What’s up with Dennis Ross?

Jeffrey Goldberg is trying to figure out where Dennis Ross will be working.  What exactly does Southwest Asia and the Gulf mean?  Goldberg quotes a State Department press briefing:

QUESTION: Can you give us – well, what is the State Department’s definition geographically of Southwest Asia? What countries does that include?
MR. WOOD: Matt, I didn’t —
QUESTION: No, you guys named an envoy for Southwest Asia. I presume that you know what countries that includes.
MR. WOOD: Yes. Of course, we know. I just – I don’t have the list to run off – you know, right off the top of my head here. But obviously, that’s going to encompass – that region encompasses Iran. It will – you know, it’ll deal with —
MR. WOOD: Well, he’s going to be in touch with a number of officials who work on issues throughout this region.
QUESTION: Does it include Iraq?
MR. WOOD: Indeed, it does…. .
QUESTION: And so, does it include parts of the Middle East?
MR. WOOD: Yes.
QUESTION: It does? Does it include Syria, and it includes Israel and it includes Jordan?
MR. WOOD: Well, he’ll be looking at the entire region that will include, you know–
QUESTION: Where does that stop? I mean, you know, you have NEA which, you know, runs all the way to Morocco. So does it include –
Okay, granted that is vague.  But it’s not hard to figure out what Dennis Ross’s geographic jurisdiction will be.  Iran.  He will be working on Iran.  This will probably include their nuclear weapons program, their support for Islamist groups across the world, Israel, oil, human rights… Iran is an important player on a number of issues.
A recurring theme for President Obama during the campaign was his willingness to engage in (always “responsible”) diplomacy.  That includes dealing directly with Iran.  But even if this is “without preconditions” it will not be done without preparation.  Dennis Ross is at the State Department to begin our diplomatic engagement with Iran.  I don’t know which issues he’ll work on first.  My guess would be nukes.
At least that’s how I see it.  Maybe I’m just hoping.

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