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State Department: We Will Not Tell You What Dennis Ross Will Be Doing!

Earlier today I wrote that Dennis Ross was finally getting made an Obama administration “envoy” to… uh… a country with a name that rhymes with Gee-Dan. (Or, if you’re fancy, Gee-DAWN.) Not so, says acting State Department spokesman Robert Wood! But what will his job actually be, then? Hard to say. You really have to read the full transcript from today’s State press briefing for the full measure of insanity over State’s unwillingness to explain what Ross will be doing.

Let me be clear, he’s not an envoy. He will not be negotiating. He’ll be working on regional issues. He will not be – in terms of negotiating, will not be involved in the peace process. But again, he is going to be advising the Secretary on long-term strategic issues across the region.

Wood doesn’t even want to tell reporters* which countries *fall under the portfolio of the Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for The Gulf and Southwest Asia. (“I just – I don’t have the list to run off – you know, right off the top of my head here.”) While Ross won’t be negotiating, he will “meet with the leaders in the region” — only Wood won’t say what the region entails and when asked, Wood said:

Look, it’s more – he’s going to be providing advice to the Secretary on a number of regional issues, and I would not try to limit Dennis’s advice to, you know, just those regions. He may have other – you know, he may have advice that he wants to give the Secretary on other issues. I don’t think we’re trying to narrow it here.

In other words, Dennis Ross is everywhere and nowhere, the Keyser Soze of the State Department. You could read the transcript and conclude that Ross is all-powerful, advising Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton — who basically ended a photo op today when a reporter asked about Ross — on all manner of issues. Or you could read it and conclude that Ross met a welter of bureaucratic resistance at the State Department to the prospect of him getting an envoyship, and Clinton required a face-saving way of shunting him aside. My very-helpful guess is that Ross’s role remains unsettled, at least until he and Richard Holbrooke meet in the Octagon.

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