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Man In The Middle

Man In The MiddleFletcher School graduate Mitchell B. Reiss, President Bush’s ambassador to Northern Ireland, has spent two years pushing the region’s peace process along.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.12.06] Since he was appointed as President Bush’s special envoy for the Northern Ireland peace process in 2004, Mitchell B. Reiss has worked with the region’s warring political parties to get them to put their differences aside. According to The Boston Globe, the 1980 Fletcher graduate and professional negotiator “might be the one who helps lead the Irish and the British down that final stretch to the promised land of peaceful coexistence.”

The fact that Reiss, a native of Newton, Mass., is Jewish “says a lot about how the American approach to the Anglo-Irish conflict has changed,” the Globe wrote. “Reiss, with an ethnic and religious background rarely encountered in Anglo-Irish relations, and a professional background that includes negotiating nuclear nonproliferation issues with the likes of North Korea, embodies the growing sophistication of American policy in Ireland,” the newspaper reported.

Traditionally, according to the Globe, American politicians who have been involved in the conflict have had Irish ancestors or predominately Irish-American constituencies, according to the Globe. Reiss, who is also vice provost for international affairs at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., is part of the new order.

“Without baggage in the Anglo-Irish conflict, he believes he has eased suspicions about American intentions, especially among Protestant unionists who tend to think that White House policy has a hidden agenda written by Irish nationalists,” the Globe reported.

Reiss, a former special assistant to the National Security Council, is tasked with guiding “the peace process through a promising but dangerous time,” the Globe reported. The Irish and British governments have set a Nov. 24 deadline for the Democratic Unionists (DUP) and the Irish Republican Army’s political wing, Sinn Fein, to reach a power-sharing agreement. If they don’t succeed, the Northern Ireland assembly will be suspended, along with members’ salaries.

"I can't think of a time when our involvement has been more important," the Tufts graduate told the Globe. "Especially given the consequences if we don't succeed."

Reiss, a skilled negotiator with what the Globe describes as an “impartial, hands-on approach,” has his work cut out for him. And he realizes that, as an American, he can only do so much.

“Reiss has taken care to stress to both sides that while the Americans are there to help, the parties on the ground have to make the final deal - and that the democratic institutions they establish will keep their rivals in check,” the Globe reported.

"This gets back to what diplomats can achieve," Reiss explained to the Globe. "You can't create or guarantee results. You can create situations for success. I can't force Sinn Fein or the DUP to do the right thing. But we can encourage them. Ultimately, it will be up to them."

Despite the challenges, Reiss told the Globe that he has faith that the two parties can overcome their differences.

"If they can form a government in Baghdad," Reiss explained to the Globe, "they can form a government in Belfast."




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