Dennis Ross still on the job


The State Department is sort of denying a report today in Haaretz that Dennis Ross would "abruptly be relieved of his duties" at the State Department in the next few days and reassigned to a position at the White House, probably on the National Security Council. The story said Ross, who was working on Iran policy, was possibly being ousted because of "Iran’s persistent refusal to accept Ross as a U.S. emissary given the diplomat’s Jewish background as well as his purported pro-Israel leanings."

But State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Ross has not been fired, and is "hard at work" at the department but also "would not predict the future":

Tangential to this, what — there seem to be — well, there not seem to be, there are a lot of reports about Dennis Ross, based on one specific report in an Israeli newspaper. What’s his status? Has he been fired?

KELLY: He has not been fired.

QUESTION: Is he being ousted?

KELLY: He is not being ousted?

QUESTION: Is there an abrupt change to responsibilities?

KELLY: I — there is — there is — look, he is in — he is in the building today. I was in his office today. He’s working very hard on the same issues that we’ve been discussing the last, whatever it is, 15 minutes. And you know, if and when there is some kind of personnel announcement, I’d be happy to let you know. […]

QUESTION: … assigned to another position at the White House?

KELLY: Anything’s possible. I could be fired today, too. I mean…

… if you guys keep probing me on this.

QUESTION: Isn’t it true that he’s been reassigned to another position at the White House?

KELLY: Like I said, I have — there — I have no personnel announcements.

QUESTION: So the secretary has full confidence in Dennis Ross to continue in his present role?

KELLY: Absolutely.

QUESTION: So Dennis Ross — Dennis Ross is going to continue in his role as adviser to the secretary on — what was it? –….Southwest Gulf affairs?

KELLY: He is — as I say — he is working very hard. He worked hard throughout the weekend and he’s continuing to do his job today.

QUESTION: Has the book that he and David Makovsky have published recently caused any problems for him internally in this administration?

KELLY: No. No. It’s a very good book, by the way. I started reading it over the weekend. …

QUESTION: Oh, so you’re doing reviews from the podium (inaudible). […]

QUESTION: Was there any concern about this authorship of this book, of some of the opinions that he and his co-author expressed in the book…


QUESTION: … during the time leading up to his appointment?

KELLY: No, not at all.

QUESTION: Why not?

KELLY: Well, I mean — Mr. Ross is — he is in the administration now. He is a very close adviser of the secretary on a number of issues related to Iran and the region. But he also came out of — came out of the academic community and he — he’s entitled to — he was entitled to his opinion.

KELLY: He wrote the book before he came on board here.

QUESTION: But, I mean, his opinion and his book and everything notwithstanding, are you saying that Dennis Ross is not being reassigned to another position at the White House?

KELLY: I’m saying he’s working very hard here at the State Department.

QUESTION: But you’re not saying no?

KELLY: I’m saying he’s working very hard here at the State Department.

QUESTION: Well, I’m not saying he’s…

KELLY: I’m not going to predict the future.

Laura Rozen at has more:

Officials speaking on condition of anonymity seemed to leave room for the possibility of a future personnel announcement concerning Ross — conceivably a move to the NSC. But they knocked down any hint that such a move indicated any White House or administration displeasure with Ross or his policy ideas.

Another official said he’d had an email from Ross just last night, which would seem to indicate that Ross’s work helping craft U.S. government Iran policy continues apace. "I think he’s going to stay right where he is and with the same responsibilities."

A couple U.S. officials who said they had no specific knowledge of the matter said they wondered if there might be something to the report.

But there were no signs Ross was being taken off the Iran portfolio; on the contrary, Ross would seem to have been strengthened inside the interagency process by the recent tumult in Iran …

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