Mitchell Reiss is a former senior U.S. diplomat who serves currently as the president of Washington College in Maryland. 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.
Reiss advised both the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Because of his support for targeted negotiations with groups like the Taliban, Reiss was often characterized as one of the more moderate members of Romney's advisory term, helping to soften the edges of some of more hardline neoconservative advisers like Dan Senor. 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." 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."
Reiss has also joined 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. "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."
Reiss's pro-MEK work puts 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."
Alongside his work in academia, Reiss has served as a senior associate of the security program at the hawkish Center for Strategic and International Studies, as well as on the board of directors of the "liberal hawk" Center for a New American Security. 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.