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What is Jim Jones Doing?

11:21 AM, Feb 26, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Jeffrey Goldberg noted this exchange at State yesterday:

QUESTION: Can you give us - well, what is the State Department's definition geographically of Southwest Asia? What countries does that include?
MR. WOOD: Matt, I didn't --
QUESTION: No, you guys named an envoy for Southwest Asia. I presume that you know what countries that includes.
MR. WOOD: Yes. Of course, we know. I just - I don't have the list to run off - you know, right off the top of my head here. But obviously, that's going to encompass - that region encompasses Iran. It will - you know, it'll deal with --
QUESTION: Does it include Iraq?
MR. WOOD: Indeed, it does.... .
QUESTION: And so, does it include parts of the Middle East?
MR. WOOD: Yes.
QUESTION: It does? Does it include Syria, and it includes Israel and it includes Jordan?
MR. WOOD: Well, he'll be looking at the entire region that will include, you know -
QUESTION: Where does that stop? I mean, you know, you have NEA which, you know, runs all the way to Morocco. So does it include -
MR. WOOD: Well, he's going to be in touch with a number of officials who work on issues throughout this region.

It's not at all clear what is meant by Southwest Asia, other than that Ross was meant to have the Iran portfolio and for some reason the State Department wasn't even comfortable being specific as to which Gulf he is supposed to be tending. As Christian Brose notes, the vagueness of Ross's title will leave things wide open for a good old fashioned turf-war between Ross, Holbrooke, and Chris Hill.

What strikes me as especially odd is that Jim Jones came into office with the explicit goal of clarifying who was in charge of what by redrawing the map. As he told the Washington Post just a few weeks ago:

Organizational maps within the government will be redrawn to ensure that all departments and agencies take the same regional approach to the world, Jones said. The State Department, for example, considers Afghanistan, Pakistan and India together as South Asia, while the Pentagon draws a line at the Pakistan-India border, with the former under the Central Command and the latter part of the Pacific Command. Israel is part of the military's European Command, but the rest of the Middle East falls under Central Command; the State Department combines Israel and the Arab countries surrounding it in its Near East Bureau.

"We are going to reflect in the NSC all the regions of the world along some map line we can all agree on," Jones said.

Jones has apparently been so successful with this project that the State Department can't even figure out what countries their envoys represent.