The appointment of Dennis Ross as Special Adviser on Gulf Affairs (read Iran) was announced quietly last night. He is an adviser to Clinton, but not formally to the President, unlike Mitchell and Holbrooke. The appointment has been the subject of considerable speculation and controversy. The Washington Post speculated that the low key may be part of Ross' own strategy. "Ross's efforts may remain hidden for some time. In an article titled

'Diplomatic Strategies for Dealing With Iran,' published in September by the Center for a New American Security, Ross recommended that the initial approach to Iran take place through a "direct, secret back channel." Ross wrote that 'keeping it completely private would protect each side from premature exposure and would not require either side to publicly explain such a move before it was ready. It would strike the Iranians as more significant and dramatic.'" The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reminded that, "During the campaign, Ross outlined what he said was a "sticks-then-carrots" approach to engaging Iran: rallying the international community to tighten
sanctions and then offering incentives to have the Islamic Republic stand down from its suspected nuclear weapons program. "

Here is the text of the State Department announcement:

Appointment of Dennis Ross as Special Advisor for The Gulf and Southwest Asia

Robert Wood
Acting Department Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 23, 2009

The Secretary is pleased to announce the appointment of Dennis B. Ross to the position of Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for The Gulf and Southwest Asia. This is a region in which America is fighting two wars and facing challenges of ongoing conflict, terror, proliferation, access to energy, economic development and strengthening democracy and the rule of law. In this area, we must strive to build support for U.S. goals and policies. To be successful, we will need to be able to integrate our policy development and implementation across a broad range of offices and senior officials in the State Department, and, in his role as Special Advisor to the Secretary, Ambassador Ross will be asked to play that role.

Specifically, as Special Advisor, he will provide to the Secretary and senior State Department officials strategic advice and perspective on the region; offer assessments and also act to ensure effective policy integration throughout the region; coordinate with senior officials in the development and formulation of new policy approaches; and participate, at the request of the Secretary, in inter-agency activities related to the region.

Ambassador Ross brings a wealth of experience not just to issues within the region but also to larger political-military challenges that flow from the area and have an impact outside of the Gulf and Southwest Asia, and the Secretary looks forward to drawing on that experience and diplomatic perspective.