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Wednesday, August 10, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

State Department cautions Americans
on anti-Assad protests in Kuwait

ABU DHABI — The United States has warned its nationals of the prospect of violence during demonstrations in Kuwait against Syrian President Bashar Assad.


Officials said the the State Department has been concerned that the anti-Assad protests could end up targeting the large American military presence in Kuwait. The U.S. military was said to have significantly expanded its presence in Kuwait to facilitate the withdrawal from Iraq and expansion of operations in Afghanistan.

"At times, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence," the U.S. embassy in Kuwait said. "Do not let curiosity get the best of you. Avoid the areas of demonstrations and exercise caution if within the vicinity of any large gatherings."

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In a warden message on Aug. 9, the embassy said it expected anti-Assad demonstrations to continue through the Muslim fast month of Ramadan, Middle East Newsline reported. The embassy said the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry has already confirmed protests in front of the Syrian embassy in Kuwait City.

"According to the Kuwait Ministry of the Interior, public gatherings may continue to take place over the next week in front of the Syrian embassy, located in Mishref off Route 303," the U.S. embassy said in a warden statement. "In order to avoid any possible incidents, the U.S. embassy recommends that this area be avoided after Aisha prayer — just prior to 8 p.m."

The U.S. military presence in Kuwait has been reported at up to 70,000 soldiers and support personnel. Washington has used Kuwait, a major non-NATO ally, for training and logistics in the Middle East and South Asia.

The warning to Americans was issued after the Kuwait Interior Ministry banned all anti-Assad demonstrations. Sunni parliamentarians have criticized the Gulf Cooperation Council sheikdom for an insufficient response to the killing of more than 2,000 Sunnis by Assad in the revolt in Syria.

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