Libyan weapons falling into Somali al Qaeda's hands, U.S. official warns
Libyan rebels with an anti-aircraft weapon last year. Weapons like this are now a concern for the DoD (Getty Photo)
June 18th, 2012
06:47 PM ET

Libyan weapons falling into Somali al Qaeda's hands, U.S. official warns

By Larry Shaughnessy
CNN Pentagon Producer

The Arab Spring of revolution has given rise to a new summer of concern in North Africa.

While Moammar Gadhafi is gone, the weapons used by the rebels who overthrew him are now a threat to the whole region, according to Amanda Dory, a top Defense Department policy official on Africa.

"The breakdown of security in Libya has generated a significant flow of militants and weapons and has decreased legitimate cross-border traffic at a time of great economic fragility and turbulence," said Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense on African affairs.

Many of those weapons, the Pentagon fears, are ending up with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) the branch of the terrorist network in North Africa, especially in Mali, which in recent months has seen a coup and a separatist effort.

The al Qaeda affiliate "continues to increase its activities, including collecting large sums of money through kidnapping for ransom schemes," Dory said Monday. The Department of Defense "is closely watching what this will mean for the stability of the region and the ability of AQIM to target partner and U.S. interests."

Beyond Libya and Mali, the Defense Department is also active in the effort to hunt down the Lord's Resistance Army, a group that's been terrorizing central Africa and has for years kidnapped children and turned them into soldiers.

"Regional governments clearly have the lead in the effort to counter" the Lord's Resistance Army, Dory said. "They're the ones who are ultimately responsible for ending the LRA threat and protecting local communities. And the United States is seeking to help them in these responsibilities."

Some 100 U.S. troops, mostly Special Forces, are in Africa working to stop the LRA.

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Filed under: Africa • Libya • Lords Resistance Army • Mali
Obama nominee withdraws after controversy
Brett McGurk during testimony before the U.S. Senate.
June 18th, 2012
04:07 PM ET

Obama nominee withdraws after controversy

Brett McGurk, President Obama's pick to be ambassador to Iraq, has withdrawn from consideration following revelations about questionable conduct, an administration official said Monday.

"We greatly appreciate Brett's years of service on behalf of the United States, to include tireless and effective leadership in Iraq from the height of the war to the moment our last troops left Iraq in December and through the challenging transition earlier this year," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

Vietor added that while the White House regrets McGurk's withdrawal, "there is no doubt that he will be called on again to serve the country."

Read the full story here

Filed under: Diplomacy • Iraq
June 18th, 2012
11:08 AM ET

Syria-bound Russian cargo ship loses insurance

By Tim Lister

The U.K. marine insurer the Standard Club has stopped coverage for Russian operator Femco's cargo ship, MV Alaed, amid allegations it is carrying weapons to Syria.

"We were made aware of the allegations that the Alaed was carrying munitions destined for Syria and have already informed the ship owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage," the company told CNN on Monday.

The vessel is currently off the north coast of Scotland, according to ship-tracking data. U.S. officials have claimed the ship is heading for Syria with attack helicopters and munitions for the al-Assad regime from the port of Kaliningrad. FULL POST

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Filed under: Diplomacy • Middle East • Russia • Syria
June 18th, 2012
05:55 AM ET

EXCLUSIVE: Israel's president warns "time is out" for Iran

Editor's note: Watch Elise Labott's interview with Shimon Peres at 1pET on CNN's Newsroom with Suzanne Malveaux

By Elise Labott, reporting from Jerusalem

Time is running out for a diplomatic solution to Western concerns about Iran's nuclear program, Israeli President Shimon Peres said Monday in an interview with CNN.

He said Iran continues to flout the United Nations and world leaders by pushing forward with work on its nuclear program - including, he said, work on a nuclear weapon. But he said Iranian leaders would be making a costly mistake in believing the threat of military action is an empty one.

"You cannot provoke the world, assuming the world is made of fools only," Peres said.

His comments come at the start of talks in Moscow between Iran and the group of nations that have taken the lead on the issue: the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany. Peres is not attending the meetings.

The International Atomic Energy Agency and Western leaders have expressed concern about Iran's nuclear effort, including its uranium enrichment program and possible work toward a nuclear weapon. Iranian leaders have repeatedly said the work is purely peaceful. FULL POST

Egypt's reforms in flux, U.S. options in question
Egyptians protest in Tahrir Square on Friday after Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that Parliament must be dissolved.
June 18th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Egypt's reforms in flux, U.S. options in question

By Adam Levine

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed off on restarting funding to Egypt's military in March, it sparked an immediate outcry on Capitol Hill from those who thought the the United States was giving up leverage to ensure the military rulers saw through on their commitment to relinquishing power to a democratically elected government.

Those fears were realized this past week as Egypt's court forced the dissolution of parliament and the military asserted its powers once again ahead of the weekend's runoff elections.

The court ruling has thrown the future of the transition into question, and now a key senator is warning it could once again throw the $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt into uncertainty.


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Filed under: Congress • Egypt • Hillary Clinton • Leahy • Middle East • Secretary of State