White House official went to Syria seeking Americans' release

Elias Hubbard
October 19, 2020

Now, in what Bloomberg calls a "rare sign of diplomacy", sources say the White House's top counterterrorism official has traveled there for secret talks to negotiate for the release of Tice, Syrian American Majd Kamalmaz, and at least four other USA citizens thought to be hostages there.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the meeting in Damascus earlier this year between an unnamed Syrian official (or officials) and Kashyap "Kash" Patel, a deputy assistant to President Trump.

On Monday, Syria's semi-official Al-Watan newspaper appeared to confirm some of the Wall Street Journal's reporting. The talks would represent the first known communication between the White House and the Syrian government since the end of U.S. -Syria relations in 2012 under the Obama administration, which came during the height of the Syrian Civil War.

Syria erupted into civil war almost a decade ago after al-Assad began a brutal crackdown on protesters calling for an end to his family's rule in 2011.

American journalist Austin Tice disappeared in Syria eight years ago, and is believed to have been a captive there since.

One of Kamalmaz's sons, Ibrahim, told the WSJ that he welcomed Patel's trip as a positive step in trying to bring his father home.

"This administration is committed to our dad's case, and we continue to speak with officials at the highest levels of the U.S. government to bring dad home", he told the newspaper.

A top Trump administration official met with the Assad regime in Damascus this fall in an effort to secure the release of American prisoners believed to be held by the Syrian dictator, two administration officials confirmed to CNN.

They cited John Bolton's recent memoir, in which the former national security adviser said Trump had a "constant desire" to speak with Assad about the hostages but both Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo considered the plan "undesirable".

Meanwhile, The National reported that Lebanon's top security chief, Abbas Ibrahim, visited Washington last week for meetings with U.S. officials, including national security adviser Robert O'Brien, CIA director Gina Haspel and undersecretary of state David Hale. The US government has offered a $1 million reward for information that could help with Tice's release.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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