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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Mitchell Reiss

  • Center for a New American Security: Board Member
  • Former Special Envoy to Northern Ireland

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Mitchell Reiss is a former senior U.S. diplomat who is a non-resident adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and president of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Virginia.[1] He held numerous positions during the George W. Bush presidency, including as director of policy planning at the State Department under Colin Powell and as special envoy to Northern Ireland peace process under Condoleezza Rice. He was also the first general counsel of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), a multinational organization that provides energy resources to North Korea as a means of securing diplomatic leverage.[2]

On Iran

Reiss has been critical of the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran. In a 2014 Foreign Affairs op-ed written with fellow Iran-hawk Ray Takeyh, Reiss called for broadening the “scope of negotiations” with Iran to “include Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and its systemic violation of human rights.”[3]

“It would be a grave error to allow the Islamic Republic to emerge from the negotiations with its nuclear ambitions intact, its terrorist activities undiminished, and its people denied their basic rights,” Reiss and Takeyh argued.[4]

Graham Allison of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Gary Samore of the controversial group United against Nuclear Iran called Reiss and Takeyh’s position on the Iran negotiations “mindless maximalism,” arguing: “In negotiation theory's checklist of clues for failure, escalating demands beyond the realistic zone of agreement appears near the top.”[5]

Previously, Reiss was part of a well-funded bipartisan effort among former elected officials and government officers to remove the Muhajedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group that has violently opposed Iran’s clerical regime in the past, from the U.S. State Department’s list of proscribed terrorist organizations. The MEK was removed from the list in September 2012.[6]

“Our presence here today is a rebuke to those who oppose this cause,” Reiss said while chairing an April 2012 panel discussion on the MEK. “We will not be intimidated, we will not be discouraged and we will not be silenced. … There really is no excuse for [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s] delay in determining the status of MEK.”[7]

Reiss’s pro-MEK work put him in the company of Iran hardliners like Raymond Tanter, the Iran Policy Committee, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, as well as some moderate Democrats like former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. It also puts him at loggerheads with some otherwise hawkish neoconservatives like Michael Rubin, who has attacked supporters of the MEK “terrorist group.”[8]

Campaign Adviser

Reiss advised both the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.[9] Because of his support for targeted negotiations with groups like the Taliban,[10] Reiss was often characterized as one of the more moderate members of Romney’s advisory term, helping offset the  hardline edge provided by neoconservative advisers like Dan Senor.[11]

However, the Romney campaign openly disavowed Reiss’ position on Afghanistan, with the candidate telling reporters, “The right course for America is not to negotiate with the Taliban when the Taliban are killing our soldiers. The right course is to recognize they're the enemy of the United States.”[12] Ari Berman wrote at the Nation that the incident was characteristic of how “The hardliners on Romney’s team have sidelined moderates like Mitchell Reiss.”[13]

Professional Experience

Reiss has served as a senior associate of the security program at the hawkish Center for Strategic and International Studies,[14] as well as on the board of directors of the “liberal hawk” Center for a New American Security.[15] Reiss was also the president of Washington College in Maryland from 2010 to June 2014. He formerly taught and served as a vice-provost and dean of international affairs at the College of William and Mary.[16] He is the author of the 2010 book Negotiating with Evil: When to Talk to Terrorists, which makes a qualified case for U.S. diplomatic engagement with international terrorist organizations.

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Sources

[1] William and Mary, “Statement of Mitchell Reiss being named CW President,” June 17, 2014,http://www.wm.edu/news/announcements/2014/statement-on-mitchell-reiss-being-named-cw-president.php.

[2] Washington College, Mitchell Reiss bio, http://president.washcoll.edu/mitchellreiss/biography.php.

[3] Reiss and Takeyh, “Don’t Get Suckered by Iran,” Foreign Affairs, January 2, 2014,http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/140620/mitchell-b-reiss-and-ray-takeyh/dont-get-suckered-by-iran.

[4] Reiss and Takeyh, “Don’t Get Suckered by Iran,” Foreign Affairs, January 2, 2014,http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/140620/mitchell-b-reiss-and-ray-takeyh/dont-get-suckered-by-iran.

[5] Gary Samore and Graham Allison, “New Obstacles to negotiations arise – best analyses,” Belfer Center, January 10, 2014,http://iranmatters.belfercenter.org/blog/new-obstacles-negotiations-arise-best-analyses.

[6] Scott Shane, “Iranian Dissidents Convince U.S. to Drop Terror Label,” The New York Times, September 21, 2012,http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/22/world/middleeast/iranian-opposition-group-mek-wins-removal-from-us-terrorist-list.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

[7] Ryan J. Reilly, “Romney Advisor Mitchell Reiss Backs ‘Terrorist’ Group, Jokes About Being ‘Potential Criminal,’” Talking Points Memo, April 6, 2012, http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/04/romney_advisor_mitchell_reiss_backs_mek.php.

[8] Michael Rubin, “What’s Behind the Campaign to Delist the Mujahedin al-Khalq Organization?” Contentions blog, Commentary, February 24, 2011,http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/02/24/whats-behind-the-campaign-to-delist-the-mujahedin-al-khalq-organization/.

[9] MittRomney.com, “Mitt Romney Announces Foreign Policy And National Security Advisory Team,” October 6, 2011,http://www.mittromney.com/blogs/mitts-view/2011/10/mitt-romney-announces-foreign-policy-and-national-security-advisory-team.

[10] See, for example, Mitchell Reiss, “Negotiating with evil,” Foreign Policy “Shadow Government” blog, January 11, 2012,http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/blog/2197.

[11] Eli Lake, “All Over the Map,” New Republic, July 28, 2011.

[12] Asawin Suebsaeng, “The Foreign Policy Adviser Mitt Romney Threw Under The Bus,” Mother Jones, January 17, 2012,http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/01/foreign-policy-advisor-mitt-romney-threw-under-bus-mitchell-reiss.

[13] Ari Berman, “Mitt Romney's Neocon War Cabinet,” Nation, May 2012, http://www.thenation.com/article/167683/mitt-romneys-neocon-war-cabinet.

[14] CSIS, Mitchell Reiss bio, http://csis.org/expert/mitchell-b-reiss.

[15] CNAS, Board of Directors, http://www.cnas.org/people/boardofdirectors.

[16] William and Mary, “W&M’s Reiss named president of Washington College,” December 4, 2009,http://www.wm.edu/news/stories/2009/reiss-tapped-to-be-president-of-maryland-college-123.php.

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Mitchell Reiss Résumé

Affiliations

  • Mitt Romney 2012 Campaign: Advisor
  • Mitt Romney 2008 Campaign: Advisor
  • Washington College: Formerpresident
  • Center for a New American Security: Board of directors
  • Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization: Former manager, general counsel
  • Woodrow Wilson Center: Former scholar
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies: Senior adviser
  • College of William and Mary: Former Vice-provost, Dean, and Professor
  • Colonial Williamsburg Foundation: President and CEO

Government

  • U.S. State Department: Director of policy planning (2003-2005), Special envoy to Northern Ireland peace process (2003-2007), Former consultant
  • Former Special Assistant to National Security Adviser (1988-1989)

Business

  • Covington & Burling: Former corporate lawyer

Education

  • Columbia University: JD
  • Oxford University: D.Phil
  • Tufts University: MA
  • Williams College: BA

Related:

Mitchell Reiss News Feed

Concerned for our colonial capital Opinion - Virginia Business MagazineCW trustees need to hire well - Daily PressA historic challenge Industries - Virginia Business MagazineColonial Williamsburg responds to questions about Mitchell Reiss's departure — with silence - Williamsburg Yorktown DailyColonial Williamsburg CEO to step down in October - Richmond.comLamont overrules DPH commissioner on school immunizations - The CT MirrorICYMI: York elementary school principal arrested, Mitchell Reiss to step down, new dog groomer and more - Williamsburg Yorktown DailyKings Langley 0-2 Hednesford Town - Report - expressandstar.comLast Word on the Rockin' Rams, June 22 - Virginia GazetteTexans roster projections: Who will be affected by Lamar Miller's injury and a possible Jadeveon Clowney... - The AthleticGovernor Overrules Official, Wants More School Vaccine Data Released - NBC ConnecticutColonial Williamsburg president saw $100K bonus for second year in a row, recent tax documents show - Williamsburg Yorktown DailyGov. Lamont overrules official, wants more vaccine data released - FOX61 HartfordLast Word on Colonial Williamsburg, June 28 - Virginia GazettePublic Health Commissioner Declines To Release Updated School-Level Vaccine Data - CT News JunkieNASA Spaceline Current Awareness List #865 13 September2019 (Space Life Science Research Results) - Space RefWith Jadeveon Clowney still unsigned, one last 53-man Texans roster projection - The AthleticLamont's relative resigns from job in governor's office - theday.comNFL Preseason Power Rankings -- Who's on the hot seat entering 2019? - ESPNReligious exemptions to vaccines rose by 25 percent in Connecticut this past year - Hartford Courant

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