Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 15, 2009

Jones vs. Ross - Knock Out In The Third Round

As also posted some seven hours ago under today's link thread, Haaretz is reporting that Dennis Ross will be fired from his position as the Iran coordinator of the Obama government:

Dennis Ross, who most recently served as a special State Department envoy to Iran, will abruptly be relieved of his duties, sources in Washington told Haaretz. An official announcement is expected in the coming days.

The Obama administration will announce that Ross has been reassigned to another position in the White House. In his new post, the former Mideast peace envoy under President Bill Clinton will deal primarily with regional issues related to the peace process.

As of now the report is unconfirmed by other sources.

The current Haaretz piece is headlined: "Why is Dennis Ross being ousted as Obama envoy to Iran?" The earlier headline was: "Was Dennis Ross ousted as U.S. envoy to Iran because he's a Jew?". If I remember correctly the earlier piece did not include the second paragraph of the current one which says Ross will in future "deal primarily with regional issues related to the peace process."

We do not know why Ross was moved from that position. He should not have been put there in the first place because he is a. against talking with Iran, b. has never had success in achieving agreements in his earlier roles in the Clinton administration, c. has no experience on or with Iran at all.

Haaretz names several possible reason for this move. His open mistrust about talks with Iran, Irans alleged refusal to accept Ross in the negotiator role, his possible own dissatisfaction with his job and a rumored move of Ross to the National Security Agency where, a Haaretz source claims, he would work more directly under Obama.

The last claim sounds bogus to me. Ross does not have any experience as spy - at least not for the United States. The other ones are spurious too. Ross' positions towards Iran was known before he was put onto the job. They can not be reason to now remove him.

I for one assume something different. Over the last month a character assassination campaign was launched against the head of the National Security Council James Jones. It publicly started May 18 when Sally Quinn, conservative wife of former Washington Post editor Benjamin C. Bradlee, gossiped:

The knives are out. The tom-toms are beating. And by Washington standards it's soon. Usually the trashing of the national security adviser takes longer.

In recent days articles have appeared in The Post and the New York Times questioning the abilities of retired four-star Gen. Jim Jones, the former commandant of the Marine Corps and former NATO commander.
Today, the sniping is reportedly coming mostly from State Department officials and some staffers at the White House.
Obama has said many times that he wants to hear all voices. He famously assembled a team of rivals. And if those who are sniping think Jim Jones is not doing a good job, they should go directly to the president, not leak and spin to the press. That's their duty. Obama is not afraid to cut his losses.

In an earlier portrait David Ignatius wrote about Jones:

Jones is an activist on the Palestinian issue, which he lists as a top priority for the new administration. He wants the United States to offer a guiding hand in peace negotiations -- submitting its own ideas to help break any logjams between the Israelis and Palestinians. "The United States is at its best when it's directly involved," Jones says.

The second attack against Jones came in a Steve Clemons rumor piece at the Washington Note last Friday where he asked: Can James Jones Survive a Second Round of Attacks and "Longer Knives":?

I've received not just one email -- but three -- from prominent insider journalists and policy hands that Jim Jones' tenure as National Security Adviser is highly fragile.

One of these emails reports starkly:

         Knives getting longer

That's all my contact said. But other emails have intimated to me a serious tone-deafness by Jones about his role and responsibilities, his relationship with the President, and his relationship with younger, dedicated, hardworking and late-working staff.

That was followed by lots of assertions about how Jones' character and how he does his job. All of which were set out in a bad light even when one could argue that they are rather positive. Clemons ended:

Jones has structured an all views on the table approach to decision making -- quite evident when it comes to Middle East policy -- and the hawkish/neocon-friendly/Likudist-hugging part of the Obama administration's foreign policy operation may be engaged in a coup attempt against Jones.

I don't know if he'll survive this latest effort to oust him -- but folks need to know that those "longer knives", on the whole, do not have pure motives.

It seems clear to me that those attacks came from a high and well connected level at the State Department and as they are connected to Middle East policy quite likely directly from Dennis Ross who is also well known for bureaucratic infighting.

If so(and if Haaretz's sources are right), Ross just lost that fight by knock out in the third round.

As Pat Lang warned when the Quinn piece came out:

One should not confuse reserve with timidity. A former commandant of the US Marine Corps is a dangerous enemy.
Ross just learned that lesson.

Posted by b on June 15, 2009 at 14:58 UTC | Permalink


Might have something to do with Ross' new book released just a few days ago. Not everybody seems to be impressed with his reasonings:

"Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East"

Posted by: ensley | Jun 15 2009 15:40 utc | 1

@ensley - there was little new in that book. Ross had published the same opinion in an earlier paper at the so called Bipartisan Policy Center

Posted by: b | Jun 15 2009 15:44 utc | 2

"Ross does not have any experience as spy - at least not for the United States..."



Posted by: Diane | Jun 15 2009 15:57 utc | 3

Let's see. . . he may be stabbing Gen. Jones in the back, he's still beating the out-of-date Iran War drum, he's the one chef too many who spoils the broth. Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Dennis!

Posted by: Russ Wellen | Jun 15 2009 16:00 utc | 4

ditto #3

Posted by: rudolf | Jun 15 2009 16:05 utc | 5

Could it have something to do with the Iran elections? Just guessing

Posted by: Lysander | Jun 15 2009 16:06 utc | 6

Isn't everyone a spy these days? If not, they're missing out.

Posted by: Obamageddon | Jun 15 2009 16:10 utc | 7

That's true, b.
But with the Iranian election turmoil in the forefront added to Ross' again published viewpoint that we need to engage Iran diplomatically first or the rest of the world won't support our invasion when it comes is not exactly a favorable view for an envoy at this point in time. He supports invading Iran.

Posted by: ensley | Jun 15 2009 16:14 utc | 8

Like Lysander, if it's confirmed, I'd wonder if there's any link to the apparent fiasco of US (at least Obama-backed) efforts to get Ahamdinejad out and to get some so-called reformist as new Iranian president. Or - if Obama doesn't want war with Iran - a pre-emptive move: he may prefer to have the most hawkish guys out of power rather than having them use election results and crackdown as proof a harder line must be taken against Tehran.
Or an addition of various reasons, notably payback for backstabbing Jones and consequences of Iranian election.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Jun 15 2009 16:42 utc | 9

Obama has nothing to do with a decision to go, or not to go, to war with Iran. He takes his Marching Orders and Cheerleads. Are we naive enough to believe that the most powerful, vested interests history has ever witnessed, would allow their fate, their power, to be subject to the whims, fancies and predilections of a mere nobody just five years prior? That's insane.

Posted by: Obamageddon | Jun 15 2009 16:47 utc | 10

Über-likudnik Marty Peretz bites into the earlier Haaretz headline, likes the taste and headlines himself: Dennis Ross, Out As Special Envoy To Iran; Was He Ousted Because He's A Jew Or A Bit Hawkish On Nukes?

To suggest that a Obama White House full of Jewish advisers (Rahm etc) could fire someone because he is a Jew is lunatic.

Posted by: b | Jun 15 2009 16:52 utc | 11

Politico: Kelly: Ross still at State, today

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly would not confirm or deny chatter that Dennis Ross would leave his job running Iran policy at the State Department, possibly for a White House job, saying only that Ross is working there today.

Posted by: b | Jun 15 2009 16:57 utc | 12

What I find ironical is that Mousavi has been described as a Mossadeghian, and yet we are to believe that anyone, and I mean anyone in the state department, pentagon or intelligence services would want someone described as such in power. Come on. Either he's not a Mossadeghian now, although he may have once been, or the big 3 I mentioned above have changed their stripes, substantially. I go with the former. Mousavi, like Ahmadinejad, and any politician for that matter, is an opportunist first, and foremost. Mousavi, apparently, like Obama, is all things to all people, or at least that is the perception that's being painted. You can't corner people like this, and that makes them even more dangerous than a pure idealogue, IMHO.

Posted by: Obamageddon | Jun 15 2009 16:57 utc | 13

Why doesn't Obama make an Iranian-American, with significant ties to Iran, special envoy to Israel? Fair is fair, right?

Posted by: Obamageddon | Jun 15 2009 17:03 utc | 14

I'm not sure that we have enough evidence to establish the link between the anti-Jones campaign and Dennis's (still unconfirmed) ouster... But it may well come along soon.

Posted by: Helena | Jun 15 2009 17:28 utc | 15

Question on the previous post for b and/or Debs re. the alleged heroin connection in Iran. I don't doubt it in the slightest, but is there any documentation or in-depth analysis in print?

Great discussions here!


Posted by: oboblomov | Jun 15 2009 17:51 utc | 16

@oboblomov - Just google "Iran Heroin":

Iran ‘holding back a flood of heroin’ from Afghanistan, UN drug official says
Channel 4 report (video) - 3 years old, but gives a good impression - Iran's heroin fight

Posted by: b | Jun 15 2009 18:15 utc | 17

Why doesn't Obama make an Iranian-American, with significant ties to Iran, special envoy to Israel? Fair is fair, right?

Ahmed Chalabi, though he doesn't completely fit the description, would be a fair fit, as old figures are recycled endlessly.

Posted by: Tangerine | Jun 15 2009 18:16 utc | 18

Mr. Costa visited a memorial to the more than 3,700 border control officers who have died while defending against well-armed drug traffickers. More than 12,000 others have been injured.

Now let's see. Where did those "well-armed" drug traffickers get those arms?

You have to tip your hat to Iran on this one. Seizing 1/3rd hits the intelligence boys where it hurts. What would the Reformers in Iran do about this issue?

The intelligence services don't just limit themselves to heroine. Cocaine, Weed, Heroine. Whatever it takes to undermine the collective will and potential of a population.

Posted by: Obamageddon | Jun 15 2009 19:07 utc | 19

Depressing: Pat Lang

I stand by my opinion that with or without Ross, Israeli agitprop and information operations in America are so successful in creating their own image of Iran that war has become a virtual certainty once the process of indoctrinating Americans is complete. pl

Posted by: b | Jun 15 2009 19:44 utc | 20

It won't be war. It will be liberation. Keep tunned to the propaganda machine.

Posted by: ThePaper | Jun 15 2009 19:51 utc | 21

I think one of the rumors was that Ross would go to the NSC, not the NSA.

NSC is a White House unit; NSA is, at least theoretically, a part of the DoD and a separate agency. I can't imagine him going to NSA - I think they mostly do remote sensing and wiretapping (foreign and domestic these days!). NSC is a great platform for ideologues with an agenda to make mischief.

Posted by: Maxcrat | Jun 16 2009 0:13 utc | 22

Re: Iran and Heroin:

Iran has, for thousands of years, had a huge portion of its population that used Opium; in fact, it may have well been the model for the "Island of the Lotus Eaters" in the Odyssey. Estimates are that, during the 1800's and even up to the mid-1900's, some 40-60% of the population were regular users of the drug.

Yet they did not smoke it; they ate it, and by ingesting it so one can avoid debilitating addiction. Opium was a common drug the world over for thousands of years, but only became problematic in terms of addiction once ingestion by smoking was introduced. This was apparently a combined Portugese/Chinese innovation; Portugese (and other Westerners) brought tobacco and the new-fangled habit of "smoking" over from the New World, and then once in China combined that with Opium to create the "opium pipe".

So while Iran is undoubtedly the largest market for Afghani opium, the heroin problem may well be overstated; international drug interdiction forces love to exaggerate facts and figures and extend them into their worst possible light. For the last few decades, Iran has been a very strong policeman of the world heroin trade (something the U.S. press has never bothered to mention), and a big part of its involvement in Afghanistan has been aimed at controlling and pruning back the opium industry.

Since the numbers that surround drug trafficking are routinely distorted to justify police funding and other legalistic measures -- and since the people who know the actual numbers aren't going to publicize them for fear of going to jail, or exposing their profits -- i think it's probably best if everyone took this particular "fact" with a very big grain of salt.

Posted by: china_hand2 | Jun 16 2009 2:40 utc | 23

To suggest that a Obama White House full of Jewish advisers (Rahm etc) could fire someone because he is a Jew is lunatic.

As analysis, not as fear mongering.

Posted by: rjj | Jun 16 2009 4:38 utc | 24

pandemics, antisemitism, asteroids, etc. every peril helps maintain optimal levels of anxiety.

Posted by: rjj | Jun 16 2009 4:57 utc | 25

re: Iran election numbers

the line the Western press is taking is beginning to get interesting. the conservative press is much more careful by assuming that it cannot be proven the vote was rigged.

Posted by: outsider | Jun 16 2009 5:17 utc | 26

HuffPo has Ross moving to the NSC: Dennis Ross To Move To NSC: U.S. Officials

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's pointman on Iran is moving from the State Department to the White House to better coordinate inter-agency policy on the Persian Gulf region, U.S. officials said Monday.
The White House and State Department declined to comment on the matter but denied an Israeli newspaper report that Ross was being removed from his job.
Weird ... why that change? To get him under control or to hug him to death?

Posted by: b | Jun 16 2009 5:54 utc | 27

Iran has, for thousands of years, had a huge portion of its population that used Opium; in fact, it may have well been the model for the "Island of the Lotus Eaters" in the Odyssey. Estimates are that, during the 1800's and even up to the mid-1900's, some 40-60% of the population were regular users of the drug.

Rubbish. Recreational Opium consumption in Iran is a relatively recent development, under the Safavids 1500-1722. I should think it comes from Sufis looking for spiritual communication with the infinite. Before that it was a widely used medicinal drug.

Posted by: Alex_no | Jun 16 2009 6:14 utc | 28

You should shut the fuck up about things you know nothing about, Alex_no.

Posted by: china_hand2 | Jun 16 2009 7:02 utc | 29

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