The Ross Appointment

Today I was interviewed by Javier Méndez Araya of El Mercurio newspaper, in Santiago, Chile, regarding the appointment of Dennis Ross to advise Secretary of State Clinton on “Gulf and Southwest Asian” (read:  Iranian) affairs. Here are my answers.

1) In your opinion, why was Ross appointed as “adviser to the secretary of state for the Gulf and Southwest Asia?”

A: The Obama administration’s general approach to the Middle East has been to step away from the Bush administration’s contempt towards the Muslim world while retaining an extremely strong pro-Israeli position by appointing Clinton era personnel. Ross will reassure Israel’s supporters that whatever difference in tactics are employed by Obama, the consideration of Israeli concerns and perspectives in dealing with “the Gulf and Southwest Asia” will at least match the status quo ante of the Clinton administration.

2) What is the Ross’s diplomatic history (or record)? His failures? His achievements?

A: Ross was most successful in his dealing with the Soviet Union. His efforts in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli dispute were a complete failure due to the Clinton administration’s successful policy of intimidating Yasir Arafat from bringing up the Palestinians’ right of return for discussion. When the last-ditch effort to force an agreement at the close of President Clinton’s last term failed mainly due to that strategic error, Ross tried to throw the blame on Arafat, despite the fact that Arafat had been seduced into attending the second Camp David summit with the promise that he would not be blamed if it did fail.

3) What will the strategic of Ross in delicate issues as Iraq, Iran and India?

A: Ross has articulated his belief that the U.S. can prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power by negotiating from a position of strength, in which one first lines up American allies committed to increasing economic sanctions and leaving the threat of war on the table if negotiation fails. The strategy seems to be that one can neutralize Iran’s support of Hamas and Hezbollah by a combination of threats and promises regarding Iran’s material interests. This strategy is doomed to failure. Abandoning the Palestinians, especially at a time that the invasion of Gaza has laid bare the moral bankruptcy of the Israel occupation would cause the Iranian regime to lose its remaining credibility at a time when its people are already impatient with the regime over issues of economics and civil liberty. Iran will never give up its claim to the right to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and can only be expected to submit to verifiable safeguards against the development of nuclear weapons when its own concerns about the fact that it is surrounded from three directions by nuclear armed Israel, Russia, and Pakistan. In any case, Ross is in no position to distance himself from the policies of the Bush administration after co-founding the organization “United Against a Nuclear Iran” in which he joined forces with the neoconservatives in order to advocate a hard line on the main issue on which he seeks to negotiate. Ross is perceived by Iran as a pro-Israeli hawk. The only way he could be effective is if he were to use his pro-Israeli capital to negotiate a deal tilted favorably towards Iran, something that his failure at Camp David II suggests is out of the question. On India and Iraq, to whatever degree his new position deals with them, I think Ross will advocate the same position as prevailed during the Clinton administration.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Leave a Reply