With Iran undergoing its biggest upheaval in decades, this seems like a bad time for the US to make a roster change in its foreign-policy team for the Islamic Republic. Ha’aretz reports that the Obama administration will remove Dennis Ross as its senior adviser on Iran just at the time when the administration can least afford the discontinuity. And according to its sources, the move may send exactly the wrong signal to the mullahcracy — and to the protestors in the streets:
Dennis Ross, who most recently served as a special State Department envoy to Iran, will abruptly be relieved of his duties, sources in Washington told Haaretz. An official announcement is expected in the coming days. …
Washington insiders speculate that a number of reasons moved the administration to reassign Ross. One possibility is Iran’s persistent refusal to accept Ross as a U.S. emissary given the diplomat’s Jewish background as well as his purported pro-Israel leanings. Ross is known to maintain contacts with numerous senior officials in Israel’s defense establishment and the Israeli government.
Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem surmised that another possibility for Ross’ ouster is his just-released book, “Myths, Illusions, and Peace – Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East.”
Ross, who co-wrote the book with David Makovsky, a former journalist who is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argued against a linkage between the Palestinian issue and the West’s policy against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Ross and Mokovsky also raised the possibility of military action against Iran.
“Tougher policies – either militarily or meaningful containment – will be easier to sell internationally and domestically if we have diplomatically tried to resolve our differences with Iran in a serious and credible fashion,” they wrote.
At the moment when a little pressure on the Iranian regime could produce significant change, Barack Obama seems to want to go out of his way to mollify the Iranians. The fact that Ali Khamenei rejected Ross should make his star shine a little brighter for Iranians in the streets, if they’re inclined to notice it at all. With the Guardian Council backpedaling from an electoral disaster, we should not be anxious to provide them succor. Instead, the Obama administration should have shown some resolve.
And are we supposed to believe that the Obama administration was unaware of Ross’ views on Iran before appointing him to the post? Either they’re incompetent, Ross is dishonest, or they’re retreating. There is no third option.
What does this change mean? Obama wants to pursue his policy of engagement with a regime that has already lost the support of the Iranian people. It’s akin to his weird focus on nuke reductions with Russia. It’s as if Obama wants to implement the foreign policy he preferred as a college student, only implemented a quarter-century later. Appeasing the mullahs by tossing Ross aside only makes sense if one believes that the Iranian people are fully behind the regime, and the pictures from the streets of Tehran show how ridiculous that assumption is.