By CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr
Israel is asking the Obama administration not to arm Syrian rebels unless it can carefully screen them to ensure no weapons would fall into the hands of terrorists groups, the Israeli ambassador to the United States tells CNN.
"If it were decided to provide lethal assistance, we ask those groups be carefully vetted," Ambassador Michael Oren said Wednesday. He declined to offer specifics but broadly indicated the matter has come up in recent weeks - in the general time frame of visits to Israel by President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Neighboring Jordan and Turkey have expressed similar concerns.
By CNN Staff
All options remain on the table as the Obama administration considers what, if any, military action to take in Syria following the suspected use of chemical weapons there, U.S. officials tell CNN.
They say this includes the possibility of providing arms to rebels even though the administration has opposed this step and several caution that its resistance to doing so is unlikely to change.
So far, the United States has provided communications and other non-lethal aid to the rebels fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a two-year civil war.
By Barbara Starr
The Pentagon has in recent days stepped up planning for potential military intervention in the Syrian civil war, specifically because of growing evidence the regime may have used chemical weapons, CNN has learned.
"There is intensified planning in the works as more precise information comes in on the Syrian regime's potential use of chemical weapons and the body of evidence grows," a senior administration official said.
The official, who has direct knowledge of the effort, declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.
If President Barack Obama were to order action, it could involve thousands of U.S. troops. But all of the options face serious military challenges.
By Barbara Starr
The first of 500 Marines have begun deploying to Spain as part of a new rapid reaction force to respond to threats against U.S. citizens, government personnel or installations in Africa.
The new task force is based at Moron Air Base in southern Spain, which provides quick access especially to northern Africa, where security concerns have grown since the September 2012 attack on a U.S. government facility in Benghazi, Libya, a Pentagon official told CNN.
Deployment began Wednesday
When fully operational, the unit will be required to be airborne within six hours of receiving orders, providing the type of rapid response that the Pentagon says was not possible during the Benghazi attack. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died during the assault at the U.S. mission and CIA annex.
By CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen
Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst, the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden - From 9/11 to Abbottabad" and a director at the New America Foundation.
The news that Canadian law enforcement on Monday arrested two men accused of planning to derail a passenger train in the Toronto area has attracted much attention, in part, because the plotters are also charged with "receiving support from al Qaeda elements in Iran."
By CNN's Barbara Starr
Growing U.S. concern about the fate of Syria’s chemical weapons is increasing at the very time an Israeli defense official contends the regime has used them against rebel forces.
A senior U.S. official tells CNN there have been “several” movements of chemical weapons by Syrian forces in the past month.
The Syrian government is using chemical weapons against rebel forces, the head of the Israel Defense Forces' intelligence research departments said Tuesday.
"In all likelihood they used sarin gas," Brig. Gen. Itai Brun said Tuesday in a speech at a conference in Tel Aviv. This comes as a civil war between the government and rebels rages across Syria - which borders Israel.
Analysts believe the Syrian government may have one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world. The supply is believed to include sarin, mustard and VX gases, which are banned under international law. Syria has denied the allegation.
Reports have repeatedly surfaced that Syrian forces moved some of the chemical weapons inventories, possibly because of deteriorating security in the country, raising fears the stockpile could fall into the hands of al Qaeda-linked groups working with the opposition should Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government fall.
By Elise Labott
The Obama administration is set to announce a significant expansion of nonlethal aid to the armed Syrian opposition as the European Union moves closer to lifting an arms embargo to potentially arm rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad, U.S. officials told CNN.
Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to announce the new assistance package at an international meeting on Syria in Istanbul on Saturday, the officials said.
CNN first reported on April 9 that the administration was finalizing a package of increased assistance. The officials said the exact dollar amount and specific items to be shipped have not been finalized, and will be determined in Istanbul, where Kerry is to meet with other donors to Syria and leaders of the Syrian opposition. FULL POST
By Pam Benson
The intelligence community is working on a new assessment of North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile program, according to the nation's top intelligence official.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper announced the broad effort during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday.
He sought to set the record straight following controversy over a Pentagon intelligence assessment of Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities that surfaced unexpectedly last week amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.
In that case, an unclassified part of an otherwise secret analysis concluded with moderate confidence that North Korea could now deliver a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile.
By Barbara Starr
In a critical indication of growing U.S. military involvement in the civil war in Syria, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the deployment of more American troops to Jordan.
Hagel announced the deployment, which was first reported on CNN, in a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
He said the troops will work alongside Jordanian forces to "improve readiness and prepare for a number of scenarios."
The troops, which will number up to 200, are from the headquarters of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, two Defense Department officials told CNN.