Review recommends combat pay be based on level of danger
June 22nd, 2012
05:16 PM ET

Review recommends combat pay be based on level of danger

By Chris Lawrence

The days of American troops living on luxurious bases, hanging out at the coffee shop, attending dance parties and still earning full combat pay may be coming to an end.  The Pentagon is considering changes to combat pay that could result in a tiered system, based on how much danger the service member is actually in.

The new recommendations come from an independent review ordered by President Barack Obama in 2010, the Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation.

The review concluded that "the relationship between combat compensation and the degree of danger to which a member is exposed has eroded." FULL POST

Leader of New York-based radical Islamist group sentenced
June 22nd, 2012
04:52 PM ET

Leader of New York-based radical Islamist group sentenced

By Tim Lister, with reporting from Paul Cruickshank

One of the leading figures in a radical Islamist group based in New York has been sentenced to more than 11 years in prison after pleading guilty to using the organization's Internet sites to conspire to solicit murder and other offenses.

Jesse Curtis Morton, 33, aka Younus Abdullah Muhammad, was co-founder of the group Revolution Muslim, which was supportive of al Qaeda's philosophy. The group was the focus of a series of investigative reports by CNN in 2009.

Morton pleaded guilty in February. After the sentence, U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said that "Jesse Morton sought to inspire Muslims to engage in terrorism by providing doctrinal justification for violence against civilians in the name of Islam.  The string of recent cases with ties to Mr. Morton demonstrates that he was very successful." FULL POST

June 22nd, 2012
04:07 PM ET

U.S. sees Syrian military defections beginning to 'accelerate'

By Jamie Crawford, with reporting from Barbara Starr, Pam Benson, Arwa Damon and Ivan Watson

The defection of four senior Syrian military officers to the Syrian opposition this week is another sign that senior officials are turning away from the government of President Bashar al-Assad, the United States said Friday.

"We have had four senior Army officers - two brigadier generals and two colonels - defect yesterday and join the opposition," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. "We have been calling for many, many weeks for members of the military to vote with their consciences and to break ties with Assad, and to refuse orders and to refuse to participate in the violence that's ongoing. So we are beginning to see this stream accelerate, and that's a good thing."

The defections came the same week a Syrian pilot landed his military jet in neighboring Jordan and announced his defection. Nuland said U.S. officials had not yet been in contact with the Syrian pilot, but were in contact with Jordanian authorities.

While there's no sign of collapse by Assad's most elite military units, the rank and file may be less loyal. Opposition sources say that some Syrian troops are deliberately missing their targets. U.S. officials say there is no way to confirm the reports, but the opposition forces are strong enough that Assad's most elite units cannot always respond everywhere they are needed.
FULL POST

Post by:
Filed under: Assad • Robert Ford • State Department • Syria
Man accused in plot to blow up U.S. Capitol pleads guilty
June 22nd, 2012
11:26 AM ET

Man accused in plot to blow up U.S. Capitol pleads guilty

By Carol Cratty

A Moroccan man accused of plotting a suicide bomb attack on the U.S. Capitol pleaded guilty Friday afternoon to a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against government property.

In the plea agreement, Amine El Khalifi, 29, agreed to a prison sentence with a maximum of 25 to 30 years. If he had been convicted in a trial, he could have been sentenced to life behind bars.

U.S. District Judge James Cacheris set a sentencing date of September 14.

El Khalifi came to the courtroom wearing a jail jumpsuit with the word "prisoner" stenciled on the back. He was not in restraints.

FULL POST

Post by:
Filed under: Congress • Living With Terror • Terrorism
As talks with Iran stall, questions emerge over best way forward
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (2nd L), who is leading the P5+1, and chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili (R) take part in the talks on the controversial Iranian nuclear programme in Moscow, on June 19, 2012. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
June 22nd, 2012
12:00 AM ET

As talks with Iran stall, questions emerge over best way forward

By Jamie Crawford

With international talks over Iran's nuclear program seemingly stalled, pressure is building for the Obama administration and its allies to restructure its diplomatic approach before the window closes on diplomacy.

"Negotiations are really supposed to be all about a process of mutual confidence building, and this is a regime that is convinced that [the United States is] bent on eradicating their very survival, and at the same time, we are convinced that they will never play straight because they are determined to get a nuclear weapon," Suzanne Maloney with the Brookings Institution told CNN. "I think this is a structural problem rather than a problem of approach."

The Obama administration is pursuing a two-track strategy of pressure and diplomacy as a means of getting Iran to be more forthcoming about a program it claims is for peaceful purposes but is suspected of being a clandestine effort to build a nuclear weapon.

The third round of talks in Moscow between Iran and the so-called P5 +1, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, ended without an announcement for a fourth set of political discussions. Technical experts from each side will meet in Istanbul early next month to examine the fine points of what both sides are proposing in negotiations, but what happens after that remains unclear.
FULL POST

Post by:
Filed under: Diplomacy • Iran