By Jamie Crawford and Adam Levine
The Obama administration is stressing that the aim in talking to all parties is for a "de-escalation" of the fighting between Israel and Hamas. But while administration officials talk about trying to stop the fighting, they are assiduously avoiding using the term "cease-fire."
At a press conference Tuesday in Cambodia, National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes said he was not refraining from using the term, but then he refrained from using the term:
REPORTER: Ben, you keep using the phrase “de-escalate the situation.” Are you avoiding using the word “cease-fire”?
RHODES: No, I mean, there are many ways that you can achieve the goal of a de-escalation. Again, what our bottom line is, is an end to rocket fire. We’re open to any number of ideas for achieving that goal. We’ve discussed any number of ideas for accomplishing that goal. But it’s going to have to begin with a reduction of tensions and space created for the situation to calm. So we’ll be discussing going forward, as we have been over the last several days, what are the various ways in which we can accomplish that goal.
At the State Department briefing on Tuesday, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also emphasized de-escalation over cease-fire, saying there are many ways to lessen the violence: FULL POST
Iran is not cooperating sufficiently with the United Nations' nuclear watchdog for it to conclude that the country is conducting "peaceful activities," the agency said Friday.
In a 13-page report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that despite its effort to step up talks with Iran, the nation has offered no "concrete results."
The agency's director general is, in turn, "unable to report any progress on clarifying issues relating to possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme," the report said.
Iran has completed installation of centrifuges at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, an underground facility, giving it greater capability of enriching uranimum to 20-percent. That would be a key capability if Iran chooses to enrich further to make it weapons grade. Iran has not informed the IAEA how much of the site will be devoted to enriching to 20 percent and how much will be devoted to lower enrichment.
The report said Iran is still not granting inspectors access to the Parchin site, calling it a "matter of concern" that "extensive and significant activities" have taken place there this year. The report lists some of the observed activity at the explosive containment vessel on the site, which the IAEA is concerned could be used to for "possible nuclear weapon development." Iran has said the allegation is "baseless." The new report lists some of the activity observed since February of this year: FULL POST
With reporting from Suzanne Kelly and Pam Benson
While affairs may be commonplace in Washington, when they involve the director of the CIA, things can take on a different tone.
A U.S. official has said there was no breach of national security as a result of David Petraeus' affair, but that hasn't stopped discussion that Paula Broadwell could have gained access to classified information as a result of what she has routinely described as "unprecedented access" to Petraeus.
That discussion seemed to gain momentum Monday thanks to comments Broadwell made in a speech last month at the University of Denver.
"I don't know if a lot of you have heard this, but the CIA annex had actually taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to get these prisoners back," Broadwell said.
A senior intelligence official told CNN on Monday, "These detention claims are categorically not true. Nobody was ever held at the annex before, during, or after the attacks."
Broadwell's source for that previously unpublished bit of information remains unclear, and there's no evidence so far that it came from Petraeus. Administration officials have said the Benghazi assault was a terrorist attack. FULL POST
The newly re-elected president had a busy morning returning calls to world leaders who had sent messages of congratulations, according to a White House statement.
"In each call, he thanked his counterpart for their friendship and partnership thus far and expressed his desire to continue close cooperation moving ahead," according to the statement.
Not everyone got a call returned by President Obama, mind you. The statement notes the president returned "some" of the messages personally.
Here's a list of who got called: FULL POST
By Adam Levine
The U.S. military is preparing to help with response to Hurricane Sandy and working to protect its own equipment.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was "monitoring" the storm from the Pentagon on Monday, according to a tweet from his press secretary George Little.
Over the weekend, Panetta appointed "dual status" commanders, according to the Department of Defense website. The commanders are authorized to command both federal and state National Guard forces.
"This special authority enables them to effectively integrate the defense support operations and capabilities that Governors request. The Secretary is prepared to quickly agree to similar requests from other States," according to a press release about the decision.
The decision was made by Panetta at the request of governor from Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island
Over the weekend, the National Guard had approximately 1,500 forces on active duty in New York, Massachussets, Virginia, Delaware, Connecticut and Maryland. The troops are assisting local first responders and the Federal Emergency Management Agency with route clearance, search and rescue, equipment and supplies delivery and evacuations.
U.S. Northern Command has put helicopters, planes, and rescue teams on alert to be ready to deploy as needed.
In addition to aiding in response, the military has been moving aircraft and ships to avoid damage during the storm. Bases in New York, New Jersey and Delaware have all moved aircraft, according to the Department of Defense. The Navy has also moved vessels including the USS Wasp, USS Taylor USNS Kanawa, USNS Medgar Evers and the USS Ross.
By Adam Levine, CNN
Foreign policy will get increased attention in the two debates left between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, with the final debate set to be entirely devoted to the subject.
The slugfest between the vice presidential candidates highlighted the toughest challenge for the Republican ticket, namely how to differentiate from Obama administration policies. The vice presidential debate left a number of questions unanswered about how each side distinguishes itself when it comes to national security.
Here's a look at a few of those issues.
The White House faced a political maelstrom after Vice President Joe Biden's claim during Thursday's vice presidential debate about who was aware of requests for additional security at the diplomatic office in Benghazi.
""We weren't told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security," Biden said during the debate.
As was pointed out by CNN's Fact Check team, just days earlier there were State Department security officials who testified to Congress about requests made and denied for more security. But it's coming down to what the meaning of "we" is.
The White House explanation, on Friday, was that such requests were not made to the White House, they were handled by State. Here's one of numerous exchanges between White House Spokesman Jay Carney and reporters: FULL POST
By Barbara Starr and Adam Levine
The assault on the diplomatic office in Benghazi was clearly a planned assault by terrorists, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Thursday.
"As we determined the details of what took place there and how that attack took place, it became clear that there were terrorists who planned that attack," Panetta said.
Panetta's comments are the most definitive to date by an administration official that the Benghazi assault was planned. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said on September 16th that the attack "began spontaneously" as a protest against an anti-Muslim film that "spun" from there. Last week, testifying to Congress, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center said, at that point, there was no indication of "significant" plotting.
"What we don't have at this point is specific intelligence that there was a significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack," Matt Olsen said. FULL POST
When foreign policy crises intrude into presidential elections, they have the ability to shake up campaigns and force candidates to adjust their plans, writes Prof. Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, on CNN's Opinion page.
Zelizer looks at when it has helped the incumbent, like Republican Dwight Eisenhower, and when it has hurt the sitting president running for re-election, as was the case with Jimmy Carter.
What will happen if the current crises continue or get even worse: FULL POST
By Adam Levine
As the investigation into the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, continues, there is disagreement about whether the violence was a result of a mob gone awry, a planned terror attack or a combination of the two.
The White House said Friday there was no indication before the attack in Libya this week that something was in the works beforehand.
"We were not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent," presidential spokesman Jay Carney said.
The comment came as a top Libyan official and some within Congress and other aspects of the U.S. government said there are signs now that the attack on the consulate that killed the ambassador and three other Americans was not a spontaneous outgrowth of a mob angered by an anti-Muslim film.
A U.S. official told CNN's Suzanne Kelly that American intelligence was sufficiently concerned about the attention the movie was receiving online to warn the embassy in Egypt in a bulletin a few days before protesters stormed that compound in Cairo on Tuesday, the same day the consulate in Libya was attacked by armed militants.