mideast envoy. Though this move was well-received, it surprised many. Mitchell is an expert on the Palestinain-Israeli conflict. When discussing Mitchell, Martin S. Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel stated “He’s neither pro-Israeli nor pro-Palestinian.” “He’s, in a sense, neutral.”
Though this is good for the Palestinian-Israeli issue, this leaves little answered on the Iran issue.
Dennis Ross, who has still not been officially appointed for anything yet — and his visibility has been low (well except for this disturbing “let’s bomb Iran now and get it over with” report), has undeniably controversial opinions towards Iran. Dennis Ross’ appointment as envoy to Iran is not something to be taken lightly. Based on his comments on Iran, his approach to solving the nuclear issue could prove troublesome for present and future relations between the two countries.
Ross has repeatedly taken to bullying tactics. In November of 2008 he stated, “Iran has continued to pursue nuclear weapons because the Bush administration hasn’t applied enough pressure.” “Its oil and natural-gas industries-the government’s key source of revenue, which it uses to buy off its population-desperately require new investment and technology. Smart sanctions would force Iran’s leaders to see the high costs of not changing their behavior.”
What Obama needs is a non-partisan non-biased party, an individual who isn’t scared. In his inaugural address he stated, “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” Mitchell is capable of approaching this conflict with a mutual respect, but Ross’ previous statements about Iran shows that he is not.
Iran is a critical state. The success of U.S. foreign policy depends on the willingness of the new administration to engage Iran. Arab and Iranian leaders alike seem to be hopeful with President Barack Obama. It is essential to keep this hope alive by appointing an envoy that would offer a knowledgeable non-biased approach to the growing issues in the region.

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