Shadow Government

A front-row seat to the Republicans' debate over foreign policy, including their critique of the Biden administration.

Dennis Ross: sacked or promoted?

By Peter Feaver Reportedly, Dennis Ross will step down as "Iran czar" and move over to the White House to head up the NSC’s strategic planning cell. My initial reactions to this news are mixed because I have a high regard for Dennis Ross. On the one hand, I am sorry he is stepping down ...

By Peter Feaver

Reportedly, Dennis Ross will step down as "Iran czar" and move over to the White House to head up the NSC's strategic planning cell. My initial reactions to this news are mixed because I have a high regard for Dennis Ross.

On the one hand, I am sorry he is stepping down from the Iran position because I think he had a solid understanding of the Iran problem. Ross' approach, as I have argued before, was essentially the approach the Bush administration pursued, and it was the only one that I thought had the slightest chance of achieving success (although, it must be conceded, it had not worked so far). With the disastrous election results in Iran putting to shambles whatever new approach the Obama team might have wanted to pursue, I am dismayed that they are removing one of their top hands from the Iran file. It is all the more dismaying because the only plausible explanations I have heard are that Ross is being moved because Iran has said they do not want to negotiate with a Jew, or because he is losing out in a power play with legendary infighter Richard Holbrooke. I fear that the chaos in Tehran will increasingly be matched by chaos in Obama's Iran strategy. 

By Peter Feaver

Reportedly, Dennis Ross will step down as "Iran czar" and move over to the White House to head up the NSC’s strategic planning cell. My initial reactions to this news are mixed because I have a high regard for Dennis Ross.

On the one hand, I am sorry he is stepping down from the Iran position because I think he had a solid understanding of the Iran problem. Ross’ approach, as I have argued before, was essentially the approach the Bush administration pursued, and it was the only one that I thought had the slightest chance of achieving success (although, it must be conceded, it had not worked so far). With the disastrous election results in Iran putting to shambles whatever new approach the Obama team might have wanted to pursue, I am dismayed that they are removing one of their top hands from the Iran file. It is all the more dismaying because the only plausible explanations I have heard are that Ross is being moved because Iran has said they do not want to negotiate with a Jew, or because he is losing out in a power play with legendary infighter Richard Holbrooke. I fear that the chaos in Tehran will increasingly be matched by chaos in Obama’s Iran strategy. 

On the other hand, I am encouraged to see that Ross appears to be taking over my old job at the White House. He will be a major boost in prestige and power for that office. It is very hard to do strategic planning on national security from the White House, but I think it is impossible to do significant strategic planning for national security anywhere else but the White House. Steve Hadley invested a lot of effort in establishing a functioning strategic planning cell during his tenure as national security advisor, and I was dismayed when the Obama team seemed slow out of the box in staffing up that office. I cannot think of many people who would be stronger for such a post on Team Obama than Dennis.

From that perch, he can play on many issues — including the Iran issue, if need be (and I think the need could very much be, and soon).

Peter D. Feaver is a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, where he directs the Program in American Grand Strategy.

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