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24 January 2009

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Lysander

Col Lang,

I would ask you, what would Iran want in such a deal and what would the U.S. be prepared to give?

I've written a few times that while a grand bargain is a good idea, no such bargain will ever take place. The Israel lobby is part of the reason but not the only or even most important one.

For one thing, The U.S. honestly does not wish to share its toys, especially its favorite ones like the Persian Gulf. That is what a grand bargain entails. The U.S. will have to share security decisions on the PG with the Iranians.

And yet, the U.S. is not interested in Russia's opinion about expansion of NATO, missiles in Poland, issues in the Ukraine/Georgia, etc. It simply does what it pleases. If Washington doesn't care about Russia, it certainly wont care about Iran.

And so, the prevailing attitude will be that the Persian Gulf just isn't big enough for the two of us. Differences in style wont change that substance.

Abu Sinan

It would almost seem to me that this guy has been put in these positions by those in power for the simple reason that they WANT to ensure that no deal is done.

It just doesnt make sense to send a person with such a clear bias on the subject to mediate in what is supposed to be a position of neutrality.

Keith

From what I've read, It looks like the plan is to try to work on the relationship with Syria before Iran.

bubba

It'll never happen, but how do you think the Iranians would interpret his removal, especially should it be over controversial ties or such? If it is unlikely to elicit the wrong things, could that become an angle to exploit - a meaningless concession (as opposed to giving up something more significant) when the time is right?

Halfnhalf

a couple of things:
first, in listing the Jewish groups, you omitted American Enterprise Institute which rightfully should be renamed Jewish Enterprise Institute.

Secondly, Obama's chief of staff is not only Jewish and carries a dual citizenship, but he has served with the IDF. (Could he possibly be called up as a reservist? And wouldn't that help our Middle East prospects?)

It seems to me that Washington's choice of "peace brokers"--Ross, Indyk, et al--certainly don't look unprejudiced from an Arab point of view. Mine either and I'm an Episcopalian.

R Whitman

PL
I have trouble comprehending what Ross could not comprehend. Can you supply me with further reading or references.

rto

I'm more optimistic. With entirely different mindsets about how to achieve the Presidents geostrategic M/E objectives in the NSA advisor, Pentagon chief and CentCom commander, methinks Ross not likely to dominate or largely influence the making of policy in this administration as regards Iran. And the current regime certainly is not a mirror image of the first term of the past president when the pro Zionist, Likudnik and Israeli firsters totally dominated policy making in the executive branch. Seems to me there are a lot of work arounds Mr Ross who would probably find effecting an independent policy approach largely impossible. Its also interesting Ross has yet to be officially anointed with a title. Plus Mitchell's appointment hasen't got Israelis in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem popping champagne bottles and celebrating. I could be wrong, but I can't shake this impression Mr. Ross is more a 'token' in Obama's scheme of things.

David Habakkuk

Apparently, in his book, Ross suggests that the proposal that Clinton made in December 2006, following the failure of the Camp David negotiations, was Arafat's last chance, as he had 'the best deal he could ever get.'

(See http://www.mafhoum.com/press7/208P2.htm.)

Did Ross assume that Arafat would be succeeded by another leader who would accept a worse deal -- and have sufficient authority to persuade the Palestinians to accept it? Or did he believe that in the end a deal did not matter, as Israel could survive and prosper in a state of continuing conflict?

Neither assumption looked particularly persuasive at the time, and they look even less persuasive in retrospect.

It is very useful to have overwhelming power on one's side -- but this can be a snare and a delusion, unless one can also accept the weaknesses of one's own position.

In relation to Iran, the need for an awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of the positions of the players, and for diplomatic finesse in handling the situation, is even greater. Obviously, the massive destructive capacity of the U.S. military is a potential asset. But if it is deployed in support of over-ambitious aims, it can become a massively double-edged one.

If military 'compellence' is used in an attempt to push and adversary into accepting terms they find unacceptable, those doing the attempting are liable to back themselves into an impossible situation. Not to implement the threats leaves them looking like paper tigers; implementing them may lead to utter disaster.

J

Colonel,

The first thing that needs to be done is CANCEL all 'dual nationality' 'dual passport' nonsense that Ross and other prominent American Jewish persons appear to have, and they have to declare that they are either an American, or they are an Israeli, BUT THEY CANNOT HAVE BOTH. If they declare they are an American, then they have to cease-n-desist their Israeli Firster nonsense, and if they declare themselves as Israelis, then they are given a boat ticket so they can go on their merry way to Israel.

Dual nationality, dual passports of American Jewish personas are a National Security Risk to our U.S.A.. Prime example our nation's newest COS.

J

Colonel,

Iran should be delt with ONLY on the basis of if they are a threat to our U.S., which they are 'not'!

There is a big difference between civilian power grade enrichment and weapons grade enrichment. All evidence both above and below the radar screens show Iran is -- civilian power grade enrichment.

But if they (our errant D.C. goaded by Israel) keep pushing the Persians into a corner, just as anybody would do in such a situation, eventually the Persians will come out swinging and go towards weapons grade enrichment.

The Persians have signed the NPT, whereas the Israelis (who have over 400 nuke deliverable weapons) have not.

turcopolier

R. Whitman

"What Ross did not comprehend or accept before Camp David 2 was that the Palestinian delegation did not have a "blank check" to negotiate outside the Arab consensus and that the enforced isolation at Camp David kept them from the possibility of achieving a new consensus while the talks were underway."

I think that is clear. pl

zanzibar

The NYT seems to imply that Rahm Emanuel is the big cheese in the Obama administration. He's apparently got several of his "buddies" into key positions.

harper

Beyond conflict of interest. I have just reviewed the website of the JPPPI, and I was astounded to find, not only that Dennis Ross is the Chairman, but that the board of directors includes Prof. Uzi Arad, a former top Mossad officer who now heads up the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya, a primo Israeli national security outfit. Arad was a target (and may still be) of the Larry Franklin spy investigation, which involved two top officials of AIPAC (they are still awaiting trial, Franklin pled guilty). Arad brought Franklin to Herzliya for one of their big annual security conferences, and visited him at the Pentagon on at least one occasion, according to the court records of the Franklin case. I was told by sources in U.S. intelligence that Arad was taking over the handling of Franklin for Israeli intelligence, as part of Israel's efforts to insulate against another Pollard affair. The thinking was to use "ex" Mossad case officers, placed in key quasi-governmental think tanks, to handle spies, so there was a degree of plausible denial.

If this doesn't put the final nail in the coffin for any efforts to place Ross in a sensitive posting in the new Obama Administration, I don't know what it will take. Hats off to Col. Lang for pointing a public spotlight on this crucial matter.

Jon T.

Col. Lang, the last two paragraphs of your post about Dennis Ross are disheartening. I don't know about nuclear non proliferation theory from an academic stand.

I do notice: India, Pakistan, Russia and Israel (and the US with nuclear subs 'anywhere') have nuclear weapons.

If I'm Iran, I feel surrounded. To encourage them to continue to feel 'victimized' in that way at some point, IMO, will produce conflict.

Here's one of my bizarre ideas: Rep. John Hall is a pretty darn good guitar player. I bet there are other good musicians in Congress, the military and diplomatic corps in and around Washington DC. Create a "musical face off": an ad hoc US band goes and performs in Iran, an Iranian band performs here? Will AIPAC allow that?

As for no Nuremberg trials for the indignant and righteously harmed, IMO, again, Olmert just made his cause, in the eyes of any who are willing to see, much worse.

From the BBC Online:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7850085.stm

' In Israel, Prime Minister Olmert told a weekly cabinet meeting that soldiers who had put their lives on the line for their country need not fear prosecution for war crimes overseas.

"The commanders and soldiers that were sent on the task in Gaza should know that they are safe from any tribunal and that the State of Israel will assist them in this issue and protect them as they protected us with their bodies during the military operation in Gaza," he said. '

We did it because we've been persecuted.
We need to protect ourselves with all our might.
We're outside International Law.
Old story from them. It is now way past thin.
How about a sanction?

Babak Makkinejad

All:

Does any one know to whom these various US Presidential Special Envoys report?

Do they report directlly to the Secretary of State?

Or the National Security Advisor?

Or the Vice President?

Or the President himself?

Are they cabinet level officers?

Where is the chain of command in all of this and what/where/how is their mandate formulated, executed, and evaluated?

Jose

To go against the blog thought stream, how would you react if you were in the Iranian government at the appointment of Dennis Ross?

I would view the special envoy as an act of war, since the Israeli point of view would be the basis of negotiations which would really mean an ultimatum.

Add the apparent willingness of Obama to abandon Karzi, and his Persian-speaking Northern Alliance to weaken Iran even more.

I'm disaapointed, not a lot of change or imagination from Obama.

I expected more.

"J", dual citizenship is sometimes unavoidable.

I was born in Cuba, but raised almost of my life in the U.S. and naturalized as a teen when my father became a citizen.

Regardless of the facts, Cuba refuses to accept this.

If I ever desire to travel back to the island, I would be required to go with a Cuban passport.

This law has been in the books way before Castro.

I believe this also applies to Jews and Israel.

ritamary

Jose, please clarify. Are you saying Jews without an Israeli passport cannot go to Israel?

Thank you Col. Lang for bringing us this information. Obama needs to be held accountable for his campaign promises to use diplomacy in the Middle East. How can someone so biased as Ross be sent as an envoy to Iran?

fanto

Jose, but do you work with highest security clearance for the US gov.?

zanzibar

Babak

Apparently both Mitchell & Holbrooke report to both Secretary Clinton and President Obama. Does that mean "plausible deniability"???

Dennis Ross I have no clue. Has there been a specific announcement that he is the "special envoy" to Iran? Don't get the rationale and curious if our corporate media would ever ask Obama his thinking and expectations?

J

Colonel,

Ross is the chairman of an organization that is an Israeli government 'store-front'. That should be more than ample reason enough for his REMOVAL from the running of special envoy to Iran. That special envoy position is a very sensitive diplomatic post, and the U.S. can't afford such apparent Ross conflicts of interests.

robt willmann

Old sayings are "old" because they are wise. So it is with one of them: "the personnel are the policy".

Policy reflects the attitudes and beliefs of the people who make it.

Lobbying is usually thought to mean the act of a person outside of the government going to a policy maker to try to persuade that person to adopt a particular position.

But much better is to get your lobbyist appointed to the policy making position. Or hired as a Congressional staffer. Or elected to Congress. Or elected vice-president. Or, best of all, elected president.

This is how the Iraq War and other disasters of the Bush jr. administration came to happen.

Now president Obama has trapped himself by appointing for the most part the Democratic Party's version of those who surrounded Bush jr.

Let's listen to Obama at the announcement of his "special" envoys George Mitchell (good) and Richard Holbrooke (horrible)--

"To be a genuine party to peace, the quartet has made it clear that Hamas must meet clear conditions: recognize Israel's right to exist; renounce violence; and abide by past agreements."

"Going forward, the outline for a durable cease-fire is clear: Hamas must end its rocket fire; Israel will complete the withdrawal of its forces from Gaza; the United States and our partners will support a credible anti-smuggling and interdiction regime, so that Hamas cannot rearm."

***

"Now, just as the terror of rocket fire aimed at innocent Israelis is intolerable, so, too, is a future without hope for the Palestinians."

***

"Now we must extend a hand of opportunity to those who seek peace. As part of a lasting cease-fire, Gaza's border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce, with an appropriate monitoring regime, with the international and Palestinian Authority participating."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/22/AR2009012202550.html

Notice the things that Hamas "must" do. Is there anything that Israel "must" do? Nope. Gaza's border crossings "should" be open, as part of a "lasting" cease fire. I will leave it to you to see some other one-sided language in those brief excerpts.

The Persians, not having been born yesterday, and whose civilization was formed before 1789, know full well the unfortunate situation created by Obama's appointment of Dennis Ross and by the quoted remarks above by the new president.

Before his first week in office was over, two attacks by pilotless drones in the Waziristan tribal areas of Pakistan took place, which most certainly resulted in some dead civilians.

Sadly, Obama may quickly find himself "overtaken by events", another old saying, and, more ominously, "overtaken by his own appointees".

Cujo359

I don't share rto's optimism. To put it a slightly different way from how others have said it, the guy who's doing the work has a lot of say in how it goes. I don't know anything about this Dennis Ross beyond what I've read here, but if he really is a proponent of Israel, then he will be affecting events in what he perceives to be Israel's favor. I don't think it matters much what Obama's SoS or NSA think as long as Ross is the face of American diplomacy here.

jamzo

assuming ross has some negotiating and diplomatic skill, integrity and loyalty - maybe his choice as US presidential envoy to and for Iran can be considered to be a not such a bad idea

it removes ross as a player in the israeli-palestinian diplomatic space

obama and clinton placed a bishop - george mitchell - in this space

ross became another knight

someone they could move in another space on the foreign relations chessboard

another knight, holbroke, was played in the pakistan space

obama and clinton seem to think ross as an adequate for their projected iranian moves

how much progress do they expect in this space?

how much do they want right now?

to what degree do they link progress in the
israeli-palestinian
space as necessary before
substantial progress can be expected in relations with the iranians?

they seem to think iranian perceptions of ross will allow them to initiate moves

will the iranians be perceive the pro-israeli
ross as a flawed
us representative? is it a showstopper? is he a placeholder?

do the iranians see the appointment of a knight like ross as a signal of cautious and limited expectations ?

a signal, that while obama wants to start talking with them, he has a greater priority on the
israel-palestinian space -
where he is put a bishop into play

a signal that he knows he has to show good faith in that space to gain their trust

does the ross appointment also serve a secondary political purpose?

a signal to the israeli's that they do not have to be concerned with their iranian flank while they are dealing with the bishop - that their immediate situation is of paramount importance

if so - will the iranians see it that way too!


DaveGood

Ok...

Let's settle this "dual Nationality" Question.

Off the top of my head I can name a dozen senior ( up to cabinet rank) US officials in the last three decades who hold, or were entitled to hold, dual Israeli-USA Citizenship.

Here's a quick and and far from comprehensive list from the last (Bush) administration.

Attorney General - Michael Mukasey
Head of Homeland Security - Michael Chertoff
Chairman Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board - Richard Perle
Deputy Defense Secretary (Former) - Paul Wolfowitz
Under Secretary of Defense - Douglas Feith
National Security Council Advisor - Elliott Abrams
Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff (Former) - “Scooter” Libby
White House Deputy Chief of Staff - Joshua Bolten
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs - Marc Grossman
Director of Policy Planning at the State Department - Richard Haass
U.S. Trade Representative (Cabinet-level Position) - Robert Zoellick
Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board - James Schlesinger
UN Representative (Former) - John Bolton
Under Secretary for Arms Control - David Wurmser
Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board - Eliot Cohen
Senior Advisor to the President - Steve Goldsmith
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary - Christopher Gersten
Assistant Secretary of State - Lincoln Bloomfield
Deputy Assistant to the President - Jay Lefkowitz
White House Political Director - Ken Melman
National Security Study Group - Edward Luttwak
Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board - Kenneth Adelman
Defense Intelligence Agency Analyst (Former) - Lawrence (Larry) Franklin
National Security Council Advisor - Robert Satloff
President Export-Import Bank U.S. - Mel Sembler
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families - Christopher Gersten
Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for Public Affairs
- Mark Weinberger
White House Speechwriter - David Frum
White House Spokesman (Former) - Ari Fleischer
Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board - Henry Kissinger
Deputy Secretary of Commerce - Samuel Bodman
Under Secretary of State for Management - Bonnie Cohen
Director of Foreign Service Institute - Ruth Davis

I cannot think of any person holding a position of influence within the last, the previous, or this up-coming administration who holds dual citizenship with any other country, not Canada, not Britain, not any Nato country never mind , say Cuba or Venezuala.

So why does Israel, who has never fought alongside America, or contributed to it's economic or diplomatic power..... Get to place it's citizens in charge of large chunks of American policy?

DaveGood


Babak Makkinejad

zanzibar:

Thank you for the information.

In Mr. Bush's first term, Secretary of Defense and the Vice President ordered the Secretary of State, Mr. Powell, to cease and desists from a certain course of action. The instructions were conveyed by National Security Advisor.

These are not academic questions. Do the statements of these various Special Envoys of the President of the United States carry the full force and faith of the United States or not? Or are they only stooges put out there to keep some constituents happy (foreign or domestic)?

In the case of Senator Mitchell: why does the United States need a special envoy when she already has an envoy in all Middle Eastern countries except Iran?

If a US Presidential Envoy requires further instructions or clarification in the field whom does he call: the Secretary of State, the President, the National Security Advisors, the Chief of Staff?

Is there a legal and defined chain of command here or is it this like a small family company in which the last guy to talk to the owner carries the day? Or one of his favorites?

I just don’t get it.

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