Senior administration official:  “This one is a lot easier to figure out”
August 26th, 2013
10:09 PM ET

Senior administration official: “This one is a lot easier to figure out”

By Jim Acosta and Brianna Keilar

A senior administration official stressed U.S. President Barack Obama is on an “abbreviated timeline” for making a decision on whether to launch a military strike against Syria over its suspected use of chemical weapons.

“We see this with some urgency,” the official said.

After U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that chemical weapon use by the Syrian regime was “undeniable,” the senior administration official said the United States no longer requires confirmation from United Nations weapons inspectors.

“This one is a lot easier to figure out,” the official said. “This is really obvious.” FULL POST

August 9th, 2013
08:23 PM ET

Obama says 'pause' needed to assess Russian relations

By Jill Dougherty

Two days after calling off a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow, President Barack Obama said Friday he is re-evaluating the entire U.S./Russia relationship.

Obama, speaking at a White House news conference, seemed ready for a more rocky relationship with the Kremlin.

"It is probably appropriate for us to take a pause, reassess where it is that Russia's going, what our core interests are, and calibrate the relationship so that we're doing things that are good for the United States and hopefully good for Russia as well, but recognizing that there are just going to be some differences and we're not going to be able to completely disguise them, and that's ok."

Obama told reporters his decision not to participate in the Moscow summit next month went beyond Russia's decision to give temporary asylum to admitted National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

"It had to do with the fact that, frankly, on a whole range of issues where we think we can make some progress Russia has not moved," he said. "And so, we don't consider that strictly punitive."


Opinion: Obama's goal in Africa: Counter China
June 26th, 2013
09:35 AM ET

Opinion: Obama's goal in Africa: Counter China

By Peter Bergen, Special to CNN

There is a one-word subtext to President Obama's trip to Africa: China.

After 9/11, the United States became embroiled in more than a decade of wars in Asia and the Middle East. As a result, U.S. engagement in Latin America and Africa largely atrophied.

Meanwhile, China saw an opportunity. China has now displaced the United States as the largest trading partners of two key Latin American countries, Brazil and Chile.

China's economic rise is particularly marked in Africa; it quietly surpassed the United States as the continent's largest trading partner four years ago.

Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst and a director at the New America Foundation.

Obama to call for U.S., Russia to cut nuclear warhead supply by one-third
June 19th, 2013
05:58 AM ET

Obama to call for U.S., Russia to cut nuclear warhead supply by one-third

By Holly Yan, CNN

President Barack Obama will ask Russia to join the United States in slashing its supply of strategic nuclear warheads by about one-third, a senior administration official said.

Obama will announce the goal during a speech Wednesday in Berlin - a city rife with Cold War history.

The president will also outline his goal to reduce U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, the official said. The president hopes to work with NATO allies on proposals toward that goal.

It's all part of Obama's "vision of achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," the official said.

"We will seek to negotiate these reductions with Russia to continue to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures," the official added.

Obama's speech will take place almost exactly 50 years after President John F. Kennedy delivered his "Ich bin ein Berliner" - or "I am a Berliner" - speech in the city that was divided by Western and Soviet occupations during the Cold War.

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Obama speech to focus on drones, Gitmo
May 23rd, 2013
12:30 AM ET

Obama speech to focus on drones, Gitmo

By Jamie Crawford, CNN National Security Producer

From the targeted killing of Americans overseas to the future of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, President Barack Obama will lay out the framework and legal rationale for his administration's counterterrorism policy in a widely anticipated speech on Thursday.

Administration officials tell CNN that Obama will use the National Defense University speech to continue to call on engagement with Congress on aspects of national security, more transparency in the use of drones, and a review of threats facing the United States.

He will make the case that the al Qaeda terror network has been weakened, but that new dangers have emerged even as the U.S. winds down operations in Afghanistan after more than a decade of war triggered by the 9/11 attacks.

Threats that have emerged come from al Qaeda affiliates, localized extremist groups, and homegrown terrorists.

The address will also build on remarks Obama made in his annual State of the Union address earlier this year when he said his administration works "tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts."

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Barack Obama • drones • Gitmo
Obama: 'North Korea has failed again'
May 7th, 2013
04:50 PM ET

Obama: 'North Korea has failed again'

By Gabriella Schwarz

President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday nuclear aggression from North Korea has further isolated the region and vowed to use all means to deter further provocations.

"If Pyongyang thought its recent threats would drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States or somehow garner the North international respect, today is further evidence that North Korea has failed again," Obama said during a joint press conference with the two leaders. "The United States and the Republic of Korea are as united as ever ... North Korea is more isolated than ever."

Obama said North Korea's manufactured crises will no long elicit concessions and committed to protecting the United States and its allies.

"The United States is fully prepared and capable of defending ourselves and our allies with the full range of capabilities available, including the deterrence provided by our conventional and nuclear forces," Obama said. "The commitment of the United States to the security of the Republic of Korea will never waver."

President Park, South Korea's first female president, said she will "by no means tolerate North Korea's threats and provocations, which have recently been escalating further."

March 7th, 2013
06:43 PM ET

White House reviews targeted killing program

The growing strength of extremist groups across the Middle East and Africa has led the Obama Administration to begin a classified review of just who it can go after under its targeted killing program.

The current congressional authorization to use military force, allows the President to "use all necessary and appropriate force" against any persons or organizations involved in planning or carrying out the September 11th attacks–its been interpreted to include al Qaeda affiliates.

But emerging terrorist groups sympathetic to al Qaeda do not necessarily have a direct link to the core Al Qaeda network responsible for the September 11th attack, CNN's Barbara Starr reports.

Economy, not foreign policy, will be focus of State of the Union
February 10th, 2013
03:39 PM ET

Economy, not foreign policy, will be focus of State of the Union

By Jessica Yellin

President Barack Obama has spent large chunks of the last six months dealing with matters of foreign policy, from Benghazi to Afghanistan to drones.

But the topic won’t be the centerpiece of his State of the Union address Tuesday. Administration officials say he’ll focus instead on jobs and the economy, the topics that still rank as the most important for Americans, according to polls.

While Obama won't spend as much time on foreign policy Tuesday as he does on the economy, that isn't unusual. In his last four addresses to Congress, this president spent an average of seven minutes on foreign policy and an average 22 minutes on the economy, according to analyses from the Washington Post and National Journal.

He will address the ongoing drawdown of the American military presence in Afghanistan, and last week Vice President Joe Biden indicated at a security conference in Munich that Obama could talk about his commitment to reducing the stockpile of nuclear weapons around the world.


Hopes of 'Gitmo' closing dim
January 29th, 2013
12:46 PM ET

Hopes of 'Gitmo' closing dim

By Elise Labott

The State Department has reassigned the special envoy dealing with closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and has no plans to replace him, two senior State Department officials tell CNN.

Daniel Fried's office has been closed and his duties will now be handled by the State Department's legal adviser's office, according to a State Department internal announcement.

The decision leaves little indication that the administration has pressing plans to follow through on a chief promise of President Barack Obama regarding the "Gitmo" facility in Cuba.

It was established in 2001 within a remote U.S. naval base to house those classified as enemy combatants.

Fried's post was created in 2009 shortly after Obama announced his intention to close Guantanamo Bay within his first year in office.

Fried has traveled the world since negotiating the repatriation of about 30 low-level detainees and resettling about 40 more eligible for release but unable to return to their home countries due to fears of abuse.

But significant congressional restrictions on further detainee transfers left Fried's job less demanding. Most recently, he spent some of his time working to help resettle a group of Iranian exiles, known as the MEK, living in a refugee camp in Iraq.

"Guantanamo hasn't been a full time job for a year," one senior official said, citing the new congressional restrictions.

Obama signed the limits into law as part of a 2013 defense spending bill.

Administration officials initially said he might veto the defense measure if the legislation included detainee transfer restrictions, which would undercut his pledge to close the facility.

Officials insist the administration still is intent on closing it.

Fried, a career diplomat, will now become the State Department's coordinator for sanctions policy, which includes prohibitions against Iran, North Korea and Syria.

January 28th, 2013
10:45 AM ET

Obama explains Syria hesitancy

By Kevin Liptak

President Barack Obama is still grappling with what role the United States should play in Syria's bloody conflict, which began nearly two years ago and has claimed the lives of 60,000 people.

In interviews released Sunday, the president pushed back on criticism from political rivals that his administration has been overly detached from foreign unrest, including the ongoing Syrian civil war.

"Muammar Qaddafi probably does not agree with that assessment," Obama told "60 Minutes."

"Syria's a classic example of where our involvement, we want to make sure that not only does it enhance U.S. security, but also that it is doing right by the people of Syria and neighbors like Israel that are going to be profoundly affected by it," he explained later. "And so it's true sometimes that we don't just shoot from the hip."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, appearing alongside the president on "60 Minutes," called the situation in Syria a "wicked problem," but argued there was no clear blueprint for American involvement in the country. FULL POST

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Diplomacy • Syria
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