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Thursday, April 28, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

U.S. acknowledges intel failure in Syria; Consults with UN, Turkey, Saudis

WASHINGTON — The administration of President Barack Obama has ruled out military intervention to stop the killing of protesters in Syria.


Officials acknowledged that the U.S. intelligence community underestimated the determination of the opposition within Syria as well as Assad's hesitation. They said the administration had sought to maintain a low profile and avoid a confrontation with Damascus in expectation that Assad would rapidly quell the protests.

"The general assessment [inside the administration] was that this wouldn't happen, that Assad was too good at nipping these movements in the bud and also that he was not afraid to be brutal," an administration official told the Cable political blog.

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Officials said any U.S. action against Assad would be coordinated with the United Nations, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the administration was also consulting with allies, particularly Saudi Arabia and Turkey, deemed as having influence with Assad.

Officials said the White House and State Department were considering sanctions against Assad, but indicated that this was not immediate.

"At present, the options that we are focused on are diplomatic and financial options," State Department policy planning director Jacob Sullivan said.

In a briefing on April 26, Sullivan acknowledged that the administration regarded Syria differently from Libya. In Libya, the administration supported a lead U.S. role in a no-fly zone to stop the killing of those opposed to Libyan Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

In contrast, the administration, stunned by the rapid escalation in the protests and the ensuing regime violence, has done little more than criticize Assad for the killing of more than 500 protesters over the last 40 days. Regarding Egypt, Obama called for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak within a week, a move that sparked tension with Cairo's ally, Saudi Arabia.

"From our perspective, we have to take each of the countries in this region on its own terms and consider the range of policy options we have available to us unilaterally as the United States and multilaterally in concert with other countries and with international organizations," Sullivan said.

One U.S. option against the Assad regime was sanctions. Sullivan said the administration was discussing sanctions against unidentified members of the Assad regime in an effort to promote democratic reforms.

"But the core that there needs to be meaningful political reform, that there has to be an end to violence perpetrated by governments against their own citizens," Sullivan said. "And that there has to be a respect for and an adherence to the universal rights to include freedom of assembly, speech, religion, and so forth, these are things that are guiding our approach to Syria, and we've been unequivocal about them."

"We are talking to our European friends about what tools we have available to address the situation in Syria," Sullivan said.

On April 27, the Turkish daily Sabah said CIA director Leon Panetta has been in Ankara for the last five days in secret discussions on Syria. Officials said both Ankara and Washington agreed that Syria must be treated differently than Libya.

"They will be different in terms of action that is feasible and indeed desirable from the Security Council," U.S. envoy to the UN Susan Rice said.

Officials said many in Congress agree with the administration's non-interventionist approach. They said U.S. troops, whether alone or as part of an international mission, would meet fierce resistance from both the Assad regime as well as Al Qaida elements in Syria.

"I don't see a way that we could intervene militarily," Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who just returned from Libya, said. "I think it would be very risky, and I don't know if we could stop the terrible behavior of Bashar Assad."


Oil must keep flowing. Today's oil price is krazy high. It'll get worse if USA and other importers start meddling into the conflicts of the producers - which prevents oil from getting to the rest of the world. USA (and world) will be in terrible shape if the oil price climbs to...who knows...$7/gal and above!!!! :(

vkmo      2:40 p.m. / Saturday, April 29, 2011

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