U.S., Jordan discuss placing Patriot missile batteries in Jordan
May 31st, 2013
07:37 PM ET

U.S., Jordan discuss placing Patriot missile batteries in Jordan

By Barbara Starr

The United States and Jordan are actively discussing the possibility of sending American Patriot missile batteries to Jordan to boost its defenses as the civil war in Syria continues to threaten the region, according to a senior Pentagon official.

He emphasized that an agreement to undertake such an operation has not yet been reached.

Even though Jordanian officials have long said they do not believe the Syrian regime would attack Jordan, there have been increased efforts by Amman to boost its military cooperation with the United States as violence spreads.

If an agreement is reached, the Patriot batteries could be reassigned from other areas in the region, although U.S. officials declined to say where they are currently located.

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Analysis: Path to Syria peace talks littered with obstacles
Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Paris on May 27, 2013.
May 31st, 2013
04:30 PM ET

Analysis: Path to Syria peace talks littered with obstacles

By Elise Labott, reporting from Jerusalem

American, Russian and U.N. officials are set to meet next week in Geneva, Switzerland, to prepare for peace talks on Syria. Those talks would bring together officials from the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and members of the Syrian opposition to discuss a political transition.

Proposed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, they are tentatively scheduled for mid-June. But unresolved disagreements among members of the international community and continued disputes within the Syrian opposition cast doubt on whether the talks can be held so soon, or at all.

Russia is proving to be one of the primary spoilers of its own diplomatic initiative. Even as Kerry flew home from Paris after meeting with Lavrov to discuss plans for the Geneva conference, Moscow announced its decision to sell advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. The S-300s can intercept manned aircraft and guided missiles, and their delivery could improve al-Assad's chances of retaining power.

At best, a move of weapons to the regime to further its violence against the Syrian people casts doubt on Russia's stated intention of finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
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U.S. tightens screws on Iran's economy
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
May 31st, 2013
03:25 PM ET

U.S. tightens screws on Iran's economy

By Jamie Crawford

The United States imposed new sanctions on Iran on Friday in an effort to further squeeze its crippled economy and pressure Tehran into curbing its nuclear ambitions.

The latest Treasury Department action targets the petrochemical industry, Iran's second-highest source of revenue after oil production, which is also under sanctions.

Treasury targeted eight companies under the authority of an executive order signed by President Barack Obama last year to stem the flow of money that can be diverted to Iran's nuclear program.

Western powers believe Iran is aiming to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran says its intentions are peaceful.
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Filed under: Iran • Quds Force • Sanctions • Treasury
May 31st, 2013
03:36 AM ET

State Department releases annual U.S. report on terrorism

By CNN's Paul Courson

A country-by-country study of trends in terrorism finds unilateral and "lone wolf" threats rising alongside state-sponsored acts, according to findings released Thursday by the U.S. State Department.

The 200-page study, "Country Reports on Terrorism 2012," includes a strategic assessment, a survey of counter terrorism efforts and reviews of what researchers believe are state sponsors of terrorism, terrorist safe havens, and foreign terrorist organizations.

The Iranian government was cited for a "resurgence" of what the report calls "state sponsorship of terrorism" through Iran's military intelligence apparatus and support for terrorist operatives associated with Hezbollah, who carry out attacks outside Iran.

The report also concluded that independent terrorist activity exists without obvious support from organized governments.  Counter-terrorism efforts are having an impact on al-Qaeda, it said, evidenced by splintered leadership.  That has forced the group to operate in smaller, more local venues, the study found.

The report's Strategic Assessment said al-Qaeda's "ability to direct the activities and attacks of its affiliates has diminished, as its leaders focus increasingly on survival." The study cautioned that the group retains influence operating from its safe haven in western Pakistan.

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Filed under: State Department • Terrorism
U.S. lifts ban on phones, other electronics to Iranians
May 30th, 2013
07:09 PM ET

U.S. lifts ban on phones, other electronics to Iranians

By Jamie Crawford

The United States lifted a ban on exports of certain personal communications equipment and software to Iranians on Thursday and sanctioned Iranian government, military and judicial officials for their alleged roles in suppressing freedom of expression.

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control issued a general license that allows for U.S. citizens to send more sophisticated communication gear not readily available to Iranian citizens within their country.

It also serves as an effort to work around Iranian government censorship of communications, and allow for greater communication with people outside Iran.

The license would not extend to any aspect of the Iranian government, or to any individual or entity already sanctioned by the United States government.
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Filed under: Iran
May 30th, 2013
05:48 PM ET

Al Qaeda magazine encourages Boston-style bombings

By Ashley Killough and Paul Cruickshank

In its upcoming issue, the al Qaeda-backed magazine Inspire praises the alleged Boston Marathon bombers as heroes and encourages readers in the United States to follow their example.

According to an English copy of the magazine obtained by Flashpoint Partners, an American group tracking jihadist websites, the issue also has a section heralding the killing of a British soldier in London last week.

The authors of the magazine, published by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula based in Yemen, argue April's deadly violence in Boston proves that lone-wolf attacks can be effective in the United States. The issue also warns Americans that they're not safe against such "unstoppable" operations.

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May 30th, 2013
04:58 PM ET

A bad employee, a terrorist, or both?

CNN's Barbara Starr reports on a letter from employer to employee that offers remarkable insight into the inner workings of Al Qaeda's branch in North Africa.   The letter was discovered by the Associated Press in North Africa.

 

Lawyer: Soldier to plead guilty in killing of 16 Afghan villagers
May 29th, 2013
07:26 PM ET

Lawyer: Soldier to plead guilty in killing of 16 Afghan villagers

By Michelle Richmond and Barbara Starr

In order to avoid the death penalty, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales intends to plead guilty in the killing of 16 Afghan villagers, his lawyer said Wednesday.

A plea deal - which Bales' lawyer John Henry Browne told CNN about by text message, as he was meeting with his client - must be approved by a judge and a commanding general.

In addition to those killed, six Afghans were wounded in the March 2012 attack near a small U.S. base in Afghanistan's Kandahar province.

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U.S. Syria envoy likely to leave post
U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford
May 29th, 2013
06:32 PM ET

U.S. Syria envoy likely to leave post

By Elise Labott, reporting from Jerusalem

Robert Ford, the U.S. Ambassador to Syria, is expected to leave his post in July, a senior State Department official said.

The move was expected and does not signify a policy shift on Syria, as his term was due to end, the official said.

His departure from the post is considered part of the regular shuffle of ambassadors, which takes place during the summer, the official said.

Ford was pulled from Damascus in October 2011 due to "credible threats against his personal safety," the State Department said at the time.
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May 29th, 2013
06:31 PM ET

Israel braces for the worst

As Israel finds itself drawn into the Syrian conflict, CNN's Elise Labott examines efforts to prepare for a possible confrontation.  Labott, CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter, is based in Washington but currently reporting from Jerusalem.

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