Where in the world is Southwest Asia?
By Christian Brose So at long last, Dennis Ross has been tapped for, er, something: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday appointed Dennis B. Ross, a seasoned Middle East negotiator under Republican and Democratic presidents, as her special adviser for the gulf and Southwest Asia, a portfolio that will include Iran. Mr. Ross, ...
By Christian Brose
By Christian Brose
So at long last, Dennis Ross has been tapped for, er, something:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday appointed Dennis B. Ross, a seasoned Middle East negotiator under Republican and Democratic presidents, as her special adviser for the gulf and Southwest Asia, a portfolio that will include Iran.
Mr. Ross, whose appointment had been rumored for weeks, will provide Mrs. Clinton with “strategic advice and perspective on the region, offer assessments and also act to ensure effective policy integration throughout the region,” said the acting State Department spokesman, Robert A. Wood.
And where, exactly, is that region — Southwest Asia? Give me a map, and I can show you Central Asia, Northeast Asia, and Southeast Asia, but I’m less clear on Southwest Asia.
Now, obviously, this is a euphemism for Iran, because there’s no way Southwest Asia includes Afghanistan and Pakistan, as it logically would. Over Ambassador Holbrooke’s dead body. Nor, presumably, does it include India, which could technically be construed as Southwest Asia, but would make little sense as a regional portfolio without Afghanistan and Pakistan.
So Iran it is. But while Ross has been waiting to take his seat at the table, others it seems have been eyeing his lunch. Or worse. It would be one heck of a coincidence to me if Holbrooke has no designs whatsoever on U.S. Iran policy, and yet his old protege from the Balkans negotiations — Chris Hill — ends up strangely and abruptly being tapped as ambassador to Iraq, while Holbrooke himself has hired one of the country’s best Iran experts — Vali Nasr — to work for him, naturally, on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It’s highly possible that whatever engagement with Iran the Obama administration may launch could begin with bottom-up efforts to cooperate on regional issues of common interest. So that could mean continuing meetings with Iran in Baghdad on Iraq issues, which Ryan Crocker led under the Bush administration, and maybe creating (or reviving) a dialogue on Afghanistan issues. This engagement could also be multilateral. Which could mean continuing the so-called Neighbors Group meetings from the Bush administration, which included Iran, and forging a similar regional concert for Afghanistan, as the Obama administration has already suggested it is considering.
And who would then be the logical people on the tip of the spear of U.S. diplomacy for this engagement with Iran? Ambassador Holbrooke and Chris Hill, both of whom made their bones dealing with unsavory characters. But of course, all of this is just a coincidence.
Good luck in Southwest Asia, Ambassador Ross.
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