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November 18, 2009
Who engineered the Ross-Limbert switch in the Iran chair at State?
The controversy regarding the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) - whether it violated US law by not registering as a lobbying group, whether it's views are too closely aligned with those of Tehran, whether it is too close to George Soros, and the problematic views of its founder and head, Trita Parsi - has raged over the last week or so.
One of the most startling developments was produced by a discovery motion that took place as a result of a defamation suit the NIAC filed against one if its critics.
This was a plan to maneuver Dennis Ross out of the Iran chair at the State Department because the NIAC thought he would not as supportive of outreach towards Iran as the NIAC. The NIAC got its wish and then some. Not only was Ross pushed out and into the netherworld of the National Security Council (where he has not been heard of since) but he was replaced by John Limbert, who serves on the Advisory Council of the NIAC itself.
Who did the dirty deed of dumping Dennis?
It must have been someone with some sway in the administration. Perhaps it was heavies at the State Department and with President Obama himself. Who could this power player be?
A clue might be this disclosure: emails show that Parsi and a man named Siamak Namazi coordinated efforts to make recommendations to administration officials. Undoubtedly, since they were trying to influence policy, this may well have included personnel suggestions . We know Parsi wanted Ross out of the Iran chair. And personnel is policy - if one wants to change policy, one changes personnel.
I did a bit of research on Mr. Namazi. He worked for a while at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. This is a center headed by former Congressman Lee Hamilton. Hamilton undoubtedly came to know Namazi.
Lee Hamilton has a reputation of mentoring people such as Namazi. He also served as a mentor of Barack Obama in the foreign policy realm. I wrote a column regarding his strong influence on Barack Obama and the administration ("Lee Hamilton: Eminence Grise of Obama's Middle East Policy"). I quoted the well-connected and well-regarded Washington Post foreign policy columnist David Ignatius:
If you ask White House officials whom President Obama listens to about Iran, they mention an interesting name -- Lee Hamilton, the former congressman from Indiana who co-chaired the 2006 Iraq Study Group that urged engagement with the Iranian regime.
All these positions echo those of the National Iranian American Council and certainly comport with the wishes of the Tehran regime. Hamilton's speeches regarding Iran were so highly thought of by the NIAC that the group posted reports of them on its website . The NIAC approved of the Iraq Study Group (the Baker-Hamilton product) report that advocated engagement and working with Iran, and downplayed the value of sanctions.
(Hamilton also wrote a positive blurb for a book that glowing depicted the Iranian-supported Hezbollah terror group ).
Did Lee Hamilton, who was also a foreign policy adviser of Obama's during the campaign, pull some strings, turn in some chits, make some recommendations to the President or the powers-that-be who surround him that Dennis Ross be replaced by John Limbert - a man who might be more amenable to Obama's engagement approach towards Iran? Hamilton knows the ways of Washington. He knew that Ross would be an impediment, as did Trita Parsi, to their goals regarding Iran.
Of course, there is no smoking gun, fingerprints, or emails produced by discovery that "prove" this is what happened (that Hamilton was the henchman); but it does make one wonder about the role of the man who Obama depends on for guidance regarding Iran.