Dennis Ross appears to have nine lives–at least. He leaves the State Department where he had been hung out to dry by Hillary Clinton and her powerful envoys Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell. He moves over to the White House for a vague and unspecified assignment. His buddies David Makovsky and the Wall Street Journal talk him up as if he’s going to be given the keys to the kingdom. And then by God, it happens, sort of. Yes, it’s sad but (perhaps) true:
The Cable has learned that deputy national security advisor Thomas Donilon, among others, is positioning Ross to assume an uber-senior NSC position overseeing Iran, Iraq, and the Middle East. The Iraq portfolio formerly assigned to holdover war czar Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute will be shifted to Ross, leaving Lute to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Puneet Talwar, the NSC’s senior director for the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Iran, will report to Ross, as will Daniel Shapiro, the NSC’s senior director for the Middle East and North Africa.
…[A] group said to be concerned by Ross’s perceived takeover of Middle East turf is the team of Middle East Peace special envoy George Mitchell, which now has to contend not only with resistance from all quarters of the region, but also a rival power center in the NSC that hasn’t tended to see Middle East peace issues the same way.
The Washington Post reports the development as more of a done deal though it also inserts some well-deserved zingers against Ross for his past failures:
It’s been rumored that Ross is headed to the White House National Security Council, but now the picture of his duties seems to be getting much clearer. It does indeed appear to be a big job — a very big job. His duties will include not only Iran but also Iraq and the Middle East peace process — a move that has gotten lots of folks at the NSC very upset, not to mention special Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell.
The most controversial aspect is that Ross will take over the Iraq portfolio from Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, a three-star general who was overseeing both Iraq and Afghanistan. Now Lute will just do Afghanistan — where he’ll be working closely with envoy Richard Holbrooke — while Iraq will be part of Ross’s duties.
Interestingly, Ross has about as much experience with Iraq (virtually zero) as the new U.S. ambassador there, Christopher R. Hill. And both were key players in some of the greatest diplomatic flops of the last 20 years. Hill was point man for North Korea nuke negotiations during the Bush administration. And Ross, an early and ardent Obama backer, has lots of experience in Mideast peace efforts, having been a key player in the Clinton administration’s failed effort to broker a deal.
For the humorless or overly literal among my readers, the title of this post refers to sticking a stake in Dennis Ross’ political career, not his physical person.