By Elise Labott, CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter
Expectations are low for Sunday's Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul, where representatives from more than 70 nations and international organizations will gather to discuss ways to hasten the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.
The reason is simple. The most critical piece is missing: Plan B.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made no secret of her frustration with the opposition Syrian National Council's inability to offer a vision for a post-al-Assad Syria that all Syrians can sign on to. This week, Clinton said the United States would be "pushing them very hard" to present such a vision in Istanbul.
She's not alone. Many a senior administration official has summed up the SNC in two words: "A mess."
By Jill Dougherty
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) - Kicking off a short but intense trip to the Middle East, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is looking for help from America's friends in the region to address complex security challenges in Iran and Syria.
At her first stop Friday in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, Clinton briefed King Abdullah on plans for a meeting two weeks from now, at which Iran says its officials will discuss its nuclear program.
Clinton also discussed Saudi pledges to keep global oil supplies strong, at a time more nations are signing on to U.S.-led sanctions that require them to bar imports of Iranian oil.
By Jennifer Rizzo
U.S. Defense Department officials debated how to dispose of more than 1,000 unidentified human remains from victims of the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon that ultimately ended up in a Delaware landfill, according to newly released documents. The internal discussion about what to do with the remains were released as part of an investigation into the workings of the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base.
Read more about the investigation here.
By Jamie Crawford
The United States sanctioned three senior Syrian officials in President Bashar al-Assad's regime Friday as the yearlong violence in the country showed no signs of letting up.
Dawood Rajiha, Syria's defense minister; Munir Adanov, a senior Syrian Army official; and Zuhayr Shalish, the head of presidential security, were targeted in the action announced by the Treasury Department.
"The U.S. and the international community will hold to account those who stand with the Assad regime as it trains the instruments of war against Syrian civilians," David S. Cohen, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a written statement. "The time has long since passed for Syrian officials at all levels to turn their backs on this bloody regime."
Osama bin Laden spent years on the run in various parts of Pakistan after the 2001 terrorist attacks, moving from one safe house to another and fathering four children, and at least one was born in a government hospital, his youngest widow has told Pakistani investigators.
The deposition of the widow, identified by police as Amal Ahmed Abdul Fateh, gives the clearest picture yet of bin Laden's life while international forces hunted him.
The Yemeni woman's statement confirms beliefs about the al Qaeda leader's evasion of authorities and raises questions about the Pakistanis who helped him keep a low profile. FULL POST
By Steve Hargreaves from CNNMoney
President Obama ratcheted up the pressure on Iran Friday, deciding to implement previously announced sanctions that will be the toughest to date.
The decision declares that world oil markets can be adequately supplied even if a significant portion of Iran's 2.2 million barrels a day in oil exports is taken off the table.
Previously, the Obama administration determined 11 countries, 10 in the European Union and Japan, had significantly reduced their Iran oil purchases and should not be subject to new U.S. sanctions. But 12 others did not meet those requirements, including China, India and South Korea.
By Tim Lister, CNN
The balance sheet for the first quarter of 2012 in Afghanistan does not make for cheerful reading. In fact, it is steeped in red.
Add to that slow progress in subduing the Taliban (especially in east Afghanistan), the glacial revival of the U.S. relationship with Pakistan and the growing impatience of NATO members, from Ottawa to Paris, to head for the exit and the outlook doesn’t seem bright.
On the credit side, some of the goals laid out by President Barack Obama in his 2009 speech at West Point, when he announced an increase of 30,000 in U.S. troop numbers, are within sight. FULL POST
Support for the war in Afghanistan has fallen to an all-time low with the majority of Americans saying the U.S. should withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan before the 2014 deadline set by the Obama administration, according to CNN's latest poll.
The CNN/ORC International survey released Friday indicated only 25% of Americans favored the war in the Asian country. A majority of Republicans voiced opposition to it, for the first time since the war began in 2001.
Just 37% of the general public said things are going well for the U.S. in Afghanistan, while only 34% said America is winning the war. The approval likely contributed to the 55% of those surveyed who said the U.S. should remove all of its troops from the country before 2014.
Read more about the poll on CNN's Political Ticker
By Pam Benson
The Obama administration is talking with the Pakistanis about possible changes in the way the U.S. conducts air strikes against terrorists in Pakistan, including providing Pakistan advance notice of attacks, modifying the targets and changing how targets are determined, according to a senior U.S. official who is involved in intelligence matters.
The official, who would not speak for attribution because of the sensitivity of the issues, said the White House is making a serious mistake by putting the options on the table for the Pakistanis to seize.
By Jill Dougherty
A leading member of the Syrian opposition says their leaders, who hope to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later this week, will request more assistance as the siege by Bashar al-Assad's government continues.
Leaders of the Syrian National Council, the largest opposition group, will attend the "Friends of Syria" meeting in Istanbul this weekend. The meeting, a follow-up to an earlier gathering in Tunisia, will focus on ways to put a stop to the carnage in Syria and support a transition to democracy.
Representatives from 60 countries are invited.