Dennis Ross rises to prominence in Obama Administration

Dennis Ross, a longtime Washington insider, has recently moved from the State Department where he served as a senior advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the White house where his official title is Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region, as part of the National Security Council.

The rapid rise of Ross in the administration will be further solidified when he accompanies Jim Jones to Israel next Wednesday for talks with Israel leadership in Tel Aviv.

Ross has been called an Israel sympathizer and he has the resume to back up that accusation.

When Ross took an official position in the administration in January, to do so he had to leave his post as Chairman of the Board of Directors at The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. Another noteworthy item on Ross’s resume is the time he worked as a Fox News Foreign Policy contributor during the Bush administration.

The rapid rise of Ross gives the outsider a peak into how the power structure of the National Security Council operates. When he comes to serve on the Council it is fair to say that he does not leave behind the sympathy he had for Israel at his previous position.

It is unclear whether or not Ross is being sent to undercut Jim Jones, who in the past has said that he would be against military action with Iran or simply to balance out the negotiations on the US side of the talks.

Many in Washington believe that he rose to a position in the White House after being a key advisor to Clinton while the State Department decided how to handle the recent Iranian protests, that, when coupled with Vice President Biden’s recent statements, which declared that Israel, as a sovereign nation has essentially has the green light to strike Iran, has to sown seeds of worry in Tehran.

His most recent book offers a so-called hybrid approach. The hybrid approach would include open talks with no preconditions, however if the talks should continue to fail, then the heat will be turned up slowly via additional sanctions and international pressure, with the option of a military strike still very much on the table.

Also in his most recent book he talks about the now infamous letter, sent by Iranian moderates to Washington shortly after the fall of Baghdad, via the Swiss government. In the letter the Iranian moderates reached out to the White House and agreed to negotiate everything from their nuclear program to their ties with Hezbollah and Hamas. The Bush administration never responded.

Some in Washington now see this letter as evidence that Iran will ultimately buckle under the thought of an imminent military attack. But they have to remember that the letter was sent by the moderate clerics in Iran not the hardliners.

My feeling is that the US is already vaguely aware of just what the leadership in Tehran is willing to do. And these upcoming talks, both with Israel and Iran are a dog and pony show, which will ultimately serve as the administrations justification of eventual military strikes on Iran. But I do believe that some such as Jones and Gates truly hold out hope that a deal can be struck in the talks. Because even if it was not a direct conflict with Iran, and it was by proxy through Israel, once the situation begins it would be unpredictable and given the situation at home a situation the country simply could not afford.

Robert Gates is also scheduled to visit Israel on Monday. This visit will serve to represent a man, Gates, who has traditionally been more moderate in his public rhetoric regarding Iran.

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