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Sunday, June 19, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Administration: Despite Syrian blood bath, Assad still key to 'broad-based' regional strategy

WASHINGTON — After killing more than 1,300 demonstrators, Syrian President Bashar Assad still remains legitimate for the United States.


In a briefing on June 17, two senior administration officials refused to call for Assad's resignation. The officials, speaking at a briefing organized by the State Department, said Assad, whose military has been bombing Syrian cities, could still implement democratic reforms.

The administration also stressed that it would keep U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford in Damascus, emphasizing that without firsthand media reports of the crisis, he was a critical information source.

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"He [Ford] is our eyes and ears on the ground, particularly in the absence of all of you," another administration official said. "So he's providing information and he's providing real-time analysis of what the regime is saying and doing and where the differences are between those two."

Over the last three months, Obama has rarely addressed the revolt in Syria, and has rather focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The president, who ordered two sets of sanctions on Syrian leaders, has not made more than a passing reference to Assad's bloody crackdown since May 19, Middle East Newsline reported.

Under repeated questions from journalists, the officials acknowledged that the United States was moving far slower against Assad than against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi. They attributed the pace to difficulties in building an international coalition against the regime in Damascus.

"I agree that in a perfect world we should be moving faster, that this is going slowly," the first official said. "But what we're doing is, again, we're actively building a broad-based approach with our partners bilaterally, multilaterally, regionally, internationally in order to make sure that we're all moving ahead in a sensible way that backs the Syrian people themselves."

The officials said Ford has been monitoring the revolt in Syria and meeting opposition leaders as the administration considers sanctions on Syria's energy sector. Several U.S. companies continue to explore and develop crude oil and natural gas resources in Syria.

The administration of President Barack Obama has insisted that Assad still has time to reform Syria and would not have to leave office despite the pressure building against his regime.

"Time is running out for Assad," a senior administration official said.


Perhaps Assad hasn't killed quite as many protesting civilians as Ghadaffi, but he is working at it. Presumably, the Obama administration is keeping count. In any case, the Obama Administration has taken stronger action against apartment building in Jerusalem than it has against Syrian murder of its citizens. Clearly, it isn't "what is being done" that counts. It is, "who is doing it". Obama has done just what he promised. He has taken a new approach to the Middle East. An unbalanced, illogical, inconsistent approach that seems to favor such new US "friends" as the Muslim Brotherhood and Syria.

Syd Chaden      11:57 a.m. / Tuesday, June 21, 2011

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