Trump Working to Free American Hostages, Including Austin Tice

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By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Some things just cannot be mentioned by President Trump on the campaign trail for fear of damage to existing talks and harm to the hostages. Such is true with those that the President is working diligently to release. Further, it should be noted that under the Obama/Biden administration, the notable hostages released include the treasonous Bowe Bergdahl for 5 Gitmo detainees and likely some other side deals, yet to still be determined beyond the Taliban’s diplomatic facility in Qatar.

There were also 4 Americans that were released by Iran and thankfully so, however that included an exchange of at least 7 Iranians imprisoned in the United States and that pesky pile of money alleged to have been $150 billion.

But read on and give a hat tip to the Trump White House for all of these efforts.

WSJ: A top White House of­fi­cial re­cently trav­eled to Dam­as­cus for se­cret talks with the As­sad regime, mark­ing the first time such a high-level U.S. of­fi­cial has met in Syria with the iso­lated gov­ern­ment in more than a decade, ac­cord­ing to Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials and oth­ers fa­mil­iar with the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Journalist Austin Tice went missing in Syria in 2012 and hasn’t been heard from since. Photo: Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Zuma Press

Kash Pa­tel, a deputy as­sistant to Pres­i­dent Trump and the top White House coun­tert­error­ism of­fi­cial, went to Dam­as­cus ear­lier this year in an ef­fort to se­cure re­lease of at least two Amer­i­cans be­lieved to be held by Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad, the of­fi­cials said. Of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the trip de­clined to say whom Mr. Pa­tel met with dur­ing his trip.

The last known talks be­tween White House and Syr­ian of­fi­cials in Dam­as­cus took place in 2010. The U.S. cut off diplo­matic re­la­tions with Syria in 2012 to protest Mr. As­sad’s bru­tal crack­down on pro­testers call­ing for an end to his regime.

U.S. of­fi­cials are hop­ing a deal with Mr. As­sad would lead to free­dom for Austin Tice, a free­lance jour­nal­ist and for­mer Ma­rine of­fi­cer who dis­ap­peared while re­port­ing in Syria in 2012, and Majd Ka­mal­maz, a Syr­ian-Amer­i­can ther­a­pist who dis­ap­peared af­ter be­ing stopped at a Syr­ian gov­ern­ment check­point in 2017. At least four other Amer­i­cans are be­lieved to be held by the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment, but lit­tle is known about those cases.

Ibrahim Ka­mal­maz, one of Mr. Ka­mal­maz’s sons, wel­comed Mr. 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 said Sun­day.

A State De­part­ment spokes­woman de­clined to com­ment. White House of­fi­cials didn’t re­spond to re­quests for com­ment. The Syr­ian mis­sion to the United Na­tions didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment on the visit.

Both the Trump and Obama ad­min­is­trations worked to iso­late Mr. As­sad, who has en­listed help from Rus­sia and Iran to sup­press pop­u­lar protests and armed re­sis­tance that has un­suc­cess­fully sought to force him from power. The nearly decade­ long war has frac­tured the coun­try and left nearly a half-mil­lion peo­ple dead. Ear­lier this year, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion im­posed pun­ish­ing new eco­nomic sanc­tions on Syria that have fur­ther mar­gin­al­ized the As­sad regime.

In March, Mr. Trump wrote Mr. As­sad a pri­vate let­ter propos­ing a “di­rect di­a­logue” about Mr. Tice, and ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have tried a va­ri­ety of ways to ne­go­ti­ate a deal.

Last week, Lebanon’s top se­cu­rity chief, Ab­bas Ibrahim, met at the White House with Robert O’Brien, the White House na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, to dis­cuss the Amer­i­cans held in Syria, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple in­volved in the talks.

Mr. Ibrahim, head of Lebanon’s Gen­eral Se­cu­rity agency, has served as a vi­tal me­di­a­tor be­tween the U.S. and Syria. Last year, he helped to se­cure the re­lease of Sam Good­win, an Amer­i­can trav­eler held for more than two months while vis­it­ing Syria as part of an at­tempt to visit every coun­try in the world.

Mr. Trump has boasted in re­cent months of his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts in cam­paign ral­lies, and the Re­pub­li­can con­ven­tion fea­tured a video of Mr. Trump meet­ing with Amer­i­cans who had been held in In­dia, Iran, Syria, Tur­key and Ve­nezuela.

Last week, Mr. Pa­tel helped bro­ker a deal that led to the re­lease of two Amer­i­cans held by Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen in ex­change for the re­turn of more than 200 Houthi loy­al­ists stuck out­side the frac­tured Mid­dle East na­tion.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is also try­ing to press Ve­nezuela to re­lease six oil ex­ec­u­tives held since 2017. Two other Amer­i­cans were ar­rested in May af­ter en­ter­ing Ve­nezuela to al­legedly take part in an at­tempted coup to over­throw Pres­i­dent Nico­las Maduro.

The fam­i­lies of both Mr. Tice and Mr. Ka­mal­maz be­lieve that the two men are alive, but Syr­ian of­fi­cials haven’t of­fered de­finitive proof.

Talks with the As­sad regime haven’t got­ten very far, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple briefed on the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The As­sad regime has re­peat­edly de­manded that the U.S. with­draw all its forces from Syria. Sev­eral hun­dred Amer­i­can forces help pro­tect oil fields in the north­east­ern part of the coun­try as part of an ef­fort to pre­vent Is­lamic State from re­gain­ing a foothold in the coun­try.

Con­cerns about the fate of both men was height­ened by the death of Layla Shweikani, a 26-year-old Illi­nois na­tive, who hu­man rights groups said was de­tained, tor­tured and ex­e­cuted by the As­sad regime in 2016 af­ter work­ing as an ac­tivist and aid worker in Syria.

Mr. Trump has taken a per­sonal in­ter­est in try­ing to se­cure Mr. Tice’s free­dom, men­tion­ing his case in a March news con­fer­ence and is­su­ing a state­ment on the eighth an­niver­sary of his dis­ap­pear­ance.

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