By Barbara Starr
U.S. intelligence officials are describing the fighting in Syria as currently a stalemate between the regime and opposition forces, but those officials continue to believe Bashar al-Assad will eventually be forced from power.
"It doesn't seem either side is in a position to prevail or dominate," said a senior U.S. intelligence official. "We are looking at a protracted conflict."
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.
Officials are describing a "seesaw battle" between regime and opposition forces. The opposition forces have improved their tactics - using fresh supplies of small arms, they have increasingly attacked government checkpoint and facilities; and engaging in hit-and-run operations, according to the intelligence officials. But the regime is using brutal militias loyal to al-Assad to carry out atrocities, and is using so-called "combined arms" strategies of attacking with artillery and helicopters.
With reporting from Larry Shaughnessy in Washington and Nasir Habib in Islamabad
Four suspected militants were killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan's tribal region Tuesday night, a government official and a military official told CNN (more on the drone strike here).
One of the items on the agenda for Allen's meeting Wednesday with Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is reopening the border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan, a Pakistani military official told CNN. The U.S. recently pulled its negotiating team from after failing to reach an agreement on reopening the border crossings.
Seven months ago, Pakistan stopped allowing U.S. military supplies to cross into Afghanistan from Pakistan through what the United States calls the Ground Lines of Communications, or G-LOCS. FULL POST
By Pam Benson
A group of Republican senators continued to fire away Tuesday at the Obama administration for its failure to appoint a special counsel to investigate leaks of classified information.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, once again led the charge at a Capitol Hill news conference, criticizing Attorney General Eric Holder for his decision to appoint two Justice Department prosecutors to investigate the recent leaks to the media.
"To think that two people appointed prosecutors from Mr. Holder's office, overseen by Mr. Holder, is also offensive," McCain said. "We need a special counsel. We need someone who the American people can trust and we need to stop the leaks that are endangering the lives of those men and women who are serving our country."
Holder responded to the accusations at a June 12 congressional hearing. He said the Justice Department and the FBI are keeping a careful eye on any potential conflict of interest, but said of the prosecutors, "We have people who have shown independence, an ability to be thorough, and who have the guts to ask tough questions. And the charge that I've given them is to follow the leads wherever they are ... wherever it is in the executive branch or some other component of government."
By Elise Labott
The ball is now in Egyptian President-elect Mohamed Morsi's court in terms of dialogue with Israel, according to Israeli officials who spoke with CNN's Security Clearance.
But those officials say there are intense concerns about terrorist cells in the Sinai that Egypt needs to get a handle on. Israel is desperate to avoid a military confrontation there.
The officials said that with Morsi, a former Muslim Brotherhood member, it's a bit of wait and see. They believe the domestic challenges he will be facing - the economy, the relationship with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, known as SCAF and other issues are so important and pressing that Israel does not expect Egypt's relations with it to be a front-burner issue.
Which is why there are no expectations of immediate war or peace.
The Israeli officials believe Morsi understands keeping the peace treaty between the two nations can be an asset, as it can maintain the so-called peace triangle with the United States, which of course comes with substantial military and civilian assistance.
Turkey is changing its military rules of engagement and will now treat any military approach from Syria as a threat, CNN's Ivan Watson reports from Istanbul. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the announcement Tuesday in a significant escalation of rhetoric after Syria shot down a Turkish plane last week.
"The engagement rules for the Turkish armed forces have been changed from Syria if there are any military instruments or troops approach to the Turkish borders from the Syrian side in the form of a threat they will be perceived as military threats and will be acted accordingly from now on," Erdogan said.
Erdogan criticized Syria harshly on Tuesday saying: "Even if the plane was in their airspace for a few seconds, that is no excuse to attack."
"It was clear that this plane was not an aggressive plane. Still it was shot down," Erdogan said, arguing that Syrians should be ashamed of the attack.
NATO condemned it "in the strongest terms," Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after the alliance met Tuesday at Turkey's request.
By Paula Hancocks
South Korea said Tuesday that it will halt all Iranian oil imports from the start of July in response to a European Union insurance ban on tankers carrying crude from Iran.
The EU and United States have been widening sanctions against Iran recently to put pressure on Tehran to curtail its nuclear program.
Western powers say they believe the program is intended to build nuclear weapons, but Iran insists it is for peaceful purposes.
South Korea is the first major consumer of Iranian oil in Asia to suspend all imports. Iran's other big oil customers in the region are Japan, China and India - none of which have announced plans to stop receiving shipments.