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Defining Dennis Ross: From Somalia To Kyrgyzstan?

Just when you thought the Dennis Ross parlor game was over: Check out the minor comedy of today's State Department briefing on the appointment:

QUESTION: Dennis Ross?
MR. WOOD: Yeah.
QUESTION: What is he in charge exactly of?
MR. WOOD: Well, Dennis is –
QUESTION: Is it Iran? And if it’s not Iran – if it’s Iran, why is it not written in the statement?
MR. WOOD: Well, let me just start off by saying, the Secretary is very happy that Dennis Ross agreed to serve as her special advisor for the Gulf and Southwest Asia. What Dennis is going to be charged with doing is trying to integrate policy development and implementation across a number of offices and officials in the State Department. And, you know, he is going to be providing the Secretary with strategic advice. He will be also trying to ensure that there’s a coherence in our policies and strategies across the region.
Let me be clear, he’s not an envoy. He will not be negotiating. He’ll be working on regional issues. He will not be – in terms of negotiating, will not be involved in the peace process. But again, he is going to be advising the Secretary on long-term strategic issues across the region.
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 --
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 –
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 Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, countries that are within the – within the Middle East or within the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, but are not necessarily technically part of Southwest Asia?
MR. WOOD: He will be providing advice to the Secretary on a – across that entire region, where appropriate, where she needs it, and that’s the position he will serve.
QUESTION: So he’s going to meet with the leaders in the region as well, so you said he is going to offer an assessment --
MR. WOOD: That’s right. At some point, he will.
QUESTION: -- including the Iranians?
MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not sure at this point. But again, our policy with regard to Iran is under review, so once that review is completed, we’ll be able to go forward vis-