Nuke negotiators aim to start crafting Iran deal in May
April 4th, 2014
08:17 PM ET

Nuke negotiators aim to start crafting Iran deal in May

By Laura Koran

Talks will resume next week on the future of Iran's nuclear program with the goal of beginning to draft a comprehensive agreement in May, a senior Obama administration official said on Friday.

The next round of negotiations will seek to build on the work that has been done since January, when an interim deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council took effect.

That deal eased some economic sanctions in return for Iran rolling back parts of its nuclear program, which the United States and others believe is designed to produce a weapon. Iran says its nuclear intentions are peaceful.

While officials in Washington are optimistic that negotiations are progressing on track, a number of significant potential roadblocks need to be worked through if a long-term agreement is to be reached.

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Filed under: Arms Control • Iran • Nuclear
Controversy stirs anew over Saudi textbooks with Obama set to visit
March 25th, 2014
08:55 PM ET

Controversy stirs anew over Saudi textbooks with Obama set to visit

President Barack Obama's trip to Saudi Arabia this week comes amid accusations the State Department has hidden the results of a study that concludes textbooks in the Kingdom remain rife with Islamic extremism.

Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, successive U.S. administrations have attempted to curb Saudi indoctrination of students through hateful extremist material in its textbooks.

In addition to teaching the material to its own students, Saudi Arabia runs academies in about 20 countries, which use some of the same texts.

The Kingdom has repeatedly claimed that it has revised its textbooks.

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Why is Iran building giant mock-up of U.S. aircraft carrier?
U.S. nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (L); Commercial satellite picture of Iran building a fake aircraft carrier (R)
March 21st, 2014
07:10 PM ET

Why is Iran building giant mock-up of U.S. aircraft carrier?

By Laura Koran

Amid ongoing high-level diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran, it's a symbol of underlying mistrust.

Commercial satellite images obtained by CNN reveal that Iran is constructing a large-scale replica of a U.S. military aircraft carrier, complete with fake U.S-style airplanes, near the southern port city of Bandar Abbas.

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Filed under: Iran
Syria is top training ground for al Qaeda, Senate is told
March 6th, 2014
05:28 PM ET

Syria is top training ground for al Qaeda, Senate is told

By Jamie Crawford

High levels of sectarianism, carnage and the overall grinding nature of Syria's civil war continue to make that country a top destination for extremists, a top U.S. official said.

"Syria has become the pre-eminent location for al Qaeda-aligned groups to recruit, to train and to equip what is now a growing number of extremists, some of who seek to conduct external attacks," Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told a congressional hearing on Thursday.

"From a terrorism perspective, the most disturbing element is that al Qaeda has declared Syria its most critical front," he said.

Olsen testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee alongside Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Assistant Secretary of Defense Derek Chollet about the crisis in Syria and the ongoing standoff with Russia over the situation in Ukraine.
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Rights report calls out Syria, Russia; Ukraine protesters praised
February 27th, 2014
03:35 PM ET

Rights report calls out Syria, Russia; Ukraine protesters praised

By Laura Koran

Syria carried out "egregious human rights violations" last year, according to a State Department assessment released on Thursday that also singled out abuses in Russia and the Ukraine.

The 2013 Human Rights Report, based on assessments from America's embassies abroad, reserved its strongest language for the Syrian government, which allegedly gassed its own people last August in an atrocity linked to the ongoing civil war.

"Hundreds were murdered in the dead of night when a disaster occurred at the hands of a dictator, who decided to infect the air of Damascus with poisonous gas," Secretary of State John Kerry said in presenting the report.

"And many more have been, unfortunately, confined to die under a barrage of barrel bombs, scud missiles, artillery and other conventional weapons," he said.
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Filed under: China • Kerry • State Department • Syria • Ukraine
Syria a 'top' concern for homeland security chief
February 26th, 2014
02:56 PM ET

Syria a 'top' concern for homeland security chief

By Jamie Crawford

 

The U.S. homeland security chief says chaos and instability in Syria remain a top concern for protecting the country from attack.

 

"I would say that for those of us in national security and homeland security in this government, this particular issue is at the top of the list or near the top of the list for us," Homeland Security Secretary told a congressional hearing on Wednesday.

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Officials: Al Qaeda tries to recruit Americans in Syria
February 21st, 2014
12:22 PM ET

Officials: Al Qaeda tries to recruit Americans in Syria

By Barbara Starr

Intelligence increasingly shows al Qaeda is encouraging American and other western fighters in Syria to undertake special training to prepare them for possibly returning to their home countries to carry out attacks, U.S. officials told CNN.

National security officials are concerned that amid the mayhem of Syria's civil war, the global terror group has found a safe haven and a place where it again can recruit, plot and train operatives to carry out attacks on the U.S. homeland.

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February 17th, 2014
05:13 PM ET

Iran nuclear deal commitments kept so far, U.S. official says

By Jamie Crawford

Iran is rolling back parts of its nuclear program and getting relief from sanctions in return as an interim agreement aimed at gauging Tehran's willingness to curb its nuclear ambitions appears to be working with global powers gearing up for talks on Tuesday to forge a long-term pact.

"So far everyone, both Iran and all of the rest of us who provided some very limited, targeted sanctions relief have kept their commitments," Wendy Sherman, a senior State Department official and lead negotiator for the United States on the Iran deal, told Wolf Blitzer on Monday in an interview on CNN's "The Situation Room."

Sherman, the under secretary for political fairs, spoke from Vienna where talks on a comprehensive accord between Iran, the United States, Germany and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are due to begin on Tuesday.
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U.S. seeks answers over arrest of embassy employee in Egypt
February 13th, 2014
04:50 PM ET

U.S. seeks answers over arrest of embassy employee in Egypt

By Elise Labott

Authorities have detained an Egyptian employee of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, State Department officials and Egyptian media reports said, a move likely to further strain already tense relations.

 
Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, confirmed reports the employee in the embassy's political section was detained on January 25 and has been held without charges since.

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February 12th, 2014
06:48 PM ET

OPCW: Only 11% of chemical weapons removed from Syria

By Salma Abdelaziz and Jim Sciutto

Syria has shipped out 11% of its chemical weapons stockpile - falling far short of the February 5 deadline to have all such arms removed from the country, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told CNN Wednesday.

The slow pace of removal prompted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to warn last month that all options remain available to force compliance.

The OPCW is now in touch with senior Syrian officials to discuss a new schedule going forward.
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