I didn’t see today’s State Department presser, but Ben Smith did, and he passes on word that spokesman Ian Kelly “would not confirm or deny” today’s Ha’aretz report that Iran troubleshooter Dennis Ross has been ousted. It reads to me from the quotes that Ben provides (“He has not been fired. He is not being ousted.”) that Kelly sort of did deny it, but I’ll take Ben’s word for it. Transcript should be emailed soon. Also, no one’s called me back on this.
Update: More from Laura Rozen, who doesn’t believe that Ross is on the outs. But I do wonder about this:
Ross would seem to have been strengthened inside the interagency process by the recent tumult in Iran, which some veteran Iran analysts describe as an attempted coup by hard-liners to preemptively declare incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner of Friday’s contested presidential elections.
Isn’t that a premature conclusion? While it’s no doubt certain that the opposition is going to prevail, it could be that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s decision to inquire into vote fraud is the first step in backing the regime down from the brink of growing civil unrest, recognizing that its attempt at a coup was a miscalculation. And if that is the case, then it’s premature to say that Obama’s got to turn to his hardliners for an effective policy. That’s hardly a guarantee, since God only knows how a chastened regime will behave internationally — maybe it’ll grow *more *intransigent and bellicose consolidate internal calm — but it’s way too soon to say that reckless regime action narrows Obama’s possible responses. Contrary to what Ezra Klein writes, not every forseeable outcome is a depressing one.
Update 2: Here’s the transcript. It really does seem like Kelly denied the report.