Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 29 November 2020

US sanctions won’t stop search for Austin Tice, says Lebanon spy chief

Maj Gen Abbas Ibrahim has been attempting to mediate the release of the US journalists held in Syria since 2012

Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of Austin Tice who has been missing in Syria since August 2012, holds up photos of him during a news conference at the Press Club, in Beirut. AP, File
Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of Austin Tice who has been missing in Syria since August 2012, holds up photos of him during a news conference at the Press Club, in Beirut. AP, File

Lebanese security chief Major General Abbas Ibrahim visited Damascus after a trip to Washington as part of efforts to free US national Austin Tice, who is thought to be held in Syria, Lebanese broadcaster Al Jadid reported on Saturday.

Maj Gen Ibrahim told the Lebanese channel that he went on a two-day visit to Damascus and was in regular contact with Mr Tice's mother to tell her that he would continue to work on her son's "file".

"I won't stop working on this subject and I promised Tice's mother whom I met in Washington and am in daily touch with on the phone," he told the broadcaster.

FILE - In this June 11, 2019 file photo, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security Directorate, arrives at the presidential palace, in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon. Ibrahim said on Saturday Nov. 14, 2020, that after returning from Washington recently he visited Syria for two days where he spoke with officials about American journalist Austin Tice who has been missing in the war-torn country since 2012. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)
Maj Gen Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon’s General Security, arrives at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon. AP, file

But Maj Gen Ibrahim, the head of General Security that works closely with the US, has been listed in a Congress bill as a target for sanctions. The Hezbollah Money Laundering Prevention Act of 2020, referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs on September 30, singles Maj Gen Ibrahim as a figure who has “knowingly provided material support to or engaged in a significant transaction with Hezbollah.”

Maj Gen Ibrahim said he was unconcerned by the threat and said it would not deter his work either to free Mr Tice or in service of Lebanon.

“They may be upset in Washington about my role in the region, and these articles may be considered a threat, but they will not deter me from my role for what is in the interest of Lebanon," he said “I have sworn allegiance to the homeland – not to any other country in the world – and I am continuing on this oath.”

US President Donald Trump has adopted the case of Mr Tice, a freelance journalist and former Marine officer who disappeared while reporting in Syria in 2012.

Maj Gen Ibrahim said the trip to Damascus came after he visited Washington last month where he met with national security adviser Robert O’Brien.

The General Security head said that his trip to the US had shown him the shortcomings of the US-Lebanese relationship and said Beirut needs a stronger voice in Washington – something he would work to change.

A Trump administration official on October 18 confirmed a newspaper report that a White House official travelled to Damascus earlier this year for secret meetings with the Syrian government seeking the release of Tice and another US citizen.

The trip was the first time such a high-level US official had met in Syria with the isolated government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in more than a decade.

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

Updated: November 14, 2020 06:13 PM

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