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Ross joins Obama team in Iran-related capacity

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — Dennis Ross joined the Obama administration in a coordinating role on policy regarding Iran and its neighbors.

Ross was named special adviser to the secretary of state for the Gulf and Southwest Asia.

"This is a region in which America is fighting two wars and facing challenges of ongoing conflict, terror, proliferation, access to energy, economic development and strengthening democracy and the rule of law," said a statement late Monday from Robert Wood, the spokesman for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. "In this area, we must strive to build support for U.S. goals and policies. To be successful, we will need to be able to integrate our policy development and implementation across a broad range of offices and senior officials in the State Department, and in his role as Special Advisor to the Secretary, Ambassador Ross will be asked to play that role."

The geographical designations and the reference to "two wars" suggest that Ross will focus on Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan — but not necessarily on Israel-area crises, his area of expertise when he was top Middle East negotiator in the first Bush and the Clinton administrations.

President Obama already appointed former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell as an envoy to the Israel-related Middle East peace process.

Ross, the statement said, "will provide to the Secretary and senior State Department officials strategic advice and perspective on the region; offer assessments and also act to ensure effective policy integration throughout the region; coordinate with senior officials in the development and formulation of new policy approaches; and participate, at the request of the Secretary, in inter-agency activities related to the region."

During the campaign, Ross outlined what he said was a "sticks-then-carrots" approach to engaging Iran: rallying the international community to tighten sanctions before offering incentives to have the Islamic Republic stand down from its suspected nuclear weapons program.

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