World powers agree on steps for Syria
June 30th, 2012
02:03 PM ET

World powers agree on steps for Syria

From Jill Dougherty reporting from Geneva

Members of the international community on Saturday forged an agreement for a transition to end the violence in and bring peace to Syria.

The first step should be a recommitment to a ceasefire by both sides and implementation of a U.N. and Arab League-backed six-point plan without waiting for the actions of others, Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan said.

A key to the process will be a transitional government, which Annan said could include members of the current Syrian regime. The make-up of such a body would be decided by the Syrians, he said.

"We are determined to work together urgently and intensively, to bring an end to the violence and the human rights abuses and the launch of a Syrian-led political process leading to a transition that meets the legit aspiration of the Syrian people," Annan said.

The agreement also calls on the Syrian government to release detainees and allow journalists access to the country. The right to peaceful demonstrations must be respected, Annan said

Read full story here

Panetta on Pakistan: At least we're talking
June 29th, 2012
06:52 PM ET

Panetta on Pakistan: At least we're talking

By Jennifer Rizzo

In frank remarks Friday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the fact that discussions are even taking place to reopen Pakistan's supply routes into Afghanistan is a good sign, an inidcator of the rift in U.S. and Pakistan relations.

"We continue to have a line of communication with the Pakistanis to try to see if we can take steps to reopen the (Ground Lines of Communication)," Panetta said. "And the good news is that there continues to be those discussions."

Pakistan shut down the key supply routes, stretching from Afghanistan through the lawless western tribal regions of Pakistan and down to the southern port of Karachi, in November after dozens of its troops were killed in a mistaken U.S. airstrike.
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Filed under: Military • Pakistan • Panetta • Panetta • Pentagon • Secretary of Defense • Security Brief
June 29th, 2012
06:37 PM ET

Vietnamese national charged with helping Yemen-based terror group

By Carol Cratty

A Vietnamese national has been charged with aiding al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and receiving military training from the terror group, the Justice Department announced Friday.

According to an indictment, 29 year old Minh Quang Pham traveled from the United Kingdom to Yemen in December 2010. There, he allegedly swore an oath to AQAP, got military training, carried an automatic weapon and helped with the group's online propaganda work. Court documents say that while in Yemen, he worked with two American citizens who are not identified in the indictment.

Pham is not accused of involvement in any plots against the U.S. However, he faces five counts including conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism, receiving military training from a terrorist organization and possessing guns to further crimes of violence. If convicted on all charges Pham faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Pham was arrested Friday in the United Kingdom, where he'd previously been held in immigration custody.

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Filed under: AQAP • Terrorism • Yemen
June 29th, 2012
06:24 PM ET

US prepared to help Turkey with finding downed plane

By Barbara Starr

The US is prepared to offer Turkey help in locating the undersea wreckage of its jet shot down by Syria last week according to a senior US official.  “We are prepared to assist in the search and recovery of the downed wreckage,” the official said. 

Turkey still must make an official request for assistance. But the official also noted there is a security complication. Because the aircraft is believed to be in international waters but quite close to Syrian waters, the US wants some assurances from Syria it will not fire on, or attack the recovery effort. It's likely that overture to Syria for security assurances would be made by Turkey or a third party the official said.

He also strongly suggested any recovery would likely be carried out by a commercial salvage operation rather than US military assets. The official declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Syrians defiant as world powers plan for talks
Smoke rises after an explosion Thursday near the Palace of Justice in central Damascus, Syria
June 29th, 2012
04:54 PM ET

Syrians defiant as world powers plan for talks

International envoy Kofi Annan expressed optimism Friday that the latest talks on the crisis in Syria will yield "an appropriate outcome," despite a failed peace plan and relentless violence in the Middle East nation.

Diplomats prepared for a weekend emergency meeting in Switzerland as grass-roots anger against Bashar al-Assad's regime spread across Syria and protesters praised Free Syrian Army rebels with shouts of "FSA forever!"

"We're confident that God's victory is near," marchers chanted Friday in nationwide demonstrations against the government.

"We will no longer kneel to anyone but God," emboldened protesters shouted near the presidential palace in central Damascus. They lambasted al-Assad's family with cries of "We are coming after you, may God curse your soul."

READ FULL STORY HERE


Filed under: Syria
Pakistani view of U.S. reaches new low
Pakistani protesters shout slogans beside a burning NATO flag during a demonstration against drone attacks in Multan on June 27, 2012. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
June 29th, 2012
10:03 AM ET

Pakistani view of U.S. reaches new low

By Jamie Crawford

With most of the official relationship between the United States and Pakistan currently in tatters, a new poll shows Pakistani public opinion toward the U.S. in an equally distressing state.

As much as 74% of Pakistanis consider the United States to be an enemy, according to the survey conducted by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitude Project. The figure is up from 69% a year ago, and 64% three years ago, according to the organization.

The survey comes at a time when the United States is working with the Pakistani government to negotiate the reopening of overland supply routes into Afghanistan after a NATO airstrike last November mistakenly killed 24 members of the Pakistani military.

U.S. President Barack Obama fared no better in Pakistani public opinion, according to Pew. Of the 15 countries surveyed in both 2008 and 2012 in the same survey, Pakistan was the only country where Obama rated no better than former President George W. Bush did during his final year in office.
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Filed under: Pakistan
US military seeks to spread skills around the world to ease burden on itself
Djiboutian Maj. Daher Meraneh Arreh explains to U.S. Air Force Col. Jon Gullett, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa communication director, how he would like to train his soldiers
June 28th, 2012
09:11 PM ET

US military seeks to spread skills around the world to ease burden on itself

By Jennifer Rizzo

The U.S. military plans to deploy specialized Army units around the globe as part of an effort to build worldwide military partnerships, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday.

The first units will be deployed to Africa Command next year. These units, known as brigade combat teams, will specialize in the culture and language of the geographic places in which they are operating.

"Those security cooperation capabilities and skill sets once considered the exclusive province of the special operations community will need to be built up and retained across the force and among civilians," said Panetta. "In particular, it is critical that we invest in language training and cultural expertise throughout the Department (of Defense)."

Panetta made the announcement during a speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace that outlined a department-wide initiative to build international partnerships by increasing the security capabilities of nations in every part of the globe.
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Filed under: Army • Military • Panetta • Secretary of Defense
China and Singapore granted exceptions to U.S. sanctions
June 28th, 2012
08:02 PM ET

China and Singapore granted exceptions to U.S. sanctions

By Jamie Crawford

China and Singapore received exceptions from U.S. sanctions scheduled to go into effect today that would have cut off banks in those countries from the U.S. financial system for continuing large volumes of Iranian oil transactions, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday.

CNN was first to report the exemptions earlier Thursday.

"Today, I have made the determination that two additional countries, China and Singapore, have significantly reduced their volume of crude oil purchases from Iran," Clinton said in a written statement. "As a result, I will report to the Congress that sanctions pursuant to Section 1245(d)(1) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012 will not apply to their financial institutions for a potentially renewable period of 180 days."

The move will keep Chinese and Singaporean banks and financial institutions from being cut off from the U.S. banking system as the legislation calls for those institutions who do not demonstrate a significant reduction in the purchases of Iranian petroleum.
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Photo: CNN
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Filed under: China • Iran • Sanctions
June 28th, 2012
02:15 PM ET

FIRST ON CNN: China, Singapore to be exempted from Iran sanctions

by Jamie Crawford

China and Singapore will receive exemptions from U.S. sanctions scheduled to go into effect Thursday that would have cut off banks in those countries from the U.S. financial system for handling Iranian oil transactions, a source in the office of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) tells Security Clearance.

Secretary of State Clinton called Senator Menendez earlier today to inform him.

Under legislation signed by President Barack Obama In December, the United States will take action against countries that continue buying large volumes of Iranian oil through Iran's Central Bank by cutting off financial institutions engaged in those transactions from the U.S. banking system. FULL POST

Justices dismiss law making lying about military honors a crime
June 28th, 2012
11:25 AM ET

Justices dismiss law making lying about military honors a crime

By CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a federal law making it a crime to falsely claim military medals earned.

The 6-3 ruling was a free speech victory but perhaps in name only - for a onetime California public official who publicly lied about winning the prestigious Medal of Honor.

At issue is the constitutional value of false statements of fact, and whether Congress went too far when passing the Stolen Valor Act in 2006.
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Filed under: Justice Department • Medal of Honor • Military
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