Laura Rozen reports that U.S. Afghanistan/Pakistan envoy Amb. Richard Holbrooke has asked Middle East scholar Vali Nasr, best known for his views on Iran, to serve as his senior advisor. "Asked if the move might signal that Holbrooke intends to take a regional

approach that includes Afghanistan's neighbors, among them Iran, Nasr says not necessarily." Iran is the focus of a different envoy, Holbrooke's colleague Dennis Ross. It is not clear how Holbrooke and Ross will handle the overlap.

Nasr has controversial views on Iran. In the Washington Post, he said, "To liberalize the theocratic state, the United States would do better to shelve its containment strategy and embark on a policy of unconditional dialogue and sanctions relief. A reduced American threat would deprive the hard-liners of the conflict they need to justify their concentration of power." In a recent Foreign Affairs article, he said: "The Bush administration wants to contain Iran by rallying the support of Sunni Arab states and now sees Iran's containment as the heart of its Middle East policy: a way to stabilize Iraq, declaw Hezbollah, and restart the Arab-Israeli peace process. But the strategy is unsound and impractical, and it will probably further destabilize an already volatile region."