March 9th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Sources: Syria's president holding firm

By Barbara Starr

Despite reports of high-level defections of government and military officials, U.S. intelligence sees no signs of significant deterioration of support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by his inner circle, senior U.S. intelligence officials said Friday.

Read also: U.N. envoy to meet with Syria's president

The officials, who would speak only on the condition that their names not be used, said that to date, the defections have been of lower-level officials and those in the military.  None of those defections, including the group of military officers who are reported to have defected this week, are close enough to al-Assad to truly make a difference, the senior intelligence officials said. 

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Al Shabaab's British accent
Somali military fighting al Shabaab (file)
March 9th, 2012
02:25 PM ET

Al Shabaab's British accent

Editor's note: Raffaello Pantucci is an associate fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) and the author of the forthcoming "We Love Death As You Love Life: Britain's Suburban Mujahedeen" (Hurst/Columbia University Press).

By Raffaello Pantucci, Special for CNN

Friday's conviction of Shabaaz Hussain, a former British teaching assistant for donating thousands to Al Shabaab is just the latest reason the Somali terrorist group is increasingly a priority for British security services.

With news stories of somewhere in the region of 50 British passport holders fighting alongside Al Shabaab, British officials are vigilant to the potential for terrorist plots that might emanate from Somalia in the future. FULL POST

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Filed under: Africa • Al Qaeda • Al-Shabaab • Somalia • Terrorism • UK
New spy chief for Pakistan
March 9th, 2012
01:48 PM ET

New spy chief for Pakistan

By Reza Sayah and Nasir Habib in Pakistan and Pam Benson and Adam Levine in Washington

Pakistan's prime minister named a new head of Inter-Services Intelligence, the country's most powerful spy agency and a critical element in the U.S. fight against insurgents in both Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan.

Lt. Gen. Zahir Ul-Islam, who is currently serving as an army corps commander in the region of Karachi, steps into the new post, the office of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Friday. The current ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, is retiring March 18, Gilani's office said.

Islam was in the ISI as a two-star general before being promoted to three-star general in 2010 and being appointed to one of nine coveted corps commander posts. Each of Pakistan's corps commanders oversees a large army formation in a specific part of the country.

The appointment has been approved by the head of Pakistan's military, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Kayani submitted three names to the prime minister to select from for the appointment. FULL POST

Weighing impact of Israel striking Iran
March 9th, 2012
10:27 AM ET

Weighing impact of Israel striking Iran

By Guy Azriel, reporting from Jerusalem

While Israel has the most advanced military in the Middle East - including a suspected-but-undeclared nuclear arsenal of its own - Israeli analysts say there's no guarantee that a unilateral strike will roll back an Iranian program it sees as a threat to its survival.

Yet that's the choice observers say the Jewish state may soon face, and some argue the benefits would outweigh the costs military action would incur.

Read more here

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Filed under: Analysis • Iran • Israel • Middle East
'Eye in the Sky': the case file on NGA Director Letitia Long
March 9th, 2012
10:26 AM ET

'Eye in the Sky': the case file on NGA Director Letitia Long

By Suzanne Kelly and Pam Benson

Editor's note: In the Security Clearance "Case File" series, CNN national security producers profile the key members of the intelligence community.   As part of the series, Security Clearance is focusing on the roles women play in the U.S. intelligence community


On May 1, 2011, Letitia 'Tish' Long was at Central Intelligence Agency headquarters, watching the greatest intelligence-special operations mission of the past decade, unfold.

"We were anxious. It was tense. There were periods of time when we didn't know exactly what was happening," Long told CNN.

Long and others could do little but wait to see whether months of intelligence preparation would pay off as Navy SEALs raided the compound in Pakistan where they believed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was hiding out.

She was one of only a few women in the room that day, and the only woman who headed a major intelligence agency. FULL POST

Analysis: Is Iran's Khamenei flirting with the 'Great Satan'?
March 9th, 2012
12:55 AM ET

Analysis: Is Iran's Khamenei flirting with the 'Great Satan'?

By Elise Labott

Does recent - and rare - praise by Iran's supreme leader for President Barack Obama's efforts to dampen war talk suggest the regime is making an overture toward the United States?

According to Iran's state-run Press TV, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei welcomed Obama's statement that there is a "window of opportunity" to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis through diplomacy, calling such remarks positive. This week, Obama has tried to cool down the martial rhetoric, saying there is too much "loose talk" of war with Iran.

"This talk is good talk and shows an exit from illusion," Khamenei told Iran's Assembly of Experts, a senior clerical body, about Obama's remarks.

He also singled out Obama's comments about bringing the Iranian people to their knees with continued sanctions. That, he said, "shows the continuation of illusion in this issue."

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Filed under: IAEA • Iran • Khamenei • Middle East • Nuclear • Obama