Dennis Ross' recent appointment as special envoy to the Gulf and Southwest Asia got a relatively quiet rollout, certainly compared to the high-profile photo-ops with the president, vice president, and the secretary of state when they rolled out special envoys to the Middle East and Afghanistan. That comparison has reflected a degree of confusion about Ross' mandate and authority, writes Michael Crowley in The New Republic.
Crowley cites critics and supporters of Ross -- a veteran of Republican and Democratic administrations going back to the Reagan administration -- who question his ability to deal with Iran, even his depth of understanding of Iran.
He may not have included Iran in an extensive book on the Middle East peace process, as Crowley notes, but he does have a public track record on Iran, such as this essay he wrote for Newsweek magazine in November 2008, called "Iran: Talk Tough with Tehran."
You can get a more extensive idea of what's driving our envoy to Iran and its neighbors by watching the video below from his June 27, 2007, speech and question-and-answer session at The Commonwealth Club. It's clear that he has a challenging job, but his public track record is worth examining.
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