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National Security Adviser Defends Saying Middle East Region Was ‘quieter’ Days Before Hamas Attack

Eight days before the attack on Israel, Jake Sullivan said the Middle East region was quieter than it had “been in two decades.” He defended the remarks on “Meet the Press.”

Eight days before Hamas launched its deadly attack on Israel, national security adviser Jake Sullivan had described the Middle East region as “quieter” than it had been in two decades. He defended the remarks Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

“Jake, why was your assessment there so far off the mark?” NBC News’ Kristen Welker asked.

Sullivan said he made those comments “in the context of developments in the wider Middle East region over the last few years.”

He cited “two decades that involved a civil war in Yemen and a massive humanitarian catastrophe, a civil war in Syria and a massive refugee crisis and invasion and insurgency in Iraq, a NATO military operation in Libya, Iranian-backed attacks on both Saudi and the UAE, as well as many other steps, including the rise of a terrorist caliphate that actually occupied a huge amount of territory.”

Speaking at The Atlantic Festival eight days before Hamas attacked, Sullivan said: “The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades now. Now challenges remain — Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians — but the amount of time that I have to spend on crisis and conflict in the Middle East today compared to any of my predecessors going back to 9/11 is significantly reduced.”

Sullivan noted that, in the sentence before the clip of his remarks aired on “Meet the Press,” he said that the situation in the Middle East “could all change” and that the two threats he had identified at the time were tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and the threat from Iran — which has historically backed Hezbollah.

“And so, yes, it is true that those two threats remained a real challenge to the long-term stability of the Middle East region, and we’ve just seen this absolutely tragic attack,” he said. “But at no point did the Biden administration take its eye off the ball of the threats to Israel.

“In fact, President Biden saw Prime Minister Netanyahu just weeks before this attack to discuss the security challenges facing the state of Israel, and we’ve continued to support them to as significant or greater an extent than any previous administration,” he said.

Hamas launched the terrorist attack on Israel with plans to target elementary schools and a youth center, NBC News reported.

Hamas’ brutal attack has prompted an all-out war with Israel, which has continued to hit the Gaza Strip with airstrikes. Gaza is experiencing a humanitarian crisis as hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians flee to the south amid the Israeli military’s airstrikes.

More than 2,300 people have been killed in Gaza and 9,000 have been injured. In Israel, 1,400 people have been killed and 3,500 have been wounded. Twenty-nine Americans were also killed, and 15 remain missing, according to the State Department.

Asked whether any U.S. citizens have been killed in Gaza, Sullivan said that the administration can’t offer confirmation but that it is working “around the clock” to help Americans leave Gaza safely.

“We are working actively to determine the fate of Americans in Gaza, both those being held hostage, and we are also working actively to try to help American citizens who want to leave Gaza have safe passage out through the border crossing with Egypt,” he said. “It has been difficult to execute that operation to facilitate their passage out.”

President Joe Biden’s highest priority is to secure the safe return of “Americans being held hostage by the brutal and vicious terrorist group Hamas,” Sullivan said.

Asked whether any U.S. citizen or otherwise has been able to leave Gaza, he said: “So far we have not been able to get American citizens through the border crossing, and I’m not aware of anyone else being able to get out at this time.

“Though I cannot fully confirm that, because it’s a dynamic situation,” he continued. “Like I said, we’re trying to create the circumstances where American citizens are in Gaza and are looking to leave to get into Egypt and ultimately to the United States or elsewhere that they are able to do so. We’re working on that as we speak.”

Welker also asked Sullivan whether there’s “a red line for the U.S. when it comes to Israel’s actions.”

“For example, is the use of phosphorus bombs off the table for the U.S.?” she asked.

Sullivan said he had seen reports of the Israel Defense Forces saying it wasn’t using phosphorus bombs before he added that it’s not his job to publicly “draw red lines.”

“It’s my job and the job of the U.S. government to have detailed, extensive conversations with our Israeli counterparts and to continue to stand behind the basic principles of the laws of war and the rule of law,” he said.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., recently called for Sullivan to resign over his foreign policy efforts and strategy in the Middle East.

“Mr. Sullivan has routinely misled the entire government about the status of security threats around the world,” Blackburn said in a letter to Biden last week, citing Sullivan’s remarks before Hamas’ attack that “the Middle East is quieter today than it has been in two decades.”

Source : NBC NEWS