Unlike John Bolton, Jake Sullivan is less ideological and more moderate in his views on the Middle East.
His position on the main themes of the Middle East is such a fusion of the policies of Barack Obama and some new theses that have appeared in criticism of the actions of the Trump administration in the past 4 years.
To be honest, there is nothing fundamentally new in these ideas, but they are very different from the approaches of the Trump team, and Sullivan, in principle, focuses on this in his numerous interviews, promoting the narrative about the return of "normality" in international relations from Washington.
In a thesis, I would formulate its positions in the region as follows:
- The US should return to a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. And even more: successful negotiations will lead to the beginning of a broader dialogue with Tehran on regional security and the conclusion of a number of agreements on other controversial issues: the safety of navigation, the reduction of missile arsenals, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, etc. Sullivan himself even compares this process with a similar series of agreements that the US signed with the USSR in the 1980s;
- Saudi Arabia needs more criticism, especially for human rights violations. The US strategic approach to Saudi Arabia will change but over time. Sullivan does not even exclude a reduction in the US military presence in the kingdom. He is opposed to leaving Saudi Arabia, but considers it possible to link some strategic directions of the bilateral agenda with "progress" in the field of human rights, economic transformation, and political reforms;
- The Middle East must be stabilized (at least temporarily). This requires peace negotiations between Iran and the Arabian monarchies of the Gulf. The Arab-Iranian talks under the auspices of the United States are a way to counter the influence of alternative centers of power - China and Russia;
- US policy in the Middle East must be more realistic and pragmatic. If the States cannot guarantee something, then we must say so. Here he cites the example of the impossibility of guaranteeing the regime change in Iran, which was hoped for in Israel and the Gulf countries;
- The US must end all aid to Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen. The conflict in Yemen must be ended. But the States must figure out a way to ensure that Saudia is protected from missile and other Houthi attacks. How? Sullivan's thoughts are somewhat erratic here;
- Turkey must accept the fact that US support for the Syrian Kurds will continue, and the United States must guarantee the Turks that the Kurds will not become a threat to them. Kurds must have a political future in post-conflict Syria. And in general, with Turkey, one should be tougher - not punish, but try to speak;
- The Middle East needs a new regional organization. The Arab League did not justify itself, it did not become as strong as, for example, the African Union. The United States will help them create new regional institutions.
In general, Sullivan's position is in harmony with the opinion of Joe Biden himself. A much more moderate and calm policy of the States awaits us.
As Jake Sullivan himself wrote in his article for Foreign Affairs in May 2020, the best recipe for the United States in the Middle East is to reduce the military role of the United States and rely on diplomacy / soft power, sustainable structures, and alliances.
“The best strategy would be to be both less ambitious and more ambitious: less ambitious about the US military presence and attempts to change countries from within, and more ambitious in using our leverage and diplomacy, pushing states towards de-escalation and a new balance between key regional players."
True, the lack of Sullivan's approaches, in my opinion, is a certain confusion and disorder in the vision of the strategic role of the United States in relation to its interests in the region: the gap between pragmatism and moral politics.