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January 7, 2009

Sources confirming Dennis Ross appointment as Iran envoy

dennis-rossAccording to Marc Ambinder, transition officials are confirming now that Dennis Ross will be appointed as the chief envoy to Iran under President Obama.
Though it’s not official until the administration announces it formally, this is looking like a done deal.  Ross is best known for his work as chief negotiator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under President Clinton.  But for many Iran analysts, the choice of Ross as special envoy is very concerning.
Ross was a principal signer of the infamous Bipartisan Policy Center report.  Among the greatest hits from that report are:

“To build additional leverage, states and international organizations should apply both unilateral and multilateral sanctions before and during any diplomatic rapprochement.”

“Should diplomatic engagement not achieve its objectives within the set timeframe, the next President must turn to more intensive sanctions.”

“We believe a military strike is a feasible option and must remain a last resort to retard Iran’s nuclear development.”

“There are two aspects to the military option: boosting our diplomatic leverage leading up to and during negotiations, and preparing for kinetic action. For either objective, the United States will need to augment its military presence in the region. This should commence the first day the new President enters office, especially as the Islamic Republic and its proxies might seek to test the new administration. It would involve pre-positioning additional U.S. and allied forces, deploying additional aircraft carrier battle groups and minesweepers, emplacing other war materiel in the region, including additional missile defense batteries, upgrading both regional facilities and allied militaries, and expanding strategic partnerships with countries north of Iran such as Azerbaijan and Georgia in order to maintain operational pressure from all directions.”

Also, Ross is a co-founder of United Against Nuclear Iran, which is an organization that, strangely enough, is for absolutely nothing but very strongly against Iran.  UANI has recently taken to sending Christmas cards to Ahmadinejad in a grassroots campaign that some would consider less than completely “diplomatic.”  I’m concerned that this might not necessarily be the most tactful introduction for our first direct representative to Iranian negotiators in thirty years…
My biggest fear is that, as he has suggested (and as Chairman Howard Berman repeated on a recent trip to Israel), Ross couldbegin negotiations with Iran with a clear and arbitrary deadline in mind.  When his clock runs out without an agreement, should the US declare the talks a failure and move onto what he calls “more intensive sanctions?”   As I’ve said before, talks take time.  Appointing an envoy that imposes a time limit on diplomacy is just asking for trouble.

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