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Dennis Ross, Tehran-Bound

Laura Rozen is hearing that former Bush 41/Clinton administration peace processor Dennis Ross is, as expected, getting the job as special envoy to Iran. Though he wasn’t announced during last week’s envoy rollout — George Mitchell, what! — that hasn’t stopped the Ross train. I’m also hearing that there are some other as-yet-unannounced envoys; more on that (hopefully) soon.

As for Ross himself, the pick is a little… strange. Matthew Yglesias explains:

This seems like a job for which you’d want either an Iran specialist, or else a non-proliferation specialist. But Ross is neither. He doesn’t have a background negotiation disarmament deals, and he’s not an Iran expert—he doesn’t speak Persian as far as I know.

So what’s the appeal here? It seems like the idea is perhaps to keep Ross “on the inside pissing out” without actually putting him in charge of the peace process portfolio. Or else it’s an effort to appease the Abe Foxmans of the world who can’t handle the idea of a fair envoy. But is this just creating a situation in which the Iran envoy would be undermining the Israel envoy?

I don’t really know about Ross undermining George Mitchell, but one interesting thing that’s taken shape over the past couple weeks is how Obama-esque Obama’s foreign-policy appointments have been. (Bear with me.) In the primaries, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took some fairly sharp points of disagreement with Obama, but during her confirmation hearings, could you identify a single substantive point of disagreement, even in terms of emphasis? Notwithstanding the oddness of this choice, maybe Ross will view his brief as exploring the prospect of real policy change, rather than actually making policy himself.

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