By Jill Dougherty
As her blue and white jet emblazoned with "United States of America" touched down in Riga, the capital of Latvia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made some diplomatic history: visiting her 100th country as America's top diplomat. The record for any other secretary up to that point was 96.
As her plane rolled down the tarmac and a flight attendant announced the milestone, her flight-weary staff applauded.
The peripatetic Clinton has only increased her travel during her time in office, making 70 trips, completing 337 days on the road and the equivalent of more than 73 days on the plane, equaling over 1,750 hours, according to her State Department staff. Dressed in a jaunty navy suit with white piping, Clinton seemed unfazed by the mileage as she shook hands with Latvian President Andris Berzins at Riga Castle.
"I wanted to save a very consequential number for Latvia!" she said proudly, beginning a day that would take her to three countries in less than 24 hours: Finland, Latvia and Russia.
By Jamie Crawford
The United States faces a deadline Thursday of deciding whether to issue an exemption to Chinese banks and financial instituions, and other purchasers of Iranian oil, or move to cut them off from the U.S. financial system as punishment for not reducing their purchases of Iranian crude by significant amounts.
Under legislation signed by President Barack Obama on 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.
The legislation was signed with the goal of strangling the biggest source of revenue for the Iranian government as a way to get Tehran to halt work on segments of its nuclear program that many Western countries fear is being used to produce a bomb. Iran contends its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes.
By Jennifer Rizzo
Iran's Navy has discontinued the aggressive moves its forces were making against U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf earlier this year, according to the Navy's top official.
"Things have been, relatively speaking, quiet in that regard," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said during a briefing with reporters Wednesday. "We really haven't had many - quote - confrontations."
In January, U.S. military including Coast Guard ships had two close encounters with high-speed Iranian boats in the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf that exhibited provocative behavior.
But Greenert said over the last couple of months, Iran's Navy has had routine exercises and the harassing behavior has stopped.
"Every operation has been predictable and as I said before in accordance with the international rules," he said. "They have been professional and courteous, committing to the rules of the road."
By Jamie Crawford
The United States on Wednesday designated a Colombian national as a terrorist for his alleged role directing fund-raising activities in the Americas on behalf of Hezbollah, a U.S. designated terrorist organization.
In addition, the Treasury Department also designated four individuals and three entities for their purported role in laundering money for Ayman Joumaa, an alleged drug trafficker and money-launderer currently under indictment by a U.S. federal court.
"The Joumaa network is a sophisticated multi-national money-laundering ring, which launders the proceeds of drug trafficking for the benefit of criminals and the terrorist group Hizballah," David S. Cohen, under secretary for terrorism and financial Intelligence, said in a written statement. "We and our partners will continue to aggressively map, expose and disable this network, as we are doing with today's sanctions."
Ali Mohamad Saleh, a Lebanese Colombian national, was designated as a "specially designated global terrorist" for his role directing Hezbollah's fund-raising activities in the Americas, Treasury said in a press release. Previously designated under separate sanctions for his role as a money-launderer for other organizations, Saleh solicited donations for Hezbollah from Colombian business owners and residents, and coordinated the transfer of those funds via Venezuela to Hezbollah's base in Lebanon. He also maintained communication with suspected Hezbollah operatives in Venezuela, Germany, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia the Treasury Department said.
By Terry Frieden
A 20-year-old Saudi student in Texas has been convicted by an Amarillo federal jury of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Although Khalid Ali Aldawsari had not yet constructed a bomb or selected a target, a jury found him guilty of the WMD charge and of illegally buying chemicals on line. The jury was unanimous in its decision.
The arrest focused attention again on the danger posed by "lone-wolf" terrorists.
Prosecutors told jurors the defendant's journal showed he had intended to cause violence and that he believed "it is time for jihad." The government said Aldawsari had a target list that showed he considered trying to blow up hydroelectric dams and nuclear power plants. His list also included the Dallas home of former president George W. Bush. FULL POST
Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani complained to U.S. Gen. John Allen about Taliban incursions from Afghanistan into Pakistan when he met the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, a Pakistani army source said Wednesday.
Kayani urged NATO to stop militants from crossing the border, according to the source, who was not authorized to speak to the media.
Such action would help strengthen relations between the Pakistani armed forces and NATO, the source said Kayani told the American general.
Relations between Pakistan and the United States are tense, with Pakistanis especially frustrated by what they say are U.S. drone attacks on suspected militants in their country.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force did not immediately comment on the reported meeting.
A newly released photo shows Maj. Nidal Hasan now with a beard. The photo was provided by the Bell County Sheriff's Office in Texas.
Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 others during a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas in November 2009.
In the aftermath of the shootings, radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki told Aljazeera.net that he had communicated with Hasan for about a year before the soldier allegedly went on the rampage. Al-Awaki, a leading figure in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was killed in a U.S. drone strike that targeted him in Yemen in 2011.
A military judge last week postponed a hearing on whether the government should pay for an expert neurologist for Maj. Nidal Hasan, after Hasan appeared in court with a beard, violating military grooming standards, according to a Fort Hood news release.
By Jill Dougherty, reporting from onboard Secretary Clinton's plane
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may attend an international meeting on Syria proposed by Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan, but only if the participants agree that there must be a political transition in the country, an official said Tuesday.
Russia has opposed the idea that other countries dictate a political transition, insisting it is a decision for the Syrians themselves.
Clinton called Annan from her plane en route to a three-nation tour of Finland, Latvia and Russia. The special envoy is continuing his consultations, a senior State Department official told reporters aboard the plane.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of opinion articles about national security by participants in the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event which is taking place from July 25-28 in Aspen, Colorado.
To end World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin demanded an unconditional surrender from the Nazis. But there will be no such surrender from al Qaeda. The group is not a state that is capable of entering into such an agreement, even if it wanted to do so, which seems highly unlikely.
So we are left with a choice: We can continue fighting al Qaeda indefinitely and remain in a permanent state of quasi-war, as has already been the case for more than a decade now.
Or we can declare victory against the group and move on to focus on the essential challenges now facing America, notably the country's sputtering economy, but also containing a rising China, managing the rogue regime in North Korea, continuing to delay Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, and - to the extent feasible - helping to direct the maturation of the Arab Spring. FULL POST
By Elise Labott
Russian presidents don't come to Israel every day. The last time President Vladmir Putin came to Israel was in 2005, the first leader of Russia to visit the country since the time of the czars.
There should be good reason for close ties between the two countries.
Israel is home more than a million Russian-speakers who came from parts of the former Soviet Union. And Israelis will never forget that it was the Soviets who liberated many of the Jews from death camps in the Holocaust. On Monday, Putin stood next to President Shimon Peres at the unveiling of a "Victory Monument" in the Israeli city of Netanya, marking the Red Army's victory over Nazi Germany.
But these strong historical ties don't necessarily translate to modern day cooperation.