Tidbits: More on Dennis Ross’ position, the latest from Coleman

  • Could the Minnesota Senate recount last until 2010? From Politico : "Republican Norm Coleman on Tuesday refused to rule out an appeal if a three-judge panel rules against his challenge in what he called “the race that never ends.”
  • National Jewish Democratic Council calls for D.C. voting rights: "It is offensive that residents of DC – who pay their taxes and serve in the armed forces – still lack equal representation."
  • Jewish Democrats also applaud appointment of Dennis Ross: "President Barack Obama has selected another outstanding individual for his foreign policy team."
  • So what does Dennis Ross‘ title of special adviser to the secretary of state for the Gulf and Southwest Asia actually mean? Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic reprints an exchange State Department spokesman Robert Wood had with reporters on Tuesday, in which he emphasizes that Ross is not an envoy, but an adviser. It then takes him a while to explain what is included in "Southwest Asia":

QUESTION:  Can you give us – well, what is the State Department’s definition geographically of Southwest Asia?  What countries does that include? 

MR. WOOD:  Matt, I didn’t —

QUESTION:  No, you guys named an envoy for Southwest Asia.  I presume that you know what countries that includes. 

MR. WOOD:  Yes.  Of course, we know.  I just – I don’t have the list to run off – you know, right off the top of my head here.  But obviously, that’s going to encompass – that region encompasses Iran.  It will – you know, it’ll deal with —

QUESTION:  Does it include Iraq? 

MR. WOOD:  Indeed, it does.  He is going to be, again, as I said, providing her with advice – strategic advice, looking at the long term, the bigger picture and how we can make sure that our policies are coherent across the board in the region.  And as I said, the Secretary is very pleased that Dennis has agreed to do this.  He’s got years of experience in the region.  And, you know, it’s a daunting task, but it’s one that she felt was necessary. 

QUESTION:  And so, does it include parts of the Middle East? 

MR. WOOD:  Yes

QUESTION:  It does?  Does it include Syria, and it includes Israel and it includes Jordan? 

MR. WOOD:  Well, he’ll be looking at the entire region that will include, you know –

QUESTION:  Where does that stop?  I mean, you know, you have NEA which, you know, runs all the way to Morocco.  So does it include –

MR. WOOD:  Well, he’s going to be in touch with a number of officials who work on issues throughout this region. 

QUESTION:  Does it include Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, countries that are within the – within the Middle East or within the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, but are not necessarily technically part of Southwest Asia? 

MR. WOOD:  He will be providing advice to the Secretary on a – across that entire region, where appropriate, where she needs it, and that’s the position he will serve. 

QUESTION:  So he’s going to meet with the leaders in the region as well, so you said he is going to offer an assessment —

MR. WOOD:  That’s right.  At some point, he will. 

QUESTION:  — including the Iranians? 

MR. WOOD:  Well, I’m not sure at this point.  But again, our policy with regard to Iran is under review, so once that review is completed, we’ll be able to go forward vis-à-vis Iran.  But until that time —

QUESTION:  Well, was there a consideration at some point that you would have a special envoy for Iran?  And why didn’t you now go in that direction?

MR. WOOD:  Well, a decision was made by the Secretary that she needed broad strategic advice to look at a range of issues across the entire region that we just talked about.  And it was felt that his skills could be better used to do that type of work, given the years of experience that he’s had dealing with the Middle East, other parts of the world.  And so, again, as I said, Iran will be one of those countries that he will be, you know, looking at in his portfolio.  But —

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