A Bright Shining Lie: Dennis Ross And The Run-Up to An Attack On Iran

I recently had the opportunity to ask former US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross this question: Should the US create foreign policy on the basis of what Israel perceives or threatens to do? His answer was startling and ominous.

Dennis Ross is a bright shining lie. He is the type of brilliant bureaucrat that can lie the US into a war with the credibility of a Colin Powell and the blind dedication of a Douglas Feith. His war of choice is Iran, and if all goes according to his envisioning, he will be a prominent player in an Obama administration when the first American-supplied smart bomb is dropped in a US-sanctioned Israeli attack on Iran in 2010.

Ross claims to be an accomplished diplomat, and an objective and dispassionate analyst of the Middle East. He was in fact an abject failure as Bill Clinton’s Middle East coordinator1 and is a zealous advocate on behalf of the Israeli government and its American supporters. As Clinton’s envoy and negotiator, Ross’ forte was justifying Israeli non-compliance with their own previous agreements, (many of which were formal and signed) and then renegotiating those agreements on Israel’s behalf. This tactic directly led to the breakdown of Syrian/Israeli peace talks in 2000. Ross’ duplicitous style also proved extremely deleterious in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinians, and even some American diplomats, asked President Clinton to replace Ross because of his dishonesty and bias, but Clinton always refused to do so. Somehow, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, Ross has been able to successfully cultivate and maintain his false public image as a successful and dispassionate mediator.

A couple of weeks ago, Ross, who is presently advising and campaigning for Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, gave a lecture at Colgate University, a small liberal arts school in Central New York. It was during the question and answer period that I brought up a prominent report in the Israeli press which said former member of parliament and former cabinet minister Ephraim Sneh, speaking for his government, sent identical memos to both Senators Obama and John McCain. The memos declared that Israel would attack Iran in 2010 unless the “Iranian nuclear threat” is negated by a US attack or a regime change in Tehran.For a particularly good account see Swisher, Clayton, E., The Truth About Camp David, Nation, 2004.

Subsequent to having received the memo, Barack Obama was asked at a campaign stop in Iowa if Israel felt it had the “green light” from the US to attack Iran. Obama chose not to answer the question directly, claiming any answer would be speculation. Instead the candidate responded, “my job as President would be to try to make sure that we are tightening the screws on Iran… before Israel feels its back is to the wall.”Bohan, Caren, “Obama: World Must Press Iran Or Israel May Respond,” Reuters, August, 25, 2008.

My question to Dennis Ross, a logical choice for a senior foreign policy appointment in a Democratic administration, was whether he believes it was wise for Obama to imply that he would create US foreign policy on the basis of what Israel perceives or threatens to do. This is especially important since we are apparently talking about a massive Israeli military assault on Iran which could escalate into a wider war and have a grave impact upon American interests and armed forces in the region.

Ross’ answer was astounding. He said he sees nothing wrong with Obama’s statement since the candidate was only stating a fact. Ross then said if the Israelis want to attack Iran there is nothing the U.S. can do to stop them. Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity for a follow-up since a visibly agitated Ross concluded his response with his back toward me and quickly went on to the next questioner. If I had had a chance for a follow-up, I would have pointed out to Ross that to say that the US cannot stop Israel from attacking Iran is simply not true. One proof is that the Bush administration prevented such an attack just last summer. This has been widely reported and publicly confirmed by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Is Ross saying that although the Bush administration blocked Israel, our Barack will not consider stopping their Barak if Israel chooses to assault Iran? Didn’t the American people vote for a less militaristic approach to foreign policy in 2006, thinking that by electing a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives they were voting for peaceful solutions? Is anybody in the Democratic Party listening?

Ross’ bellicose stand on Iran actually comes as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with his slavish obeisance to whatever is the current Israeli policy. Last week Ross wrote that the Bush administration is failing in regard to Iran, opining that we cannot afford “four more years of US policies that are tough rhetorically but soft practically.”Ross, Dennis, “Why I Support Barack Obama,” The Jewish Journal, October 9, 2008. In a recent Wall Street Journal articleRoss, Dennis, et al., “Everyone Needs To Worry About Iran,” Wall Street Journal, September 22, 2008. co-authored with Richard Holbrooke and James Woolsey, with whom he has founded the group called United Against Nuclear Iran, Ross and his colleagues beat the drums for war with the usual exaggerated warnings of imminent danger and a dubious list of past and future Iranian transgressions.

In an article in the Financial TimesDombey, Daniel and Blitz, James, “US and EU Plan Iran Sanctions,” Financial Times, October 13, 2008., Daniel Dombey and James Blitz wrote that Ross, working with the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think-tank, has produced a report calling for the Americans and Europeans to bypass the United Nations and impose tougher sanctions on Iran. In addition to the sanction campaign, the report, which is titled “Meeting the Challenge: US Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development,”Coates, Daniel et al., “Meeting The Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development,” Bipartisan Policy Center, September 19, 2008. To download, right click on “Download Report.” recommends taking military steps such as “pre-positioning additional US and allied forces, deploying additional aircraft carrier battle groups and minesweepers [and] emplacing other war materiel in the [Gulf] region.” The report further urges that these military actions should be taken by the new President on his first day in office!

During the Oslo peace negotiations, far from being an honest broker, Ross was actually Israel’s lawyer, working tirelessly to achieve what he believed to be the best possible outcome for his client, then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. After negotiations failed, like any good lawyer, he praised his client and immediately and deceptively placed all fault for the breakdown of the Camp David summit on Yasser Arafat, despite a prior agreement not to do so. Arafat had been reluctant to participate in the summit since he correctly believed that the timing and the “make or break” nature of the planned meeting would be disadvantageous for his side. The Palestinian leader only agreed to attend when President Bill Clinton promised that neither side would be publicly held responsible if the talks failed. Ross has been violating that agreement continually and vociferously for the past eight years by unjustifiably blaming the Palestinians for the failure of Camp David. Mercifully, this was not a part of his stage show at Colgate.

At Colgate, Ross was introduced as a Soviet scholar and diplomat who has been devoted to pursuing peace in the Middle East. No mention was made of his long association with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) which is a prominent pro-Israel think-tank founded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The introduction did not state that Ross is currently an advisor to Barack Obama and that he is campaigning for the candidate among Jewish voters using a talking point that Obama will stop Iran from threatening Israel. Finally, the introduction did not mention that Ross is Jewish, with many professional and personal ties to the State of Israel. Interestingly, Ross himself did not voluntarily allude to any of these very relevant details during his talk, which was mostly about Middle East diplomacy, although some of these facts surfaced during the question and answer session.

Dennis Ross bristles when he is characterized as a member of the pro-Israel lobby. He was, however, one of the public intellectuals who were prominent in the vociferous and disingenuous attacks on John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, two academics whose recent book, The Israel Lobby, angered many in the pro-Israel camp. Yet Ross differs with many in the American pro-Israel community in that he always seems to side with the current Israeli government even when most members of pro-Israel American organizations such as AIPAC, do not. Ross will advocate territorial compromise if the present Israeli government supports it. Thus he was a champion of the Oslo peace process, is a supporter of talks with Syria and was an advocate on behalf of Ariel Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza. On the other hand, a vast majority of pro-Israel American organizations and their members are more in tune than Ross is with the settler movement and right-wing Likud party line, and are prone to reject any Israeli negotiation or territorial compromise.

Before I arrived at Colgate, I considered raising some issues during the question and answer session about Ross’ unsuitability to represent US interests in regard to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and with the Arab world generally. In addition to his affiliation with WINEP, a lesser known conflict of interest and one that may be an even greater indication of Ross’ bias, is his chairmanship of the Jerusalem-based think-tank the Jewish People Planning Policy Institute (JPPPI). JPPPI is a part of the Jewish Agency for Israel. The Jewish Agency or the Sochnut (Agency), as it is usually referred to in Hebrew, is an important Israeli quasi-governmental entity which originally was the government-in-waiting under the British Mandate. Today the Jewish Agency has a more limited role but still is an important well-funded institution in Israeli-Jewish society.

On the subject of Iran, Ross is a fervent and active advocate for Israel and their ill-conceived planned military attack. Like Vice President Cheney did with Iraq, he ignores all evidence which does not support his preconceived view. Like Cheney, he even ignores the reports of the U.S. intelligence community. (The National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 casts doubt on the view that Iran will shortly possess nuclear weapons.) He also ignores the fact that Israel wants to destabilize Iran because of Tehran’s support of its enemies, Hamas and Hezbollah. This may be the main reason for any Israeli aggression against Tehran and not the alleged nuclear threat.

The U.S. Secretary of State Robert Gates has stated that a US or Israeli attack on Iran at this time would not be in the best interests of the United States. Gates averred that such an attack would play havoc with the price of oil and cause massive Iranian retaliation, possibly coordinated with Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria against US forces and against Israel. Not everyone in Israel wants to attack Iran. Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit cautioned that “Israel must on no account attack Iran, speak of attacking Iran or even think about it…. [A]ttacking Iran on our own initiative is a megalomaniacal reckless idea.”Mualem, Mazal and Verter, Yossi, “Israel Must Not Attack Iran, Except In The Line Of Defense,” Ha’aretz, n.d. (but within the last two months). The page also contains a video reporting that the Bush administration refused to send Israel equipment that would improve its ability to attack Iran.

The current decision-makers in the Israeli government, however, are willing to either ignore or accept the disastrous consequences of an attack on Iran even though they have agreed to delay it. If elected, Barack Obama probably will have to decide whether the United States will regard Iran’s “nuclear threat” from an Israeli perspective and agree to their planned attack. If he has to make that decision, let’s hope Dennis Ross will not be one of his key Middle East advisors.

Ira Glunts is a Jewish-American, recovered liberal Zionist, retired university librarian and avid fan of the Tottenham Hotspur.  He and his wife live in Madison, NY with their five cats. Read other articles by Ira.

29 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. mary said on October 23rd, 2008 at 10:28am #


    What wickedness. He talks here last Sundsay to a Jewish audience in Florida of ‘strong sticks’ and ‘strong carrots’. What he is really saying is that he wants to see more blood trickling into the sand, more body parts lying around and more burnt human flesh in a new scenario – oh yes and coffins being repatriated. Has Bush ever been there to receive a coffin containing a dead member of the military? No. Blair and Brown here have not done so either. PLEASE Americans do not vote either for Obama or McCain – before it is too late. And thank you Ira for this warning.

  2. Deadbeat said on October 23rd, 2008 at 10:35am #

    Mary has it wrong. Pleading to American not to vote for Obama or McCain is futile. Both Obama and McCain has to kowtow to Zionism in order to become President of the United States. It doesn’t matter who it is. The problem is the inordinate influence of Zionism upon the U.S. political economy. What Mary doesn’t understand is that the American Left is very protective of American Zionism.

  3. Brad said on October 23rd, 2008 at 11:08am #

    Oh, dear. If you genuinely think that Israel is going to wait until 2010 to take out Iran’s nuclear program, you’re sadly mistaken.

    Try 2008.

  4. Giorgio said on October 23rd, 2008 at 12:49pm #

    Well the warmongers are out of the woodwork and basking in the sun…but what really amazes me is reading articles in DV and this one is no exception, and not a word about the man who could really change this warmongering frenzy. If the “Progressive Left” is really and honestly hell-bent anti-war every 3rd to 6th article posted here would be espousing the merits of backing to the hilt Ron Paul’s Campaign for LIBERTY!
    Who the hell cares about Dennis Ross? Panderers of Zionism like him litter the US Congress and Government! So the real effort should be to neutralize the influence of these psychopaths in the political decision-making process by creating a counter movement of sensible, principled, honest people like Ron Paul. As for the Sacred Cow Israel, Ron Paul most certainly would know when to tell it to jump off. For starters he would cut off aid to Israel, Pakistan and the likes and tell them to solve their own regional problems…they grown up enough for that…
    Deadbeat has a point “the American Left is very protective of American Zionism.” When you have been fed sacred cow’s milk from the very cradle it’s hard to break the habit!

  5. Donald Hawkins said on October 23rd, 2008 at 1:36pm #

    Obstruction of Justice

    James Hansen “You’re Hannah, right?” Hannah Morgan, a 20-year old from Appalachia, Virginia, was one of 11 protesters in handcuffs early Monday morning September 15 at the construction site for a coal-fired power plant being built in Wise County Virginia by Dominion Power. The handcuffs were applied by the police, but the questioner, it turns out, was from Dominion Power.
    “Mumble, mumble, mumble”, the discussion between police and the Dominion man were too far away to be heard by the young people. But it almost seemed that the police were working for Dominion. Maybe that’s the way it works in a company town. Or should we say company state? Virginia has got one of the most green-washed coal-blackened governors in the nation.

    It seems Hannah had been pegged by Dominion as a “ringleader”. She had participated for two years in public meetings and demonstrations against the plan for mountaintop removal, strip mining and coal burning, and she had rejected their attempts to either intimidate or bargain.
    “Bargain?” What bargain is possible when Dominion is guaranteed 14% return on their costs, whether the coal plant’s power is needed or not. Utility customers have to cough this up, and they aren’t given any choice. The meetings and demonstrations were peaceful. Forty-five thousand signatures against the plant were collected. But money seems to talk louder.
    Dominion’s “mumble, mumble” must have been convincing. Hannah and Kate Rooth were charged with 10 more crimes than the other 10 defendants. Their charges included “encouraging or soliciting” others to participate in the action and were topped by “obstruction of justice”. Penalty if convicted: up to 14 years in prison. [Why does this remind me of Jim Jobe in “Grapes of Wrath”?] James Hansen

    This from a new post by James Hansen like to read more go to his web site. Google James Hansen you will see it titled Obstruction of Justice at the top you will see it.

  6. phoebe13 said on October 23rd, 2008 at 1:39pm #

    It’s not just the left that protects Israel.
    The far right, the wingnuts, like the Rev. Hagee in Texas are very, very close to Israel…..

  7. DavidG. said on October 23rd, 2008 at 2:32pm #

    Hopefully the next American Civil War will prevent any nuclear attack on Iran and end America’s pre-oocupation wi th Israel.

    Do you think I’m joking? Check my blog if you’re game.

  8. DavidG. said on October 23rd, 2008 at 2:32pm #

    Hopefully the next American Civil War will prevent any nuclear attack on Iran and end America’s dangerous pre-occupation with Israel.

    Do you think I’m joking? Check my blog if you’re game.

  9. Giorgio said on October 23rd, 2008 at 3:14pm #

    Where the hell is u blog?

  10. Luke. said on October 23rd, 2008 at 3:32pm #

    It is an strategy deeply rooted in the economic system itself. Since the majority of the Finance-Capitalists are Zionist, so the imperialism’s agenda is conformed with the Zionist agenda. This article will help more:

  11. Danny Ray said on October 23rd, 2008 at 4:00pm #

    14 million Blogs out there and you want us to look at your? This hurts, but I have to agree with Giorgio where is it?

  12. Donald Hawkins said on October 23rd, 2008 at 5:20pm #

    Click on DavidG it was my first thought.

  13. DavidG. said on October 23rd, 2008 at 6:43pm #

    I thought everyone on Dissident Voice knew the ropes! Sorry! Top marks to Donald.

    Brad, I think you’re right! And it may happen before George folds his tent and hopefully disappears forever. As if we haven’t got enough to contend with already!

    P.S. My previous comment loaded twice. Don’t know why.

  14. Max Shields said on October 23rd, 2008 at 7:38pm #


    You are absolutely right. We have much to be concerned about with this empire gone made. There is no spot on the planet that is not for US imperialism destruction. Ross’s “strong sticks and strong carrots”, that’s American imperialistic diplomacy at its finest.

    Deadbeat, for you: If/when Obama/McCain take office and bomb the shit out of Iran – it will really be the American left who made them do it. Right Deadbeat?

  15. Giorgio said on October 23rd, 2008 at 8:38pm #

    HOLY MOSES! Can you imagine this global village of ours having to contend with morphs the likes of J Stalin and A Sharon…the Hitlers would be a godsend by comparison… and don’t underestimate them, the Zionists with 5679+ years of history behind them ( compared to USA’s piddle 200+ years) are a force to be taken seriously…
    Patrick Grimm, the arch anti-Zionist, has just had his blog suspended and this is the second time it happens to him within a few months…

    As for that DavidG blog , OK! Pardon this monkey’s ignorance….
    I had a look and liked it, especially that Million Dollar question:

    Well, there is a 65 page book in the Self-Publishing site http://www.lulu.com
    entitled ‘”THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST” which, interestingly, answers in a funny way the above question. It has a free preview to whet one’s appetite…

  16. Hue Longer said on October 23rd, 2008 at 10:08pm #


    Most progressives will tell you that the problem with Paul is his Libertarian ideologies and his quiet nod to the masses of racist xenophobes supporting him. Other than that, I’m sure most admire his no war stance and love for the constitution. But why get on his wagon as opposed to Nader’s?

    I’ve asked you before, but you didn’t respond. Thanks

  17. Giorgio said on October 24th, 2008 at 2:38am #

    I did respond to u a while ago and is in the comments under the article “Hitler Endorses Obama” where the original query was raised. I think it answers what you just posted, too.

  18. Deadbeat said on October 24th, 2008 at 3:08am #

    Max opines …
    Deadbeat, for you: If/when Obama/McCain take office and bomb the shit out of Iran – it will really be the American left who made them do it. Right Deadbeat?

    No Max it will be all YOUR fault for failing to confront Zionism and using ALL your rhetorical energies to camouflage and obscure its disproportionate influence upon U.S. foreign policy.

  19. Giorgio said on October 24th, 2008 at 4:39am #

    Right, you HIT it on the nail, Deadbeat!
    They so POOPED SCARED of being branded ANTI-YouKnowWho! that they go into DENIAL and fail to see that this cuckoo has its chicks firmly in the sparrow’s nest, while the poor sparrow goes on frantically feeding them thinking, stupidly, they are her own….

  20. Max Shields said on October 24th, 2008 at 4:40am #

    You’ve conflated the so-called left with Zionism.

    Right NOW this country and just about every non-wacko uber-right winger is shutting down its critical thinking and pulling the lever for Obama (at least that’s their plan if they haven’t already).

    With that little “vote” they get the package of Ross, Rubin, Summers, and essentially the whole Clinton foreign advior clan (these guys work for both sides). They are the neocon lites who will join forces with the neoliberal doctrinaires. Even the so-called liberal Klugman has become a believer (the Noble prize has left him totally giddy). Paulson’s ok, Obama may be a little slow to move, but all in all we’re on our way, business as usual.

    It is the complete an utter immaturity that will end the charade. Zionism? Sure, but look at all the choices, the decision made each step of the way, the full steam ahead into the wasteland that is Amerika.

    Ross is a symtom. As Ira indicates, he’s a total failure, as were the doctrines of Clinton/Rubin/Summers that pushed us into the abyss. And yet, here they are again, like a bad dream. Where does Obama go to get change? He goes to Clinton/Reagan. The excuses can be a plenty. He can’t do this or that. It doesn’t really matter what Obama can and cannot do. We’re stuck with it!

    Stop blaming the “left”. Sure, I agree that we have “progressives” who are voting for Obama if not outright supporting him. All falling in line with the fear of a McCain win. The irony: it’s the same fu#ckn instincts that get us into one war after another. Fear of this and that. Does anyone listen to Obama? Convinced that McCain is a boogeyman, and our choices are limited by the system, behind the “curtain” they vote for the OTHER.

    And what is the message Obama, et al receive: we support you and your big stick, and invasion into Pakistan and the good war in Afghanistan. There will be silence. The corporate elite will have once again gotten their “man” into office.

    The only thing that changes this picture is a global collapse. It’s apparent that the “developed” (including China and India) are so tightly bound to the empire that they will not let go of the drowning “man” and must sink as well.

    Barring that the planet will sufficate us and spit us out of its system like a gall stone.

  21. Donald Hawkins said on October 24th, 2008 at 5:54am #

    Now it begins and the fear, greed and stupidity will be trying to make a comback. Probably not a good idea. Think of this as kind of a war and remember “You will know (the good from the bad) when you are calm, at peace. Passive. Use the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack. “

  22. Michael Kenny said on October 24th, 2008 at 11:36am #

    Beware of Israeli propaganda! If Israel ever does attack Iran before the US collpases and leaves them high and dry, it will not announce it in advance! The Israelis have very cleverly exploited the gullibility for which Americans are renowned to keep the pot simmering on Iran, in the hope, I would guess, that Iranians will panic and do something stupid which will put them in the wrong. After several thousand years of successfully playing international power politics, I doubt if that will happen but the fact that the Israelis are trying even this particular ploy shows just how desperate their situation is.

  23. bozhidar bob balkas said on October 24th, 2008 at 12:20pm #

    yes, many factors/actors point out that israel is just blustering. it is hated by at least 5bn people. more militancy by israel wld further alienate world pop.
    israel does not even have right to exist let alone have moral/legal base for attacking any land.
    israel is just an army branch of US. as such it receives money/ arms but israelis must do what amers demand of them: keep the region volatile, kill more pals, take more of their land, etc.thnx

  24. Hue Longer said on October 24th, 2008 at 4:39pm #

    Thank Giorgio,

    I read your response

    I don’t understand why the issue of lack of solidarity is being brought up to defend supporting Paul and not supporting Nader, when Paul isn’t even running and has endorsed someone else.

    You said, “”If the “Progressive Left” is really and honestly hell-bent anti-war every 3rd to 6th article posted here would be espousing the merits of backing to the hilt Ron Paul’s Campaign for LIBERTY”!

    Is this a cry for us to stop talking Nader for not having McKinney’s support and to back Baldwin for having Paul’s

  25. Hue Longer said on October 24th, 2008 at 4:41pm #

    ? (damn DV, where’s that edit function?)

  26. bozhidar bob balkas said on October 26th, 2008 at 8:57am #

    ron paul cld stop the military frenzy. so COULD nader. aah, but for uncle: cia, generals, plutocrats, congress, senate.
    + at least 50mn rabid a meri goes.
    nixon’s deposal proves w.o. shadow of doubt that he wasn’t in charge of US in, was it ’75?, but the uncle.
    and deposed for trivial reasons and not for killing vietnamese and other s.e asians.
    ron paul is either in denial or semantically blind when he makes such promises.
    and i evaluate all promises as lies. make no promises and u’l sleep much better.
    if one does make promises one wld injure one’s brain to the degree that he may become another bush.
    to my wife, i made only one promise. i said to her, If u marry me, u’l have lots of trouble. and she did. thnx

  27. Jerry Haber said on November 1st, 2008 at 8:13pm #

    For Ross’s role in a future Obama administration, read the Magnes Zionist a few days after the election. At the moment my sources won’t talk, but I have been promised something later.

    Ira, you covered the subject pretty thoroughly in your post. Congrats.

    When I told Rob Malley that I was reading Ross’s book and that I thought it pretty biased, he asked me, “When did you come to that conclusion,” and I said, “After reading the blurbs on the back jacket.”

    Don’t jump to conclusions from Ross’s role in the election. Be hopeful; Ross may just be for Jewish consumption (full disclosure to Ira’s readers; I am an Israeli Jew). But I have a sinking suspicion he wil be on the Obama foreign policy team…though not necessarily with the Israel or Iran portfolio.

  28. Tbone said on November 10th, 2008 at 9:49pm #

    Hey Catman,
    my ??? , the writer.
    15 nanoseconds ?
    15 years, more like.

  29. george beres said on November 28th, 2008 at 2:46pm #

    I heard Ross give what he tried to color as a benign talk on Palestine and Israel in an appearance at the University of Oregon in 2006. He was sponsored by Hillel. It could have been a service to the community. Instead it was more Israeli propaganda cloaked in hypcocritical self-descriptions of his prejudiced efforts for peace in the Middle East. Obama needs to be balanced in dealing with the Middle East. That means he must remove such Israeli partisans as Ross. – G. Beres