Four years after signing the now-infamous “Never Trump” letter condemning then-presidential candidate Donald Trump as a danger to America, retiring diplomat Jim Jeffrey is recommending that the incoming Biden administration stick with Trump’s foreign policy in the Middle East.
He acknowledges that his team routinely misled senior leaders about troop levels in Syria.
Officially, Trump last year agreed to keep several hundred U.S. troops — somewhere between 200 and 400, according to varying reports at the time — stationed in northeast Syria to “secure” oil fields held by the United States’ Kurdish allies in the fight against ISIS. It is generally accepted that the actual number is now higher than that — anonymous officials put the number at about 900 today — but the precise figure is classified and remains unknown even, it appears, to members of Trump’s administration keen to end the so-called “forever wars.”
Jeffrey now says that Trump’s “modest” and transactional approach to the Middle East has yielded a more stable region than either of his predecessors’ more transformational policies. President George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech heralding the seismic U.S. intervention into Iraq and President Barack Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo proclaiming a “new beginning” with the Muslim world represent an approach to the Middle East that “made things worse” and “weakened us,” Jeffrey said. Trump’s administration, he said, has looked at the Middle East through a geostrategic lens and kept its focus on Iran, Russia, and China, while keeping the metastatic “disease” of Islamist terror in check.
Jeffrey believes Trump has achieved a kind of political and military “stalemate” in a number of different cold and hot conflicts, producing a situation that is about the best any administration could hope for in such a messy, volatile region.