From Josh Roginâ€™s excellent â€œCableâ€ blog at foreignpolicy.com today:
Dennis Ross links Middle East peace to Iran
Posted By Josh Rogin Wednesday, May 5, 2010 â€“ 6:16 PM
The National Security Councilâ€™s Dennis Ross is the latest U.S. official to link the Obama administrationâ€™s drive to secure peace between Israelis and Arabs to the overall goal of bringing greater stability to the region and combating the threat from Iran.
â€œIn this region, pursuing peace is instrumental to shaping a new regional context,â€ Ross said in remarks Monday evening. â€œPursuing peace is not a substitute for dealing with the other challenges â€¦ It is also not a panacea. But especially as it relates to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, if one could do that, it would deny state and non-state actors a tool they use to exploit anger and grievances.â€
Ross was speaking at the closing dinner for the Anti-Defamation League annual conference, where attendees also heard from the NSCâ€™s Daniel Shapiro, the State Departmentâ€™s coordinator for counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin, special envoy for monitoring anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal, Israeli Amb. Michael Oren, and others.
Ross, whose exact portfolio at the NSC has been the subject of much speculation outside the administration, noted that â€œthe greatest challenge for peace, for security in the Middle East, lies in Iranâ€ and tied the Israeli-Arab conflict to the Islamic Republic.
â€œClearly one way that Iran is increasing its influence in the region is by exploiting the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians,â€ Ross said, echoing statements made by U.S. Centcom commander Gen. David Petraeus in a report (pdf) submitted to Congress back in March.
â€œThe enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests,â€ Petraeus wrote. â€œThe conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.â€
Conservative hard-liners ripped Petraeus for the statement, linking the report to a story on Foreign Policyâ€™s Middle East Channel (some elements of which are in dispute). The National Reviewâ€™s Andrew McCarthy even accused the general of â€œechoing the narrative peddled incessantly by leftists in the government he serves and by Islamists in the countries where he works.â€
But Ross, who is not often accused of being too hard on Israel, made similar comments Monday. â€œThe continuation of the conflict strengthens Iranâ€™s rejectionist partners and also Hezbollah. Iran deliberately uses the conflict to expose even the moderates in the region by stoking the fears of its populations and playing the worst most anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist prejudices,â€ he said.
This is quite a remarkable statement and should no doubt create some consternation at AIPAC, among other right-wing Israel Lobby institutions.