January 16th, 2014
08:34 PM ET

Gates on Iran sanctions, Biden and biggest mistakes as defense secretary

By Dana Davidsen

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates is defending his criticism of Vice President Joe Biden's record on national security.

Gates writes in his new book, "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War," that Biden was "wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades."

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How Syria talks were derailed before they started
January 16th, 2014
01:06 PM ET

How Syria talks were derailed before they started

By Elise Labott

When Secretary of State John Kerry first took office he talked of changing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's calculus.

Assad "needs to know that he can't shoot his way out of this," Kerry said in March at a Rome meeting with members of the Syrian opposition.

When he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov first conceived the idea of bringing the regime and the opposition together for peace talks in Geneva, they believed strengthened international support for both the political opposition and rebel forces would leave the Syrian leader ready to negotiate his own ouster.

U.S. policy since then has had the opposite effect.
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Senators: Benghazi attack 'likely preventable'
The U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya following an attack on September 11, 2012
January 15th, 2014
09:26 PM ET

Senators: Benghazi attack 'likely preventable'

By Jason Hanna and Evan Perez

The deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was "likely preventable" based on known security shortfalls and prior warnings that the security situation there was deteriorating, the majority of the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in a report released on Wednesday.

Separately, the findings also noted what the FBI had told the panel - that 15 people cooperating with its investigation had been killed in Benghazi, undercutting the investigation. It was not clear if the killings were related to the probe.

Moreover, it said that people linked with various al Qaeda-related groups in North Africa and elsewhere participated in the September 11, 2012, attack, but investigators haven't been able to determine whether any one group was in command.

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Filed under: Benghazi • Congress • Libya
No. 2 House Dem blasts 'irresponsible' Iran comments
January 14th, 2014
05:35 PM ET

No. 2 House Dem blasts 'irresponsible' Iran comments

By Deirdre Walsh

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, blasted as "irresponsible" comments by Obama administration officials who have suggested that lawmakers pushing for tighter sanctions on Iran are increasing the risk of war.

Hoyer, of Maryland, didn't name names, but an aide said he was referring to several comments from various officials over the past month.

The New York Times quoted Obama's deputy national security adviser, Benjamin Rhodes, on the subject on Tuesday.

"It just stands to reason if you close the diplomatic option, you're left with a difficult choice of waiting to see if sanctions cause Iran to capitulate, which we don't think will happen, or considering military action," Rhodes said, according to the paper.
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U.S. defends John Kerry from criticism by Israel's defense minister
January 14th, 2014
04:14 PM ET

U.S. defends John Kerry from criticism by Israel's defense minister

By Steve Almasy

U.S. officials reacted angrily to comments attributed to Israel's defense minister criticizing Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to broker a peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians.

The derisive remarks appeared in a popular daily Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronot, and reflect Moshe Yaalon's skepticism of the Kerry-led U.S. efforts "both in private conversations in Israel and in the U.S."

"American Secretary of State John Kerry, who turned up here determined and acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor, cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians," Yaalon said, according to the paper.

The U.S. State Department fired back Tuesday. Spokeswoman Marie Harf said it was shocking that a close ally would question Kerry's motives.

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Iran nukes: 'secret' side deal or face-saving attempt?
January 14th, 2014
12:51 PM ET

Iran nukes: 'secret' side deal or face-saving attempt?

 

By Elise Labott

Global powers and Iran are preparing to carry out an interim deal to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for easing some economic sanctions while they try to negotiate a comprehensive agreement.

Successful implementation may ultimately revolve around previously unreported details about Iranian rights regarding its nuclear program that were included in a 30-page side bar to the six-month agreement that takes effect on January 20.

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Unclassified documents reveal more details about Benghazi attack
January 14th, 2014
03:57 AM ET

Unclassified documents reveal more details about Benghazi attack

(CNN) - The House Armed Services Committee on Monday released hundreds of pages of transcripts of previously classified testimony about the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. The testimony focuses primarily on the military posture before, during, and after the attack, which left U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.

In the testimony, senior military officials said that despite general warnings about the possibility of terrorist attacks around the world because of the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, there were no discussions related to any specific threat in Libya. As a result, additional military assets were not deployed. FULL POST

Proposal taking shape in Senate to restore Egypt aid
January 13th, 2014
04:41 PM ET

Proposal taking shape in Senate to restore Egypt aid

By Elise Labott

The Senate is readying a proposal that aims to restore U.S. aid to Egypt, some of which was frozen after last year's ouster of President Mohamed Morsy, two Obama administration officials told CNN.

 
A provision that gives the White House flexibility to effectively eliminate restrictions on military and other assistance to countries facing a coup could be introduced as part of a spending bill as early as Monday.

 

 

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Clock ticking on Iran talks, possible further U.S. sanctions
January 13th, 2014
04:01 PM ET

Clock ticking on Iran talks, possible further U.S. sanctions

By Tom Cohen

The clock is ticking on an interim nuclear deal with Iran, as well as efforts in Congress to pass new sanctions for greater leverage in global negotiations on a comprehensive accord.

Sunday's announcement that a six-month interim agreement formally begins on January 20 means that Iran must dismantle or freeze some of its nuclear program and open it to more international inspections in return for limited relief from crippling international sanctions.

Assuming all goes as planned, further negotiations between Iran and the United States, France, Russia, China, Great Britain and Germany will seek a broader agreement intended to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Meanwhile, pro-Israel members of Congress are seeking additional sanctions against Iran that would take effect if the talks break down.

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Iran to start eliminating uranium stockpile January 20, White House says
January 12th, 2014
02:21 PM ET

Iran to start eliminating uranium stockpile January 20, White House says

By Catherine E. Shoichet

Save the date: Iran has pledged to start eliminating some of its uranium stockpile on January 20, the White House said Sunday.

That gives an official start time for the six-month interim deal with Iran, which was first announced in November.

"As of that day, for the first time in almost a decade, Iran's nuclear program will not be able to advance, and parts of it will be rolled back, while we start negotiating a comprehensive agreement to address the international community's concerns about Iran's program," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement Sunday.

Iranian officials also confirmed the start date for the deal, state media reported.

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