De aanstelling van Dennis Ross als ‘Special Adviser for the Gulf and Southwest Asia’ – waar Iran onder valt – belooft helaas weinig goeds voor het nastreven van een vreedzame verhouding tussen de VS en Iran. Ross heeft zich in diverse functies gemanifesteerd als een zionistische Israel-lobbyist en lijkt aan te willen sturen op een militaire confrontatie met Iran.
Het wordt steeds spannender om te zien of president Obama de regering-Netanyahu werkelijk onder druk zet om zich te voegen in het vredesproces dat moet leiden tot een twee-staten oplossing cf VN/VR Resoluties.
When Dennis Ross, a hawkish, pro-Israel adviser to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, was elevated in February to the post of special adviser on "the Gulf and Southwest Asia"–i.e., Iran–Ross’s critics hoped that his influence would be marginal. After all, unlike special envoys George Mitchell (Israel-Palestine) and Richard Holbrooke (Afghanistan-Pakistan), whose appointments were announced with fanfare, Ross’s appointment was long delayed and then announced quietly, at night, in a press release.
But diplomats and Middle East watchers hoping Ross would be sidelined are wrong. He is building an empire at the State Department: hiring staff and, with his legendary flair for bureaucratic wrangling, cementing liaisons with a wide range of US officials. The Iran portfolio is his, says an insider. "Everything we’ve seen indicates that Ross has completely taken over the issue," says a key Iran specialist. "He’s acting as if he’s the guy. Wherever you go at State, they tell you, ‘You’ve gotta go through Dennis.’"
It’s paradoxical that Obama, who made opening a dialogue with Iran into a crucial plank in his campaign, would hand the Iran file to Ross. Since taking office, Obama has taken a number of important steps to open lines to Iran, including a remarkable holiday greeting by video in which the president spoke directly to "the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran," adding, "We seek engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect." He invited Iran to attend an international conference on Afghanistan, where a top Iranian diplomat shook hands with Holbrooke; he’s allowing American diplomats to engage their Iranian counterparts; and he’s reportedly planning to dispatch a letter directly to Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Yet Ross, like his neoconservative co-thinkers, is explicitly skeptical about the usefulness of diplomacy with Iran.
Widely viewed as a cog in the machine of Israel’s Washington lobby, Ross was not likely to be welcomed in Tehran–and he wasn’t. Iran’s state radio described his appointment as "an apparent contradiction" with Obama’s "announced policy to bring change in United States foreign policy." Kazem Jalali, a hardline member of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee, joked that it "would have been so much better to pick Ariel Sharon or Ehud Olmert as special envoy to Iran." More seriously, a former White House official says that Ross has told colleagues that he believes the United States will ultimately have no choice but to attack Iran in response to its nuclear program…
Does Dennis Ross believe that Iran is a "demonic" nation? Apparently so, at least according to the latest report from the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute.
Readers of The Nation may already have seen my thumbnail profile of Dennis Ross, Hillary Clinton’s special envoy for "the Gulf and Southwest Asia," i.e., Iran. A smooth talking but hawkish diplomat who spent most of the past decade at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel thinktank in Washington, Ross is at best a controversial choice for an administration dedicated to opening a dialogue with Iran. Among other things, during his trenure at WINEP, Ross expressed skepticism about the value of talks with Iran.
Here’s an addendum to that profile: until his recent appointment, Ross served as chairman of the board for the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI), an Israel-based organization that, according to its web site, "makes an annual presentation to the Israeli Cabinet as a whole on main developments in the Jewish world, offering its assessments and policy recommendations." The organization adds:
‘JPPPI’s work serves as the basis for assessments, alerts and strategic policy designs provided to Jewish decision makers, and to opinion leaders and publics at large.’
In the latest of those annual presentations, the JPPPI refers to "the international threat posed by nuclear weapons capacity in Iran (and other demonic societies)." Yes, you read that right: demonic.
The JPPPI report adds that Israel has been abandoned to face the threat from Iran alone:
"The past year has aggravated the Israeli dilemma of how to act vis-à-vis Tehran, and there is a mounting sense that the international community would rather leave Israel to deal with the problem on its own."
The report goes on to express a concern that an effort by the Obama administation to reach what the JPPPI calls a "regional deal" with Iran might be part and parcel of a "relatively aggressive effort to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict, and perhaps even to bring about the nuclear disarmament of the Middle East."
As Patrick Lang, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official, reports on his blog, the JPPPI was founded by the Jewish Agency in 2002. The Jewish Agency, formerly known as the Jewish Agency for Palestine, was the provisional government of Israel at its inception, and it receives official support from the government of Israel today. According to its official website, the Jewish Agency was the "de facto government of the state-on-its-way" in the period before Israel’s founding in 1948, and in 2008 it had a budget of $314 million.
The message of the Israeli analysts was clear: the Middle East foreign policy of the US has become institutionalized; and rather than watching the US president, one has to watch the institutions that would make the policy. Given this message, my analysis of what the future has in store for Iran concentrated on a few neoconservative institutions and individuals. In particular, I predicted that if Obama were to be elected, the US policy on Iran would be made mostly by Dennis Ross, the consultant to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP or simply Washington Institute), a think tank affiliate of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). That prediction has now come true. On February 23, 2009, it became official that Dennis Ross is the Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for the Gulf and Southwest Asia.  The title, as will be explained below, is not what Ross had hoped for, but he would still be in a position to influence the US policy toward Iran.
Who is Dennis Ross, what does he advocate, how was he positioned to become the adviser on Iran in the Obama Administration and what will he do to Iran if he gets the chance? Let me briefly review the case…