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Friday, June 3, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

U.S. still holds exchanges with Syrian military despite 1,000 civilian deaths

ANKARA — The U.S. military continues to engage Syria.


The U.S. military is still meeting representatives of the Assad regime despite the killing of more than 1,000 civilians in Syria. The encounters have taken place in U.S.-sponsored or -assisted regional forums in which Syria continues to be invited.

"The sad truth is that U.S. and Western policy toward Syria has not changed at all," a Western diplomatic source said.

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On May 28, Syria was invited to attend a U.S.-sponsored seminar on threats to the Horn of Africa, Middle East Newsline reported. The four-day seminar took place in Istanbul, Turkey and discussions included security and regional instability in the Middle East.

"The seminar included representatives from U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Central Command, the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, and the countries of Burundi, Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, Oman, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Turkey and Yemen," a statement by U.S. Africa Command said on June 2.

In all, more than 80 representatives from Africa, the Middle East, and the United States attended the Horn of Africa seminar. The seminar was conducted by several institutes, including the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the Cairo Center for Training on Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping in Africa and the Regional Defense Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program.

The seminar was addressed by a senior State Department official, identified as Reuben Brigety, deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. It was not known whether Brigety met the Syrian delegation.

Over the last month, the United States imposed two sets of sanctions on the Assad regime amid its crackdown that killed a reported 1,200 civilians. The sanctions focused on freezing assets and preventing business dealings between Americans and regime leaders.

On June 2, Africom was asked whether it was restricted from dealing with representatives of the Assad regime. The military command did not provide an immediate reply.

Administration officials, however, acknowledged that U.S. and international pressure on Assad has been limited. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has insisted that Assad could remain in power.

"The legitimacy that is necessary for anyone to expect change to occur under this current government is, if not gone, nearly run out," Clinton told a news conference on June 2. "If he's not going to lead the reform, he needs to get out of the way. Where he goes, that's up to him."

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