By Elise Labott
The Obama administration is studying whether the Arab League's call this weekend for a joint Arab-U.N. peacekeeping force could work in Syria, but is stuck on one key point: there needs to be peace first.
Secetary of State Hillary Clinton stated the obvious Monday when she said, "There are a lot of challenges to be discussed as to how to put into effect all of their recommendations and certainly the peacekeeping request is one that will take agreement and consensus.
First off, any U.N. action would need a Security Council resolution. And given Russian and Chinese support for Damascus, that prospect isn't looking so promising.
Iran has accused Israel of working with an Iranian terrorist group to assassinate the country's nuclear scientists. Experts say that a possible partnership between Israel and the MEK, also known as the People's Mujahideen, is not a surprising match. CNN's Chris Lawrence reports.
By Barbara Starr
Even as the U.S. administration dismisses military action against the Syrian regime, a major effort is now under way to collect all possible intelligence on the plans and operations of the Damascus regime, two administration officials tell CNN.
"There is an obvious focus on developing intelligence," one official told CNN.
"People are talking about how we can get more," a second official said.
Both declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the efforts under way. FULL POST
By Larry Shaughnessy, with reporting from Elise Labott at the State Department
The Pentagon spelled out in billions of dollars on Monday precisely how it wants to save nearly half a trillion dollars in defense spending over the next five years, as the Department of Defense and other parts of the American national security apparatus sought to rebalance their books to account for new areas of concern.
Beginning this year, the military wants to spend far less on the war in Afghanistan compared with recent years as the U.S. draws down its forces, with an eye on the exit for most by the end of 2014.
In 2013, the Department of Defense expects to spend $88 billion on overseas contingency operations, almost all of it on the war in Afghanistan. That's compared with the $115 billion it expects to spend this year.
Those savings have to come from somewhere. FULL POST
By Elise Labott
A U.S. envoy will meet with North Korean officials next week to test that nation's willingness to abandon its nuclear program, the State Department said Monday.
Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies will meet with his counterpart, North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, in Beijing on February 23, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
Davies just returned from Russia, where he discussed continuing efforts to get North Korea to disarm. FULL POST
By Kevin Flower, reporting from Jerusalem
Four people were wounded when an explosive device attached to an Israeli Embassy van detonated near the Israeli mission in New Delhi, officials said Monday.
It was one of two explosives discovered on Israeli Embassy vehicles Monday. The other was found on an embassy car in Tblisi, Georgia, and that device was detonated in a controlled explosion with no injuries, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed both incidents on Iran, calling it "the biggest exporter of terror in the world."
Israeli Foreign Ministry personnel based overseas have been on alert in recent weeks to the heightened possibility of attacks at Israeli facilities by Hezbollah, the Lebanese Muslim militant group and political party.
Sunday was the fourth anniversary of the death of Hezbollah leader Imad Mugniyah, who was killed in a car bombing in Damascus, Syria in 2008. His death is believed by many to have been the result of an operation by the Israeli spy agency Mossad.
Read more of Kevin's reporting here
Over at Time's Battleland blog, Mark Thompson has an fascinating story about Daniel Houten, who is in basic training to become an infantryman in the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Ga. Nothing unusual about another 11 Bravo – except that he recently finished an 18-month tour with the Israeli Defence Forces. The heck with generals and colonels weighing each army’s pluses and minuses – let’s talk to someone who really knows the differences between two of the world’s finest fighting forces.
He may be singing to the choir here, but Private Houten, 20, says the U.S. Army has better food, boots and uniforms than the Israel army he left in June. “The food is better here,” he says. “Americans in general have better equipment, newer equipment.” And he says the Israeli army is a more relaxed, less disciplined outfit than his new employer.
Read more on Battleland
By Adam Levine
With today's budget for 2013 comes the latest sign of how the Obama administration wants to reshape the military going forward to deal both with the changing nature of threats to the U.S. and a scaled back military budget. The 2013 budget request will be the first truly detailed look at how the shaping of the military vision impacts the bottom line.
Of course, even adjusted for inflation, the reduction in defense budget growth will still add up a historically high budget and the biggest in the world.
War spending remains high, even though the U.S. military is out of Iraq. The military is expected to ask for $88.4 billion, down from $115 billion, for war spending. The reason, said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, that the "costs associated with that effort are pretty significant." FULL POST
By Michael O'Hanlon – Special to CNN
As the violence worsens in Syria, the United States and international community are in a dilemma. Even more serious than the recent veto by Russia and China of a U.N. Security Council resolution criticizing the regime of Bashar al-Assad, there are no great options for how to respond.
The various Syrian factions and populations are far too interspersed for a Libya-like operation to work. Al-Assad and his army are far too strong, still, for a simple and small peacekeeping mission to succeed. It would be opposed by the regime if it tried to enter the country. And if we invaded, the specter of an Iraq-style imbroglio would loom given Syria’s size and given the multitude of nefarious actors there.
That leaves three main types of possible military options. All are limited in scale and scope; therefore, all promise only mediocre results. I do not favor any just yet, and we should only consider them in the event of strong Arab League and NATO support and participation. But if the situation continues to worsen, we cannot look idly by, either.
Read about the three options on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS blog