U.S. and Arab officials say the White House secretly communicated for years with members of the Syrian regime in an effort to end the country’s ongoing civil war and get President Bashar al-Assad to step down, according to a published report.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday the Obama administration’s effort to communicate with Damascus was extremely limited. Sometimes, senior U.S. and Syrian officials would speak directly to each other; other times, they would speak through intermediaries such as Russia and Iran.
Assad also tried to reach out to the U.S. to entice them to join what he described as Syria’s fight against terrorism, according to the paper.
As anti-Assad demonstrations mushroomed into civil war in 2011, U.S. intelligence began to identify possible replacements for Assad, according to former U.S. and European officials.