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Monday, August 22, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Syria's Assad 'not worried', hints at secret assets

NICOSIA — President Bashar Assad has warned of hidden Syrian military capabilities.


Assad asserted that the Syrian military contained greater capabilities than known outside the regime. The president, who did not elaborate, said his military could repel any foreign attack.

"As for the security situation, it has become more militant in the recent weeks," Assad said. "We are capable of dealing with it. I am not worried."

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In an Aug. 21 interview on Syrian state television, Assad made the first reference to Syria's military might. He hinted to Syria's missile and non-conventional arsenal, believed to include chemical and biological weapons.

"As for the threat of a military action, any action against Syria will have greater consequences, greater than they can tolerate," Assad said.

Western diplomats said Assad appeared to be responding to rising military tension with neighboring Turkey. They said the Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan was examining the prospect of forming a safe haven for rebels and refugees along the border with Syria.

"Turkey sees its opportunity in controlling northeastern Syria as in the Ottoman days," a regional diplomatic source said.

"They know part of it [Syrian military prowess]," Assad said in the 40-minute interview. "But they do not know the other parts and they will not be able to afford the results."

The president did not cite Syria's capabilities. Western intelligence sources said Assad still controls his medium-range Scud D ballistic missiles, designed to be fitted with chemical and perhaps biological warheads.

Syria has been using its Russian-origin military in an effort to quell the revolt, which began in March. So far, more than 2,100 civilians were said to have been killed by Assad's military and security forces.

Assad said the revolt was led by Islamist insurgency groups. The president said more than 500 soldiers and police were killed since March as the attacks on the regime intensified.

The rebel attacks were said to have peaked on Aug. 19. Assad said Islamic fighters attacked police and army posts and killed officers as well as destroyed military vehicles.

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