Delayed reaction here, but this dramatic passage from a holiday weekend NYT op-ed by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett hasn't gotten the attention it deserves:

In conversations with Mr. Ross before Mr. Obama’s election, we asked him if he really believed that engage-with-pressure would bring concessions from Iran. He forthrightly acknowledged that this was unlikely. Why, then, was he advocating a diplomatic course that, in his judgment, would probably fail? Because, he told us, if Iran continued to expand its nuclear fuel program, at some point in the next couple of years President Bush’s successor would need to order military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets. Citing past “diplomacy” would be necessary for that president to claim any military action was legitimate.

Iranian officials are fully aware of Mr. Ross’s views — and are increasingly suspicious that he is determined that the Obama administration make, as one senior Iranian diplomat said to us, “an offer we can’t accept,” simply to gain international support for coercive action.

I've made a couple of inquiries at the State Department to see whether Ross wants to respond, with no answer. They don't seem to want to go near this one.

---Michael Crowley