It looks like yesterday's Dennis Ross report from Robin Wright, via Politico, was incomplete. Instead of saying that Ross's issue at the NSC will be Iraq, it should have said it will be a broad portfolio which includes Iraq, as well as Iran and the Middle East more broadly. That's what I was told by a Ross-watcher yesterday afternoon, and what Al Kamen reports in today's Post. It would also explain why special Middle East envoy George Mitchell might have qualms about the change. He wouldn't care if Ross was doing Iraq, but he does have a stake in new oversight of his Israeli-Palestinian portfolio. (I'm also told, by the way, that Ross played a helpful role around the recent visit of Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington, affirming the sense of those who felt that he could be a constructive force in getting the peace process moving.)
Ross critics are rolling their eyes; Kamen cites those who fret that, like the new US ambassador there, Chris Hill, he has never dealt directly with Iraq before. On the other hand, a longtime Democratic foreign policy hand reminded me yesterday that Ross has proved a versatile diplomat over the years. During the 1980s he was instrumental in George Bush's policy on the Soviet Union and Latin America before becoming a Middle East specialist. So while people can argue about how effective he's been--he didn't get Bill Clinton's peace push across the goal line, after all--it is true that he's bounced around like this in the past to general accolades from his colleagues.