Signaling a willingness to wipe the slate clean, the US State Department announced plans to return its ambassador to Syria after a four-year absence. The move follows a recent visit by US Mideast envoy George Mitchell, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Syria in more than four years, with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus. In spite of its long history of sedition, the Obama administration hopes these efforts will encourage Syria to play a role in the Mideast peace process and in Iraq.