The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler is a master of telling only part of the story. Earlier this year he wrote a piece on the defenestration of Chas Freeman without once mentioning that it might have had something to do with Israel. Today he has a puff piece on the ubiquitous Dennis Ross in which he pulls the same trick “Man Behind Iran Policy Faces Big Task” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/09/AR2009060903131.html?sub=AR. Ross and co-author David Makovsky are hawking a new book “Myths, Illusions and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East.” The book advocates secret talks preceding open diplomatic engagement with Iran as a prelude to cranking up the pressure through aggressive sanctions and the threat of military force. Ross does not expect that Iran will be responsive, so it’s ultimately all about how to apply pressure.
Kessler mentions in passing that some regard Ross as too close to Israel but he does go into any kind of detail on what that might mean. Ross and Makovsky have both been associated with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), which was founded by the Israeli lobby AIPAC in 1980. Ross was one of the founders. During President Bill Clinton’s abortive attempt to make peace in the Middle East, Ross was the chief negotiator. According to colleagues, he cleared all “US positions” with Israel before allowing them to be discussed, meaning that Israel had a veto over US policy. Post-Clinton, Ross returned to WINEP. In September 2008, he and Makovsky were key players in a widely publicized report issued by a so-called Bipartisan Policy Center that essentially called for negotiating with Iran to allow it to surrender on all key issues. Failure to concede would result in a US military attack. It sounds pretty much like what Ross and Makovsky are advocating in their new book, but now Ross is back at State Department where he can actually get up to some mischief.
Ross has also worked for the Israeli government, which should have disqualified him from high position at the State Department. Prior to returning to government, he headed the Jewish People Planning Institute, which is based in Jerusalem and is government funded.
Kessler’s hagiography notwithstanding, there is some debate regarding whether Ross is a major player on Iran policy. He plays second fiddle to Richard Holbrooke in the State Department pecking order, did not accompany Secretary of State Clinton on her trip to the Middle East, and has no access to the president. He has reportedly been excluded from a number of high level meetings and planning sessions. He has a large claque in Congress and the media, however, and there have been a number of attempts to hype his importance, perhaps seeking to force the new administration to give him greater responsibility. It would be better for the United States if he were to find some quiet corner where he and his buddies at WINEP and AEI can write their books and continue to dream about the long war against Islamofascism.