The Trump administration’s point man on Syrian affairs is now working part-time for a consulting firm with links to the Biden administration.
Ambassador James Jeffrey had been the face of some of the Trump administration’s most controversial Middle East policies as the State Department’s special envoy to Syria. He’s been working “in a 1099 capacity” at WestExec Advisors since January 2021, a spokesperson for the firm confirmed by email.
WestExec was founded by several Obama administration alumni, a number of whom now serve in high-level Biden administration roles. Its co-founder, Antony Blinken, is now Secretary of State, while former WestExec principal Avril Haines serves as Director of National Intelligence.
Jeffrey, a former career diplomat with decades of service under both Democratic and Republican administrations, came out of retirement to take over the Trump administration’s Syria policy in 2018.
During Jeffrey’s tenure, U.S. policy shifted from fighting the Islamic State to counteracting Russian and Iranian influence in the region. After urging Syrian Kurdish-led forces to dismantle their fortifications along the border in exchange for U.S. protection, the Trump administration gave a tacit green light for Turkey to invade in October 2019.
“I feel bad for your career because that is no way to end an honorable career, defending the indefensible,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D–Va.) told Jeffrey during a hearing that month.
Jeffrey also made controversial statements shortly after retiring from the Trump administration. He claimed to have played “shell games” to keep the true number of U.S. forces in Syria hidden from the president — which former national security adviser John Bolton also bragged about — and referred to an offshoot of al-Qaida as an “asset” to U.S. regional strategy.
But it appears that Jeffrey is back in Washington’s good graces. He’s now working at WestExec, a firm that is well-connected — too-well connected, according to critics — to powerful Democratic circles.
In addition to his part-time consulting position, Jeffrey serves as chairman of the Middle East program at the prestigious Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. And he’s had numerous media hits over the past few months.
“Look around the Middle East among America’s friends and partners in Ankara, Cairo, Jerusalem, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Kuwait City, Amman. Tell me anybody who’s happy to see the Trump administration go,” Jeffrey told the Times of Israel in December. “All of the front-line countries around the world were happy with what Trump actually did.”