Syria, al Qaeda: U.S. officials offer grim assessment
February 11th, 2014
02:39 PM ET

Syria, al Qaeda: U.S. officials offer grim assessment

By Jamie Crawford

A security vacuum over vast areas of Syria could allow extremists to access weapons of mass destruction, a top U.S. intelligence official said.

 
"The current instability in Syria presents a perfect opportunity for al Qaeda and associated groups," to acquire Syrian stockpiles of chemical weapons that are scheduled to be destroyed," Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told a Senate committee on Tuesday.

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Homeland chief says Syria a U.S. domestic security concern
February 7th, 2014
04:59 PM ET

Homeland chief says Syria a U.S. domestic security concern

By Mike M. Ahlers

The Syrian civil war "has become a matter of homeland security" as authorities seek to identify any foreign fighters who might be a threat to the United States, the new homeland security secretary said Friday.

 
Jeh Johnson, making his first major address after seven weeks on the job, said Syria "was the Number One topic of conversation" in talks this week with his counterparts in six European nations.

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Filed under: Homeland Security • Syria
U.S. steps up support for Iraq amid militant surge
February 5th, 2014
03:21 PM ET

U.S. steps up support for Iraq amid militant surge

Jamie Crawford

The defeat of resurgent Islamic militant groups in western Iraq requires increased support from the United States, according to members of Congress and the Obama administration.

 
"If we don't want to see Iraq with large swaths of territory under militant control, and we shouldn't, we must be willing to lend an appropriate hand," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said at a hearing on Wednesday.

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Obama administration: Iran deal 'not perfect'
February 4th, 2014
06:51 PM ET

Obama administration: Iran deal 'not perfect'

By Jamie Crawford

An interim agreement that freezes aspects of Iran's nuclear program is not ideal but is necessary to achieve a long-term accord, a senior Obama administration official said Tuesday.

"This is not perfect, but this does freeze and roll back their program in significant ways and give us time on the clock to in fact negotiate that comprehensive agreement," Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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Report: Syria to ship toxic agents
February 4th, 2014
08:55 AM ET

Report: Syria to ship toxic agents

By Alla Eshchenko and Laura Smith-Spark

Syria plans to send a large shipment of toxic agents out of the country this month, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Russian state-run news agency Ria Novosti.

Syria intends to finish the process by March 1, which would be in line with deadlines set by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), he said.

Bogdanov warned against "dramatizing the situation around demilitarization."

The head of the OPCW urged Syria last week to speed up the process of removing the chemicals earmarked for destruction outside its territory.

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Filed under: Chemical Weapons • Syria
Al Qaeda 'disowns' affiliate fighting in Syria
February 3rd, 2014
09:58 AM ET

Al Qaeda 'disowns' affiliate fighting in Syria

By Tim Lister

Al Qaeda appears to have had enough of one of its affiliates fighting in Syria: the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The group has been locked in conflict with other Islamist factions and gained a grim reputation for abuses in parts of Syria it controls, including summary executions and mass killings.

A statement posted on jihadist forums Sunday and purportedly issued by al Qaeda's General Command said "it has no connection with the group" and blamed it for "the enormity of the disaster that afflicted the Jihad in Syria."

The al Qaeda statement, translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, follows more than a month of intense factional fighting between the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant with other Islamist groups in northern and eastern Syria. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights says it has documented 1,747 people killed in the past four weeks alone but suspects that the real number is substantially higher.

In recent days, the Islamic State has targeted senior figures in other groups. On Sunday, two senior rebel leaders were killed near Aleppo - along with 14 others - when an Islamic State member who was supposedly conducting truce negotiations with them blew himself up, according to the Observatory. The previous day, Islamic State fighters assassinated Abu Hussein al Dik, a senior commander in the powerful Suqour al Sham brigade, near the city of Hama.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Syria • Terrorism
January 29th, 2014
07:44 PM ET

Exclusive: Iran's Zarif says Obama remarks for 'domestic consumption'

By CNN Staff

President Barack Obama had some sharp language on Iran in his State of the Union address, but Tehran saw it mainly as tough talk for a domestic audience.

 
CNN's Jim Sciutto met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Iran to get his first-hand response to Obama's speech on Tuesday night in which the President said American diplomacy - backed by pressure - has "halted the progress of Iran's nuclear program."

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Iran's foreign minister talks of possible relief for jailed Americans
January 23rd, 2014
07:04 PM ET

Iran's foreign minister talks of possible relief for jailed Americans

By Jennifer Rizzo

A reduced sentence for two Americans jailed in Iran may be possible, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an exclusive interview with CNN's Jim Sciutto.

"We have various clemency measures in Iran that can be introduced, happened in the past, can be introduced again in these cases," Zarif said in the interview this week from Davos, Switzerland.

Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, was arrested in Iran in August 2011 and held on espionage charges.

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January 22nd, 2014
05:53 PM ET

Iranian official on nuke deal: 'We did not agree to dismantle anything'

By Tom Cohen

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted Wednesday that the Obama administration mischaracterizes concessions by his side in the six-month nuclear deal with Iran, telling CNN in an exclusive interview that "we did not agree to dismantle anything."

Zarif told CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto that terminology used by the White House to describe the agreement differed from the text agreed to by Iran and the other countries in the talks - the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.

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Filed under: Iran • Nuclear
Kerry: 'No way' al-Assad can be part of a transitional government in Syria
January 22nd, 2014
06:14 AM ET

Kerry: 'No way' al-Assad can be part of a transitional government in Syria

The aim is ambitious, but the expectations are low.

As top diplomats gathered in Switzerland for international talks aimed at ending Syria's protracted civil war, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the opposing sides in the conflict to seize the opportunity for peace.

"After nearly three painful years of conflict and suffering in Syria, today is a day of fragile but real hope," he said at the start of the conference in the Swiss town of Montreux.

But the obstacles to finding a solution to a conflict that threatens to destabilize the Middle East quickly became apparent at the conference, which was beset by squabbles before it even began.

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