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Tuesday, June 21, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

West begins preparing for Syria regime collapse

LONDON — On June 18, Western governments began to warn their nationals of an impending collapse in Syria. The British Foreign Office urged its nationals to leave Syria immediately while foreign carriers were still operating.


Western diplomatic sources said Assad, despite significant help from Iran, has failed to quell the revolt in Syria. They said the failure could bolster the opposition and spark a mutiny among the non-Alawites in the military.

"Over the last two weeks, Assad has used just about all of his force to stop the protests and has clearly failed," a Western diplomat said. "The next step could be a slide into civil war that would pit Alawites against Sunnis."

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The Western assessment has been shared by Syria's southern neighbor Israel. On June 20, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he did not expect Assad, whose regime has killed 1,400 people, to last for more than six months, Middle East Newsline reported.

"British nationals should leave now by commercial means whilst these are still operating," the Foreign Office said. "Those who choose to remain in Syria, or to visit against our advice, should be aware that it is highly unlikely that the British embassy in Damascus would be able to provide a normal consular service in the event of a further breakdown in law and order and increased violent civil disorder."

The Foreign Office statement marked the first by a NATO government that warned of a collapse in Syria. Most Western governments have urged their nationals to demonstrate caution in Syria amid the Assad crackdown on the opposition.

"Evacuation options would be limited because of likely communication and travel restrictions," the Foreign Office said.

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