President Donald Trump cruise missile retaliation against the Syrian regime for using sarin gas against its own citizens may have jeopardized U.S. chances at securing the return of hostage Austin Tice, The New York Times reports.
The U.S. believes Tice has been held by the Syrian regime since 2012.
“The assessment of the United States government that Austin, our son, is alive, that he’s still being held captive in Syria,” Tice’s father told NPR in early January 2017. The Syrian regime however denies Tice is being held in their captivity, but have lied about holding U.S. hostages before.
The Trump administration reportedly made early efforts of contact in February between CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the head of Syrian regime intelligence in an effort to secure Tice’s return. These early efforts did not come to fruition, despite early indications from the U.S. that it would drop its opposition to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
These early indications may have been a misstep by the Trump administration, according to some regional experts.
“The administration said Assad could stay but got nothing for it,” former U.S. hostage affairs head James O’Brien told TheNYT. “You only make that statement if you get Austin Tice home,” he declared.
Any attempt at high level contact and reconciliation appears to have faded after the April 7 strike. The strike destroyed nearly a third of the regime’s air force and has inaugurated a new period of increasingly tense relations between the U.S. and the regime’s allies. The U.S. recently shot down a Syrian regime fighter bombing U.S. backed forces in northern Syria and has engaged two Iranian drones, just in the last month.
“What we need is for those that are holding Austin to reach out and to let us know what needs to be done to bring him safely home,” Tice’s mother lamented to NPR.
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