By Elise Labott
Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday he had some ideas on how to change Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's thinking about remaining in power, which he hopes will persuade the embattled leader to negotiate with the opposition on an end to the violence.
"We need to address the question of President Assad's calculation currently. I believe there are additional things that can be done to change his current perception," Kerry told reporters after meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, adding: "I've got a good sense of what I think we might propose."
Kerry didn't elaborate, but said he planned to discuss the ideas during his first official overseas trip. He is expected to visit European and Mideast capitals later this month, although the trip has not yet been announced
By Mike Mount
In his final press briefing as defense secretary, Leon Panetta expressed concern over how the world will view the United States if it fails to avert steep budget cuts due to take effect in two weeks.
"What they (other countries) worry about is what I worry about, which is whether or not we can govern and whether or not we can face the tough decisions that have to be made and resolve those," Panetta said on Wednesday about the budget uncertainty.
Mandatory budget cuts impacting much of the government, also known as sequester, would kick in on March 1 if no deal is struck between the White House and Congress to avoid, defer or otherwise soften them.
By Chris Lawrence
Gen. John Allen is considering whether to retire rather than move forward with the nomination to become the supreme allied commander of NATO, a staff member said.
In a written statement, a member of his staff said, "After 19 months in command in Afghanistan, and many before that spent away from home, Gen. Allen has been offered time to rest and reunite with his family before he turns his attention to his next assignment."
After speaking with Allen in the last two days, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said: "My recommendation to him was 'take your time.' Your country will always find a way to make use of your great services, but you have to make up your own mind."
A senior Defense official tells CNN that Allen met with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey Tuesday afternoon. But the official says he was not aware of whether Allen had informed Dempsey of his decision. The official says it was a personal, one-on-one meeting in Dempsey's Pentagon office.
Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will have a full detail of security agents assigned to him for the foreseeable future after he leaves office, an administration official confirmed to CNN Wednesday.
Federal security personnel will be assigned to Panetta due to concerns about potential future threats against him both as a result of his time as CIA director and secretary of defense, the official said.
By Barbara Starr
The United States and countries near Syria are analyzing intelligence reports that the Syrian regime may have moved some of its chemical weapons inventories in recent weeks, a senior U.S. official told CNN.
The movement could be to consolidate storage because of deteriorating security in the country, the official said. Over the last 10 days, the United States has been trying to ascertain the legitimacy of the reports but has been unable to make any firm conclusions, officials from multiple U.S. government agencies said. None of the officials would agree to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information.
U.S. officials say they don't know the extent of the movement, whether it's for consolidation or if it signals a move by the regime to potentially use such weapons. They says the U.S. wants to have multiple sources confirm the details before the intelligence analysts come to a firm conclusion.