November 21st, 2011
04:56 PM ET

Hollowed out military or empty threats?

By Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes

In the budget clash over national defense, the money is in the billions but the rhetoric soars even higher.

And the gloom-and-doom forecasts of possible military cuts seem to get more alarming by the day.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that additional cuts would erode national security and even lead to war, encouraging America's enemies to attack.

"In effect, it invites aggression," he said at the end of last week.

"Devastating," is how he described the potential impact of forced cuts, in a letter to senators.

But one of the sharpest critics of the Pentagon, master phrase-maker, Winslow Wheeler, dismisses this as over-excited talk designed to disguise management failure.

"Panetta, (House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck") McKeon , the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have been babbling the worst strains of hysteria," Wheeler told CNN.  "Now they are saying it will encourage other countries to attack. It's pure babble." FULL POST

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Filed under: Congress • Defense Spending • economy • Military • Obama • Panetta • Pentagon
Map error lands U.S. in heated India-Pakistan dispute
An Indian soldier looks through a spotting scope at a military camp near the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan
November 21st, 2011
03:44 PM ET

Map error lands U.S. in heated India-Pakistan dispute

The disputed region of Kashmir is a hot-button issue and when an map showing portions of it as belonging to Pakistan went up on the State Department website, it raised a furor in India.

The State Department Monday announced it had taken down the map after the Indian government complained. Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir is within their boundaries and have fought two wars over the territory since the two countries were partioned in 1947.

Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters: "It did contain some inaccuracies which were associated with the boundaries and geographic features."

"This was unintentional," Nuland insisted. "We're going to get the map fixed ...we will put up a new map when we acquire one that we are confident is accurate."

Asked whether the person or persons responsible will be punished, Nuland refused to comment.

Hezbollah uncovers CIA informants
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah
November 21st, 2011
02:39 PM ET

Hezbollah uncovers CIA informants

By Senior National Security Producer Pam Benson

CIA informants in Lebanon were unmasked by Hezbollah and captured by the terror group, CNN has been told. One of the means used by Hezballah counter terrorism operatives to identify the foreign assets was to trace their cell phone calls.

A US official would not discuss the details of how many CIA informants might have been affected and the degree of impact on Central Intelligence Agency operations in Beirut. The official called spying a "perilous business."

“Collecting sensitive information on adversaries-who are aggressively trying to uncover spies in their midst-will always be fraught with risk.  Good CI (counterintelligence) can mitigate risks, but won't eliminate them all," the source said.

The official says Hezballah has a very capable intelligence component and cannot be underestimated. FULL POST

DEBATE PREP: Speak up about Mexican drug violence
Scarves embroidered with the account of murders are on display in a park in Mexico City
November 21st, 2011
01:20 PM ET

DEBATE PREP: Speak up about Mexican drug violence

Editor’s note: This analysis is part of Security Clearance blog’s “Debate Preps” series. On November 22, CNN, along with AEI and The Heritage Foundation, will host a Republican candidate debate focused on national security topics. In the run-up to the debate, Security Clearance asked both the sponsoring conservative think tanks to look at the key foreign policy issues and tell us what they want to hear candidates address.

By AEI's Roger F. Noriega, Special to CNN

Republican presidential candidates have had little constructive to say on the issue of the bloody drug violence in neighboring Mexico.  They can change that as they meet to debate on Tuesday night.

President Obama’s Mexico strategy picked up where the Bush-era “Merida Plan” package left off.  It  amounts to “less of the same,” as U.S. law enforcement and community development support is delivered in dribs and drabs.  In 2012, if Mexicans choose a new president who decides to end the anti-drug offensive, we may wish that we had done more to support our Mexican allies when we had the chance.

Outgoing President Felipe Calderon launched a frontal offensive against criminal syndicates five years ago, enlisting the military alongside outgunned civilian police.  Although the vast majority of the 35,000 deaths in recent years are the result of criminal turf wars, most innocent Mexicans are beleaguered by insecurity and violence.  Many Mexicans wonder why they are paying such a high price to fight the illicit drug trade that services the insatiable demand for drugs in the United States – particularly when U.S. policy makers appear either indifferent or worse to their plight. FULL POST

Filed under: 2012 Election • Analysis • Bachman • Cain • Congress • Debate Preps • Gingrich • Huntsman • Mexico • Paul • Perry • Romney • Santorum
November 21st, 2011
11:36 AM ET

U.S. to join U.K. in new Iran sanctions

By Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty

The United States will name Iran, as well as its Central Bank, as a “primary money laundering concern,” on Monday but not place sanctions directly on the central bank, a senior Treasury Department official tells CNN.

The U.S. will also sanction a number of Iranian companies allegedly supporting Iran’s nuclear program, the senior Treasury Department official said.

The announcement comes on the same day Britain cut all financial ties with Iran over concerns about Iran's nuclear program, the first time it has ever cut an entire country's banking sector off from British finance, the British Treasury announced.  Canada also announced new sanctions.

The Treasury Department released a statement saying that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be make remarks at 430p ET Monday to "outline new steps the United States is taking to increase pressure on Iran."

The actions come in response to a recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) which expressed serious concern over what it said was Iran’s continuing work on its nuclear program.

Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak told CNN's Fareed Zakaria that Iran is probably less than a year away from being at a point that it will be too late to stop its nuclear program.

"It's true that it wouldn't take three years, probably three quarters, before no one can do anything practically about it because the Iranians are gradually, deliberately entering into what I call a zone of immunity, by widening the – the redundancy of their plan, making it spread over many more sides," Barak said on Fareed Zakaria GPS.

U.S. has been considering action against the Central Bank of Iran but officials became concerned that a full sanction could have a negative effect on the world economy because of the potential impact on oil prices. FULL POST

China spending big money to avoid Arab spring fever
November 21st, 2011
07:00 AM ET

China spending big money to avoid Arab spring fever

By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo

China's ruling Communist Party is looking within for threats to its control over the country, spending more money on securing its population of over one billion than it did on its military last year, according to a new report to the U.S. Congress.

Conflicts in the Middle East with the popular Arab Spring movement have done nothing to assuage the government's fears, according to the report from a Congressional advisory panel.

"The party has created an extensive police and surveillance network to monitor its citizens and react to any potential threat to stability," the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in the report.

The 12-person expert panel, which was created in 2000 to advise Congress on the U.S. policy toward China, said when you add up spending on police, state security, armed militias, as well as courts and jails, China invested $83.5 billion in domestic security in 2010, surpassing their reported military budget of $81.2 billion. According to the report China's domestic security budget is going up, scheduled to grow faster than military spending in the years to come.

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Filed under: China
DEBATE PREP:  Back to the strategic future
November 21st, 2011
06:00 AM ET

DEBATE PREP: Back to the strategic future

Editor’s note: This analysis is part of Security Clearance blog’s “Debate Preps” series. On November 22, CNN, along with AEI and The Heritage Foundation, will host a Republican candidate debate focused on national security topics. In the run-up to the debate, Security Clearance asked both the sponsoring conservative think tanks to look at the key foreign policy issues and tell us what they want to hear candidates address.

By AEI's Thomas Donnelly and Heritage Foundation's Baker Spring, Special to CNN

It is only a small exaggeration to say that the United States hasn’t had a coherent national security strategy since the end of the Cold War. To be sure, we have produced a back-breaking number of strategy documents and discussions, both in government and in think-tanks and academia.  And, at least until the Obama Administration moved into re-elect mode, there’s been a pretty consistent pattern to American strategic behavior.  But if we wish to maintain a “balance of power that favors freedom” and the American geopolitical leadership without which that balance goes tipsy, we need to start taking strategy-making seriously.

In a search for strategic clarity, we can do no better than to re-read the NSC 68 report done by the Truman Administration at the start of the Cold War.  While that document framed the policy of containment and the subsequent practical strategies that ushered the Soviet Union out of business, its enduring insight – one we appear to have lost touch with – is about the role of America in the world.  That role, the report declared, was anchored in the domestic character of the republic, and had consequences. FULL POST

Filed under: 2012 Election • Analysis • Bachman • Budget • Cain • Debate Preps • Defense Spending • Diplomacy • Gingrich • Huntsman • Military • Obama • Paul • Pentagon • Perry • Politics • Romney • Santorum • Think tank