Jake Sullivan on Trump’s FP, Iran Deal

Jake Sullivan, former aide to President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, discussed American foreign policy under Trump, as well as his experience in establishing back channel talks with Iran that led to the nuclear deal, in a conversation with Jordan Hirsch, Visiting Fellow at The Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies at Columbia University, at the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life on Thursday.

“I am very skeptical that the traditional approach is going to lead to success,” Sullivan said about Trump’s efforts to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. “I am deeply skeptical. It did not work when George Mitchell and Hillary Clinton tried it. It did not work when John Kerry tried it. It did not work when Condoleezza Rice tried it. I do not believe that it is right for success in this administration either. And I think Donald Trump saying that maybe it isn’t as hard as everyone made it out to, I can say from personal experience, I have my grave doubts that he is correct in that statement. I have my doubts about whether Abu Mazen (Abbas), given his current political position, given his history on this, he is not strong enough, in my view, to deliver a yes to a deal. Even a yes to a deal that gave him most of all what he needed.”

Sullivan on the Iran deal going forward: “I believe that job number one today – and I think the Israeli intelligence and military establishment would agree with this – is not to try to enter a renegotiation on the nuclear deal, which I think is on sound footing right now. Iran is in compliance, We can continue to shape their behavior around the nuclear issue. It’s to deal with the broader issue of their activities. And I think that the administration deciding that it is going to increase pressure on that – economic pressure, intelligence pressure, military cooperation with our allies – that is where their focus should be. The notion that they say we are going to open core trade-offs in this deal right now is a way to alienate our partners. As time progresses, If Iran continues to remain a state that is looking to get a nuclear weapon ultimately, we have options down the road to do something about that, not just a military option.”

Thoughts on 2020 and whether he would join another campaign: “I think it’s going to be a big field (in the Democratic primary), and there are a lot of intriguing candidates. In terms of me getting involved, I do not plan on working full time on a campaign again, unless it’s the campaign of a close friend or family member. But, of course, I will be in the fight. I will participate in some way in 2018 and in 2020 and beyond because I think it’s important not to retreat from the field.”

Sullivan’s reading list: “Core international relations texts like Man, the State, and War, Robert Gilpin’s The Political Economy of International Relations, and John Gaddis’s The Cold War: A New History. I am in the middle of a book right now about the ratification of the U.S. constitution and contingent it was… and then in terms of the daily stuff, I pretty much follow the same newspapers, foreign policy outlets that everybody does.”

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