“There are many groups that want to spoil the talks. The fact that Mitchell is going to Damascus now has a lot to do with the Palestinian issue,” says Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).
The US also believes that hopes of an eventual Israeli-Syrian peace track are dependent on the continuation of the Palestinian track.
“If Hamas succeeds [in scuttling the talks], the prospects for eventual Syria-Israel talks are zero,” says a US official who requested anonymity.
American diplomats have trodden the path to Damascus repeatedly over the past 18 months as part of a renewed attempt to engage with the Syrian leadership – a reversal of the policy of isolation practiced under the presidency of George W. Bush.
Progress has been slow, analysts say, complicated by waning US influence in the region, the Israeli government’s preoccupation with Iran, and the complex and ever-changing interplay of the region’s key powers, such as Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.