February 24th, 2014
01:34 PM ET

Get real, Hagel tells nation in proposing military cuts

By Tom Cohen

Get real, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told America on Monday in proposing a scaled back, modern military that would cut the Army to its pre-World War II size, retire the A-10 "Warthog" attack jet and reduce some benefits for fighting forces.

"This is a budget that recognizes the reality of the magnitude of our fiscal challenges, the dangerous world we live in, and the American military's unique and indispensable role in the security of this country and in today's volatile world," Hagel said in unveiling the Defense Department spending plan for 2015 and beyond.

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Filed under: Hagel • Military
February 19th, 2014
05:46 PM ET

Obama condemns Ukraine violence, warns of consequences

By Elise Labott and Tom Cohen

President Barack Obama condemned the violence in the Ukraine, saying Wednesday the United States expected the government to show restraint against protesters and warning there would be consequences for excessive action.

Later, the United States said it would won't issue visas for 20 senior members of the Ukrainian government and others responsible for the violent crackdown this week in the capital of Kiev, a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call.

That development came as the Ukrainian government and the opposition announced a truce to allow for negotiations to restart with the aim at stabilizing the situation, the official said.

In Mexico for a summit with the leaders of Canada and the host country, Obama said that "we're going to be watching closely and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protestors."

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U.S. intelligence chief to Edward Snowden: Turn over all documents now
January 29th, 2014
12:46 PM ET

U.S. intelligence chief to Edward Snowden: Turn over all documents now

By Tom Cohen

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Wednesday asked classified leaker Edward Snowden and his accomplices to turn over any intelligence documents they have yet to make public, warning that terrorists and other foes were "going to school" on information from disclosures so far.

Clapper spoke at a Senate hearing on the annual report of worldwide threats, and his opening statement outlined a series of crises and challenges around the world that he called the most significant he has ever experienced.

He said Snowden's disclosures have put U.S. intelligence operations and citizens at risk.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, is in Russia seeking permanent asylum to avoid U.S. criminal charges over the leaking of classified documents that exposed surveillance programs, including the collection of phone records for possible use in terrorism investigations.

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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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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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Filed under: Congress • Iran
December 10th, 2013
03:13 PM ET

Kerry says Iran won't get nuclear weapons, urges diplomatic approach

By Tom Cohen

Secretary of State John Kerry urged Congress on Tuesday to put off more sanctions against Iran at this time, saying "this is a very delicate diplomatic moment" to seek a peaceful solution to the issue of preventing Tehran from gaining nuclear weapons.

Kerry, appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sought to reassure lawmakers about the Obama administration's commitment to preventing a nuclear armed Iran, but underscored the importance of international diplomatic efforts that have so far produced a temporary agreement curbing its nuclear program.

"Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon," he said, stressing that declaration was the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's foreign policy.

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Filed under: Iran • John Kerry
August 28th, 2013
04:38 PM ET

Warnings of quagmire in Syria as U.S. contemplates military response

By Tom Cohen

Haven't we heard this before?

With President Barack Obama examining how - not whether - the United States will respond to what it calls a major chemical weapons attack in Syria, some are warning of another potential open-ended war if America launches an expected military strike.

Obama's options appear to range from limited missile strikes in Syria to continued diplomatic efforts - what critics contend is a "do-nothing" approach.

While noted hawks such as GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona call for a robust response intended to weaken Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and turn the tide of the nation's civil war, others worry that the inevitable result will be an inextricable mess.

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Israel, Palestinians launch sustained peace talks
July 30th, 2013
03:51 PM ET

Israel, Palestinians launch sustained peace talks

By Tom Cohen

Secretary of State John Kerry got the money shot he wanted on Tuesday - the chief negotiators for Israel and the Palestinians framed by his lanky embrace as they shook hands to launch "sustained, continuous and substantive" talks on a long-sought Middle East peace treaty.

Now the question is whether the negotiations expected to last nine months will bring an even more historic image, with President Barack Obama bringing together Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to sign a final-status agreement that creates a sovereign Palestinian state in what is now part of Israel.

The Middle East dispute, perhaps the world's most intractable in the past six decades, entered a new phase with Kerry's announcement that the first direct talks in three years would proceed in earnest in the next two weeks in either Israel or the Palestinian territories.

Flanked by Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, Kerry said "all core issues" toward achieving a two-state solution would be on the table.

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Filed under: Israel • Middle East • Palestine
Source: Obama to move forward with plan to arm Syrian rebels
July 23rd, 2013
05:00 PM ET

Source: Obama to move forward with plan to arm Syrian rebels

By Brianna Keilar, Jessica Yellin and Tom Cohen

Reluctant approval from Congress for providing military support to Syrian rebels allows the Obama administration to move forward with plans first announced almost six weeks ago.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday that the goal of the military aid expected to include small arms, ammunition and perhaps anti-tank weapons is to keep the Syrian opposition going against forces aligned with President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Noting al-Assad's forces have been helped by Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as Iran, Carney said Syrian rebels need the help of the United States and allied nations to withstand an increased assault.

"The aid is intended to help the opposition resist Assad and eventually prevail," Carney said, adding that any resolution of Syria's civil war will require a political transition.

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Egypt coup raises questions on U.S. military aid
July 3rd, 2013
06:30 PM ET

Egypt coup raises questions on U.S. military aid

By Tom Cohen

A foreign policy headache for President Barack Obama worsened on Wednesday as Egypt endured its second coup in less than three years.

The declaration by Egypt's powerful military that suspended the constitution and removed President Mohamed Morsy from power raised questions about U.S. military aid to an important Middle East ally that borders Israel.

In addition, the coup ousted Egypt's first democratically elected leader a year after he took office, creating a further uncomfortable policy scenario for a U.S. government and president that champion democratic principles.

Top national security officials including Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and CIA Director John Brennan headed to the White House after the coup announcement Wednesday.

In Egypt, the U.S. Embassy ordered the evacuation of non-essential personnel, a senior administration official told CNN.

 

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