In a 7,000-word essay for Foreign Affairs magazine published this week, President Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan tried to summarize the situation in the Middle East.
“However, the Middle East remains beset by persistent challenges,” he wrote. original version In the essay, “The region is quieter than it has been in decades.”
Noting that challenges remain, including the tense situation between Israelis and Palestinians and the threat from Iran, he wrote that in the face of “severe” friction, “we have defused the crisis in Gaza.”
Mr. Sullivan’s claims were not old.
On October 2, just five days after their article was sent to print, Hamas launched a devastating terrorist attack inside Israel, killing at least 1,400 Israelis and taking hundreds more hostage. Israeli retaliatory air strikes on Hamas-controlled Gaza have killed thousands of people and created a humanitarian crisis.
No one can be expected to predict the future, but the essay provides a rare insight into how the United States misjudged the explosive situation in the Middle East. In the end, all the diplomacy, intelligence sharing, check-ins and visits did not lead to the worst breach of Israeli security in half a century.
was before the article posted online, Foreign Affairs asked Mr. Sullivan to update it to reflect the Hamas attack. The online edition dismissed Mr Sullivan’s “sober” sentence as well as his claim that the Biden administration has “de-escalated” the crisis in Gaza. (Editor’s Note includes a PDF of the original essay, which appears in the November/December 2023 issue.)
Mr. Sullivan had made similar public comments in his essay.
On September 29, he shared his assessment with some of the country’s foreign policy, political and media circles: “The Middle East region is calmer today than it has been in two decades,” Mr. Sullivan told attendees. Festival Conducted by The Atlantic, ticking off a list of examples that included a lengthy ceasefire in Yemen and an end to attacks on US troops by Iran-backed militias. Several days later the Hamas attack occurred.
Critics of the President have become attackers. A fund-raising email sent to supporters by the Trump campaign on Wednesday chastised “Biden’s confused national security adviser” with a link to a story about Mr. Sullivan’s comments. Conservative media publications have also followed suit.
Not all of Mr. Sullivan’s critics are right.
Brett Bruen, who served as director of global engagement in the Obama White House, said Mr. Sullivan was driven by a “myopic focus on some diplomatic deliverables rather than real strategy.”
“Jake is talented, but he’s never spent any significant time at any of these places,” said Mr. Bruen, who Called for Mr. Sullivan to be fired Following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, when 13 US service members and a large number of Afghans were killed.
Still, he praised Mr. Sullivan, an Obama administration alumnus and former close adviser to Hillary Clinton, as a foreign policy genius who helped lead an “impressive” U.S. response to the attack on Israeli civilians.
As far as Mr. Biden’s experience in the region is concerned, Mr. Bruen said, “When you’re looking at the world the way it was a few decades ago, not the way it is now, the experience also “There could be a liability.”
He added: “And Jake doesn’t tell her no.”
On Thursday, several Biden administration officials rejected the idea that Mr. Sullivan was presenting a staid view of his views on the Middle East. Instead, he said, Mr. Sullivan was offering a snapshot of a region that appeared calm after years of war, regime change and a refugee crisis.
A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the administration’s process after the attacks, said that no expert could have predicted that Hamas would attack Israel, overpowering the defense forces, Will kill civilians and take hundreds hostage.
National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in an email that criticism on social media over a sentence Mr. Sullivan said (or wrote) was a “lazy move.”
He pointed out that Mr. Sullivan had logged countless hours on the issue, including meeting with Ron Dermer, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, two weeks before submitting the Foreign Affairs essay. He and other officials said Mr. Sullivan traveled to Israel and the West Bank earlier this year to work on “a key Palestinian component” of the normalization process, which was also the focus of his visit to Saudi Arabia in August.
“While the world has changed – as it often does – the past two weeks have only underlined the importance of building on the approach to the region that we already had, such as building relationships on which to rely in this crisis or the next. can be trusted to solve, Ms Watson wrote.
Mr. Sullivan declined to comment for this article.
But his supporters noted an important caveat at the end of both versions of his essay, titled “Sources of American Power” – apparently an allusion to the oft-cited Foreign Affairs essay, “Sources of Soviet Conduct”, which was Written in 1947, at the beginning of the Cold War.
“The United States has been caught by surprise in the past,” Mr. Sullivan wrote, referring to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. “The government works hard to predict what’s going to happen.”
Edward Wong Contributed to the reporting.