By Kevin Liptak
President Barack Obama is still grappling with what role the United States should play in Syria's bloody conflict, which began nearly two years ago and has claimed the lives of 60,000 people.
In interviews released Sunday, the president pushed back on criticism from political rivals that his administration has been overly detached from foreign unrest, including the ongoing Syrian civil war.
"Muammar Qaddafi probably does not agree with that assessment," Obama told "60 Minutes."
"Syria's a classic example of where our involvement, we want to make sure that not only does it enhance U.S. security, but also that it is doing right by the people of Syria and neighbors like Israel that are going to be profoundly affected by it," he explained later. "And so it's true sometimes that we don't just shoot from the hip."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, appearing alongside the president on "60 Minutes," called the situation in Syria a "wicked problem," but argued there was no clear blueprint for American involvement in the country. FULL POST
It has been more than a year since the United States government withdrew its ambassador to Syria and closed its embassy in Damascus.
On Thursday, that ambassador returned to the region along with a U.S. delegation, touring a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey to bring more attention to the growing humanitarian crisis. As the civil war has intensified in Syria, hundreds of thousands of people have sought refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and other neighboring countries.
Ambassador Robert Ford gave an exclusive interview to CNN's Ivan Watson and described what the U.S. is doing to help the refugees and the Syrian opposition.FULL STORY
By Tim Lister
Much of the focus of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s appearance on Capitol Hill Wednesday was on whether her department failed to appreciate and respond to the risks that led to the Benghazi attack - and whether it had the resources to confront such risks.
And, of course, on whether in the immediate aftermath, the administration characterized the attack candidly and accurately.
But the hearings also illustrated how the United States is scrambling to catch up with new realities in North Africa – and how it faces a long struggle in a new arena of instability.
Clinton acknowledged that “the Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region.”
Looking back to her confirmation as secretary of state four years ago, Clinton said, “I don’t think anybody thought [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak would be gone, [Libya’s Moammar] Gadhafi would be gone, [Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali would be gone.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is testifying today about the deadly terrorist attack in #Libya last year. Follow our coverage:
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Update: Read CNN's coverage of the report which cites "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies" at the State Department. The full report can be found here. It includes recommendations for substantial improvements to how security is handled.
By Elise Labott
An independent review of the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi criticizes the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security for its work in Libya before the event in which four Americans were killed, two sources who have read the report told CNN Tuesday.
The senior management in charge of diplomatic security "does not come out well at all," said one of the sources. FULL POST
By Elise Labott
After months of accusations and political recriminations, the State Department is getting ready to present the most detailed explanation yet regarding the circumstances surrounding the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Monday, the State Department is expected to get a report on the incident from the independent Advisory Review Board, sources in the State Department told CNN Sunday. The review was ordered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Congress will receive the report from the board ahead of a classified briefing for members on Wednesday by Thomas Pickering, who led the Advisory Review Board. Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was also on the panel, will be part of the briefing as well.
The State Department is also expected to present recommendations on improving security. That's likely to include an explanation of measures that have already been put in place since the September 11 attack on the consulate, which left four Americans - including U.S. Amb. Chris Stevens - dead.
From CNN’s Elise Labott and Jill Dougherty
Sen. John Kerry, who sources say has been tapped by President Barack Obama to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, will come to the post with a full plate of foreign policy crises, from the civil war in Syria, to the nuclear antics of North Korea, to a looming showdown with Iran over its nuclear program.
Anybody who follows Clinton would have some pretty big shoes to fill. Clinton was not just the most popular member of the president’s Cabinet for the past four years, she had celebrity status and respect almost everywhere she went around the world.
But as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for almost 30 years, the past four as chairman, Kerry himself is a highly respected figure on the world stage. While Obama is not close to a lot of world leaders, Kerry has deep relationships with many heads of state that he can draw on as the nation’s top diplomat. Sources close to Kerry note that the increasing partisanship on Capitol Hill has disillusioned Kerry and he is ready to leave the Senate.
He is no stranger to diplomacy and has often traveled overseas on behalf of the Obama administration as a diplomatic troubleshooter and to mend frayed relationships. Kerry persuaded Afghan President Hamid Karzai to agree to an election runoff in 2009 and has traveled Pakistan after a series of incidents, including the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
“There are very few people with greater experience over a longer period of time,” notes Nicholas Burns, a former career ambassador who has served every secretary of state since Warren Christopher, and was most recently undersecretary for political affairs under Condoleezza Rice.“He would be a very, very impressive choice."
“You really need someone who is a renaissance person with a tremendous range of skill, both political and substantive, with a deep reservoir of knowledge” Burns said in an interview. “You need someone who can drill several layers deep on foreign policy issues.” FULL POST
By Elise Labott
North Korea's success in launching a satellite into orbit has put the Obama administration on unfamiliar ground, no longer able to dismiss North Korea's efforts as failure but loath to acknowledge its success.
Moreover, beyond its typical response of statements of condemnation and efforts at strengthening sanctions, the U.S. does not seem to have a playbook for curbing North Korea's increasingly threatening behavior.
The U.S. government was braced before the launch, with Asia hands across the U.S. government tracking North Korea's preparations and warning against going through with it. Officials have voiced concern that such a feat would prompt an arms race in East Asia.
"We've been very concerned about their firing this missile, in violation of every international standard and rule," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CNN's Erin Burnett. "It's clear that have one of the reasons we're rebalancing in the Pacific is to deal with the threat from North Korea, and we will. We're prepared to do that. We will respond if we have to."
By Elise Labott
In the middle of a foreign policy crisis, diplomacy isn't always best digested 140 characters at a time.
But the reaction so far to newly proposed State Department guidelines for staff members tweeting in their official capacity about certain subjects has been universally negative.
Under the proposed guidelines, obtained by the Diplopundit blog, there could be up to a two-day review ahead of publishing posts on social media sites.
Naturally, the issue turned into a heated debate on Twitter.
By Jamie Crawford
While Syrian rebel forces have made significant military advances on the ground against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad in recent days, the U.S. ambassador to Syria says there's no imminent end to the fighting.
"It's very clear to me that the regime's forces are being ground down," Robert Ford said Thursday at a conference sponsored by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington. "That said, the regime's protection units continue to maintain some cohesion, and they still have some fight left in them, even though they are losing. I expect there will be substantial fighting in the days ahead."
The fighting has taken a more severe turn in the last week, with U.S. officials now concerned the Syria's president could use chemical weapons out of desperation. This intensifying 20-month conflict has frustrated those who have long argued that the U.S. should intervene militarily.