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So What’s Up With Dennis Ross? « The Washington Independent

It is not a question I can answer. Ever since the not-quite-State-Department-Iran-envoy got scheduled to move over to the White House, all I’ve heard is that… he was moving to the White House, taking a position of some undefined scope. Pretty much every State Department briefing for the last week has had an element of Dennis Ross Watch to it. “As of today, he is – he’s here at the State Department. He has been in constant touch with the Secretary,” beleaguered spokesman Ian Kelly said yesterday. “I know that he spoke with her several times over the weekend.”

What I do know is that Doug Ollivant, the National Security Council’s Iraq director, left the White House as part of a long-scheduled departure last week, and there has been no announcement of who’s going to replace him. According to both Al Kamen and Laura Rozen, Ross is nibbling off a bit of the Iraq desk for himself. Rozen reports that there’s some agita about this.

The Cable has learned that deputy national security advisor Thomas Donilon, among others, is positioning Ross to assume an uber-senior NSC position overseeing Iran, Iraq, and the Middle East. The Iraq portfolio formerly assigned to holdover war czar Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute will be shifted to Ross, leaving Lute to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Puneet Talwar, the NSC’s senior director for the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Iran, will report to Ross, as will Daniel Shapiro, the NSC’s senior director for the Middle East and North Africa**.**

Under the new NSC structure, there will be no dedicated senior director for Iraq and there will be only two or three directors for Iraq, reporting to Talwar.

Interesting. One grumble that’s starting to bubble up in some foreign-policy quarters is that the crush of immediate crises is leading the administration to neglect Iraq. No idea if the Ross move would reverse this or what.

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