In Focus | The Background Negotiations between Damascus and Washington
Could it lead to results before the US election?
The American Wall Street Journal revealed that Kash Patel, a deputy assistant to President Trump, visited Damascus in early 2020. The visit aimed at reaching an agreement with the Syrian regime to release six American citizens, most notably the journalist Austin Tice, the visit did not appear to have achieved any positive results according to the journal.
In March 2020, President Trump had called upon the Syrian regime to release the journalist Austin Tice on humanitarian grounds.
Through Patel’s visit, it appears that Trump was trying to reach an agreement to release the American citizens detained by the Syrian regime to strengthen his position domestically prior to the presidential elections scheduled for early November 2020.
The stalling of the United States’ direct negotiations with the Syrian regime, or its indirect negotiations with its Russian and Iranian allies, so far may be related to what the Trump administration is offering the regime in exchange for the release of its citizens.
However, the failure of the visit in early 2020 does not mean that the talks have reached a dead end, rather it indicates that the two parties may have established a negotiation path to handle partial pending issues which can be followed up by other mediators subsequently.
While Washington recently made indirect criticisms of the Sultanate of Oman for appointing an extraordinary ambassador to Damascus, this appointment may have been driven by an American desire to open a back channel for negotiating with the regime and especially its Iranian allies. Such a move would enable Muscat to deal with the pending partial files.
October also witnessed the visit of the head of the Lebanese Directorate of General Security Abbas Ibrahim to Washington. Information was leaked about Ibrahim’s discussions with American counterparts concerning the issue of American detainees in Syrian prisons. In 2019, Ibrahim brokered the release of the American traveler Sam Goodwin.
It is believed that Damascus and its allies will not release the American detainees prior to the US elections. It is possible that they will release the detainees after the elections as a goodwill gesture to President Trump if he is re-elected or to gain favor with the Biden administration from the moment it is voted in.
Unit of Analysis and Thinking - Jusoor for Studies
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