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State Department Nobly Defines ‘Southwest Asia’

We all had a good laugh yesterday when State Department spokesman Robert Wood refused to say which countries fell under the purview of Dennis Ross, the Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for — ahem — The Gulf and Southwest Asia. But superfun happytime is over, judging from today’s briefing:

QUESTION: Have your ace geographers been able to determine what Southwest Asia is and thereby figure out what exactly Dennis Ross’s mandate is?

MR. WOOD: I’m so shocked that you asked that question. Let me give you my best – our best read of this. From our standpoint, the countries that make up areas of the Gulf and Southwest Asia include Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen, and those are the countries.

You may notice that Afghanistan and Pakistan are outside that definition. Aha! Behold the vice-like bureaucratic grasp of Richard Holbrooke, special envoy for Af-Pak! Well, perhaps, perhaps not, according to Wood:

Look, Ambassador Ross and Ambassador Holbrooke will work together where necessary if they need to, if there’s some kind of overlap. But that’s, in essence, the State Department’s geographical breakdown of Southwest Asia.

An awesome and testy exchange goes on for awhile about whether there’s a turf war going on between Ross and Holbrooke. Wood ultimately shuts down the line of questioning, which is a good* prima facie* indication that it is, in fact, happening.

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