The French newspaper Le Figaro reported that the U.S. State Department is negotiating Austin Tice freedom with the Assad regime who was kidnapped in 2012. What those negotiations entail is a mystery.
Unlike the U.S. negotiating with the Taliban or AQ for the release of Americans, in this instance the U.S. holds no one in custody the Assad regime wants or would care for. In other words, this is no Bergdahl-style swap.
What are Assad’s demands for freeing Austin Tice who was taken illegally?
Here is a list Assad may seek from a weakened Obama administration willing, based on its history of negotiations, to give much for so little.
- Assad will demand the normalization of the U.S.-Syrian relations. He will ask for the U.S. Embassy in Damascus to be re opened with its full pre-war personnel levels and to re-open the Syrian Embassy in Washington, which played more the role of a spy station than a diplomatic mission.
- Short of full normalization, the regime will also demand a high-level visit by Secretary John Kerry or even Secretary Ash Carter to Damascus and a photo op to show the world Assad has US backing.
- The regime will additionally seek guarantees the U.S. will halt all military aid to the moderate Syrian opposition, to include congressional funding and training by U.S. Special Forces.
- The regime will attempt to impose upon the U.S. State Department for the U.S. President to deliver a pro-Assad speech or statement similar to the one John Kerry made on his own when he proposed the U.S. Government had no choice but to negotiate with the Assad regime.
- The Assad regime will seek as well that all aerial spying against Syria be halted immediately and that all evidence collected by the U.S. demonstrating the criminality of the regime that would warrant an international tribunal for crimes against humanity be either destroyed or delivered to the regime.
- In return for one or more of the above, Austin Tice gets his freedom.
While we all want to see Austin back home safe with his family, what Assad is bargaining for has deep repercussions upon the well-being of thousands if not millions of people as well as on the geo-political balance of the region. Giving-in to the demands of international terrorists able to upset U.S. strategic interests is not a smart move.
Any outcome from these negotiations will embolden the Assad regime to kidnap more Americans in the future. Rewarding a kidnapper for his crime is a greater crime.
667 days to go with Obama in the White House. Until then, we are all at the mercy of his horrible negotiating skills.