How far will newest U.N. nuclear report on Iran go?
Satellite Imagery of Natanz nuclear facility in Iran Photo By: GeoEye
October 18th, 2011
06:44 PM ET

How far will newest U.N. nuclear report on Iran go?

By CNN Sr. National Security Producer Pam Benson

Amid new reports indicating Iran's nuclear program is faltering, the international nuclear watchdog agency is putting the finishing touches on its latest assessment and it might go further in tying Iran to a possible weapons program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's new report will be sent to the board of governors next month in advance of its November 17 meeting.

Last month, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said Iran was not providing enough detail about its program for the agency to conclude Iran is engaged in only peaceful nuclear activities.

"The agency is increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile, about which the agency continues to receive new information," Amano said at the September board of governors meeting.  "In the near future, I hope to set out in greater detail the basis for the Agency's concerns so that all Member States are fully informed." FULL POST

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Filed under: IAEA • Iran • Nuclear • United Nations • weapons
Osama bin Laden raid gets comic book treatment
October 18th, 2011
04:31 PM ET

Osama bin Laden raid gets comic book treatment

By National Security Producer Jamie Crawford

You can soon add a new medium to the heavy volume of historical accounts chronicling the raid that killed Osama bin Laden – a comic book.

"Killing Geronimo: The Hunt for Osama bin Laden," a graphic novel about the hunt and killing of the world's most wanted terrorist, will be produced by Bluewater Productions, an independent comic book publisher. In the deal announced Tuesday, Bluewater was commissioned by publisher Simon & Schuster to document the events that culminated in the infamous May 2 raid by a Navy SEAL team in Abbottbad, Pakistan.

The title of the project comes from the code name used for bin Laden during the operation.

"This an epic story nearly ten years in the making," Jerome Maida, one of the projects co-authors, said in a press release announcing the project. "It's like a true to life Jason Bourne novel. And like those Ludlum books, it's a complex labyrinth of intrigue, danger and politics culminating in an action-packed ending." FULL POST

U.S. doesn't need bioterror czar, administration officials say
This image shows the infectious disease, anthrax, in a laboratory environment Photo By Centers for Disease Control
October 18th, 2011
04:01 PM ET

U.S. doesn't need bioterror czar, administration officials say

By CNN Senior Producer Mike M. Ahlers

Obama administration officials who would be front and center during any bioterror attack pushed back on arguments the nation needs one central figure to coordinate bioterror preparedness and response, saying the existing structure is agile and capable of dealing with the threat.

Two separate boards have recommended a White House-level official be assigned to focus on bioterrorism, providing the topic the same clout given to nuclear- and cyberterrorism. And at a Senate hearing Tuesday, a former Bush administration adviser also said a White House-lever bioterror leader is needed.
FULL POST

Troops to Africa: not your typical advise and assist mission
October 18th, 2011
03:37 PM ET

Troops to Africa: not your typical advise and assist mission

By Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr

President Obama’s decision to send 100 troops, mainly U.S. Special Forces, to Uganda to help hunt down leaders of the violent Lord’s Resistance Army is not meant to be a combat mission. But the troops will be well equipped if the need to fight arises, them CNN has learned.  The troops will have so-called “crew-served” weapons in the field.  These weapons, unlike a rifle or machine gun, requires more than one person to operate them, such as one person loading ammunition while the other person aims and fires.

The deployment of these particular combat weapons triggered the need for the Obama administration to publicly notify Congress of the operation under the War Powers Resolution, according to a Department of defense official.  That requirement demands that any time troops are put into a country “equipped for combat” Congress must be told to avoid any prospect of a secret war, the official explained.

Also, in this case, the US trainers were given a specific mission of helping target Joseph Kony, the head of the Lords Resistance Army, rather than just generalized counterterrorism and field training.

The official confirmed that Uganda had asked for the troops several months ago, but no Special Forces unit was available until now.

The US military has had a longstanding relationship in helping train Ugandan forces and attempting to help target Kony.  In December 2008, a 17-man team of military advisors and intelligence advisors from the U.S. Africa Command helped plan and provide intelligence to go after Kony, according to a US military official.  That mission failed after two weeks.

NATO official: Haqqani network infitrating Afghanistan at increasing pace
October 18th, 2011
12:27 PM ET

NATO official: Haqqani network infitrating Afghanistan at increasing pace

From Jerome Starkey in Kabul, Afghanistan for CNN

NATO and U.S. forces are seeing a marked increase in infiltration into Afghanistan from Pakistan by the militant Haqqani network, a senior NATO official said Tuesday.

There has been a significant increase in the Haqqani network's activity in Khost, Paktia, Logar and Wardak provinces which are used in that order as an infiltration route from Pakistan, to launch attacks on the capital, the official said. The senior NATO official spoke to reporters in Kabul on the condition no name was used.

Whether or not NATO and the United States will have to provide more assistance to the Afghan security forces, particularly along the border with Pakistan, will depend on "the level of threat coming out of Miramshah" in North Waziristan, the official said.  Miramshah is believed to be where the Haqqani network leaders are based.

Haqqani fighters are blamed for killing more than 1,000 coalition and Afghan forces.  The official said Haqqani militants were behind a series of "spectacular attacks," this summer, including a 20-hour attack on the American Embassy, last month, and an assault on Kabul's InterContinental Hotel, in June, which left at least a dozen people dead.

NATO officials said there had also been a marked increase in the number of cross border attacks from Pakistan, but the insisted reports of artillery bombardments and heavy casualties were often exaggerated. FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Gen. Allen • Haqqani • Kabul • Military • NATO • Pakistan • Terrorism
Will U.S. nuclear weapons system be on the budget chopping block?
October 18th, 2011
12:03 PM ET

Will U.S. nuclear weapons system be on the budget chopping block?

As the nation grapples with its need to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from its future defense budgets every year, one category seems MIA: the nuclear triad. But it's worth noting that those who embrace it tend to be those running it, while the nation's top military officers - who have to juggle competing demands, and not just the nation's nukes - are beginning to weigh the wisdom of the Cold War-era triangle that places atomic weapons atop land-based ballistic missiles, inside the bomb bays and under the wings of long-range bombers, and in missile tubes on submarines constantly patrolling the world's oceans.

The top officer who oversees the triad tells Time's Battleland blog that the redundancy is needed for now but the triad's days are numbered.

"You can have a hollow nuclear force, just like you can have a hollow conventional force," General Robert Kehler, the Air Force officer who runs U.S. Strategic Command told Battleland.  "There will be some very tough decisions to make here at certain levels, and whether or not you can then sustain a leg of the triad without it becoming hollow."

Read more on Time's Battleland blog

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Filed under: Budget • Nuclear • Time's Battleland blog
October 18th, 2011
11:28 AM ET

Clinton arrives in Libya on unannounced visit

By Elise Labott

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed in Tripoli on Tuesday, making her the first Cabinet-level American official to visit Libya since the ouster of longtime strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

She landed under tight security in a country where forces loyal to the transitional government are still battling Gadhafi loyalists. She was slated to meet with officials of the National Transitional Council and planned to offer U.S. medical assistance for those wounded in the fighting, according to a senior State Department official traveling with the secretary.

NTC fighters toppled Gadhafi's nearly 42-year-old government in August after six months of fighting. Gadhafi, his son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi and his brother-in-law and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanussi are wanted on war crimes charges and remain fugitives.

Read the full story here


Filed under: Diplomacy • Hillary Clinton • Libya • NTC • Secretary of State
Islam, democracy at heart of crucial Tunisian vote
Posters of candidates cover a wall in Tunis ahead of the October 23 election.
October 18th, 2011
07:48 AM ET

Islam, democracy at heart of crucial Tunisian vote

By Tim Lister, CNN

The people of Tunisia, who lit the fuse for protests that have ignited the Arab world, cast their votes for a constituent assembly this weekend. Ahead of this critical vote, one online video has come to represent a stark choice about the future of the country.

The video is part of a guerrilla war between secular and Islamist groups waged through social media. It says much about a climate of growing suspicion and mistrust in the first Arab country to expel the old order - a climate that has already led to bouts of violence.

Against a background of melancholic music, the 45-second video entitled "The Day After" shows a woman sitting on a sofa with her two daughters. She speaks as if Islamist groups have taken power and says her husband "told me they could be trusted. I believed and I followed."

Then she adds: "After a few months, they changed the law. He married two other women. ... I forfeited my family's happiness. ...I betrayed my daughters' futures."

Tunisian Islamists have responded by posting their own version of the video - with a very different twist to the woman's words.

"I was told, 'Be careful, pick any party except them. They're backward,'" says the dubbed version. The woman speaks of Tunisia as a police state. "They even came to my office to tell me, 'You either take off this rag off your head or quit your job'" - a reference to whether women would be allowed to wear the veil in public in a secular Tunisia. Under the old regime, women wearing headscarves often found it difficult to find employment. FULL POST

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Filed under: Tunisia
CNN announces first GOP debate focused on national security
October 18th, 2011
07:27 AM ET

CNN announces first GOP debate focused on national security

National security will take center stage next month at a Republican presidential primary debate in the nation’s capital, The Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and CNN announced Monday evening.

This will be the first debate of the 2012 presidential election to focus exclusively on the issues of national security and foreign policy.

CNN and the two conservative Washington-based think tanks said more details about the Nov. 15 debate will follow.

Watch for more updates on Security Clearance and CNN's Political Ticker


Filed under: 2012 Election • Politics • Republican