Jake Sullivan refuses to rule out strikes inside Iran in Sunday morning ‘dog and pony show’

National security adviser Jake Sullivan made the Sunday morning news show rounds and repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility of U.S. military strikes inside Iran as part of its retaliatory response to the killing of three American soldiers in a drone attack in Jordan last weekend.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sullivan was grilled by host Kristen Welker about whether the U.S. air strikes against Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria would extend to strikes inside Iran.

“Well, sitting here today on a national news program, I’m not going to get into what we’ve ruled in and ruled out from the point of view of military action,” Sullivan said. “What I will say is that the president is determined to respond forcefully to attacks on our people. The president also is not looking for a wider war in the Middle East.”

“But is it off the table?” Welker asked. “Are strikes inside Iran off the table?”

“Again, Kristen, sitting here on television, it would not be wise for me to talk about what we’re ruling in and ruling out,” he replied.

Welker tried a third time.

“So you’re not ruling it out?” she asked.

“I’ll just say the same thing one more time,” Sullivan said. “I’m not going to get into what’s on the table and off the table when it comes to the American response.”

It is nearly word-for-word the same response he gave to MSNBC’s Jen Psaki.

“I’m not going on the table, off the table, ruling in, ruling out…” Sullivan told the former White House press secretary. “It’s just a matter that I cannot address in the public space at this point.”

Sullivan did discuss the hostages who are still being held by Hamas in Gaza, telling Welker that the U.S. doesn’t know how many of them are still alive.

“Ultimately, the question of whether those hostages will be released comes down to a negotiation among Israel and Hamas, backed by Egypt, Qatar, and the United States,” he said when asked if the retaliatory strikes would make it more difficult to secure their release.

He said the U.S. believes the strikes “are not connected to the hostage negotiations.”

Pressed on the number of hostages that are being held and whether they are still alive, Sullivan said, “We do not and cannot have a clear picture of exactly how many hostages are still alive and how many have, tragically, passed away.”

“We can not, with any clear sense, say the exact number of hostages,” he said, “but we know that there are many and we know that it’s our job, day in and day out, to try and bring them home.”


Melissa Fine


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