Some reactions to the move of Dennis Ross from the State Department to the White House, the day after he was officially named special assistant to the president and senior director for the Central Region (which includes Middle East, the Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia):
Laura Rozen at ForeignPolicy.com quotes former Middlle East peace negotiator Aaron Miller applauding the move:
"This is really smart politics, and very smart policy," commented veteran Middle East peace negotiator Aaron David Miller of the Ross appointment. "It’s smart policy because the administration lacks (and they know it) a strategic and integrated view. You need to think two or three steps ahead and very broadly how the pieces fit together. And Dennis is very good at this."
"It’s smart policy, because after we get done with the brouhaha with the Israelis over settlements, we have to deal with them in a very close and intimate way in the event we’re going to want to be able to succeed on Israeli-Arab peace and on Iran," Miller, now with the Woodrow Wilson International Center, continued. "As long as the president provides the proper adult supervision to keep the policy focused and tough and fair."
Of Ross’s announced title — special assistant to the president and senior director on the central region — a Hill foreign policy aide said, "I give them credit for inventing an entirely new term in international affairs — ‘the Central Region.’
Why did Ross move from State to the NSC after just a few months? Over at The Atlantic, Marc Ambinder says President Obama engineered the whole thing to get Ross closer to him:
There has been speculation that Ross was simply unable to fight through the bureaucracy and grab hold of his piece of the action. Others wondered whether Ross’s position on Israel and the Palestinian Authority put him at odds with Gen. Jim Jones’s. The opposite is true: Ross, the primary Middle East envoy during the Clinton years, has for a long time advocated precisely the steps that Barack Obama is taking with respect to the settlement issue in particular.
Indeed, President Obama has grown to value Ross’s advice, and it was on his initiative that Ross gets to move his office from the thickets of Foggy Bottom to the stately columns of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Proximity usually is everything; Ross’s move isn’t lateral. It’s a promotion. He’ll now help to oversee the entire Middle Eastern region, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, the PA, Egypt, Iraq — and Iran.
And in Politico, Ben Smith quotes former Bush administration official Dan Senor claiming that Ross will be the "de facto" national security adviser:
"Dennis is much more of the view that you cannot solve major problems in the region without dealing with Iran. It’s Iran first, it’s not the Palestinians first,” said Dan Senor, a former chief spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, who also suggested that Ross would quickly trump other Obama advisors.
“He’s going to become the de facto National Security Advisor because of the portfolio he has, because of the experience he has, and because of the relationships he’s accumulated abroad,” he said. “Mitchell is marginalized because Dennis has Mitchell’s portfolio – only he’s closer to the center of decision making.”
A White House official dismissed Senor’s comment, noting that Ross reports to both National Security Advisor James Jones and Jones’s powerful deputy, Tom Donilon, and that Donilon will continue to run crucial interagency processes. Another administration official suggested Mitchell’s stance – which has at times been more confrontational toward Israel – would hold sway.
“Mitchell’s much closer to the president on the subject matter than Dennis is,” the latter official said.