Iran drama obscures concerns over Obama approach to Mideast
September 25th, 2013
05:30 PM ET

Iran drama obscures concerns over Obama approach to Mideast

By Elise Labott, reporting from the United Nations

The drama over whether President Barack Obama would shake hands with his Iranian counterpart detracted from what diplomats at the U.N. General Assembly described as an acute disappointment with his handling of Mideast turmoil.

A perceived lack of leadership in Syria during its civil war coupled with U.S. handling of the political crisis in Egypt has forced the Obama administration to confront a growing lack of confidence among Middle East allies.

But what's most bewildered American allies in the region was Obama's abrupt decision to back away from threats to use military force over alleged Syrian chemical weapons use in favor of a diplomatic approach to divest it of those stockpiles.

They fear Obama's ambivalence foreshadows a lack of mettle in dealing with Iran.

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Filed under: Egypt • Iran • Obama • Syria • United Nations
September 9th, 2013
07:28 PM ET

Obama: Russia proposal for Syria 'positive development' - if it's real

By Catherine E. Shoichet and Jamie Crawford

A new possibility for a diplomatic solution in the standoff between Syria and the United States surfaced unexpectedly Monday as the war-torn country said it supported a proposal to hand over control of its chemical weapons.

But a key question loomed: Is that a viable option or simply a stall tactic as President Bashar al-Assad's government tries to stave off U.S. military action?

"It's certainly a positive development when the Russians and Syrians both make gestures towards dealing with these chemical weapons," President Barack Obama told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Monday.

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Filed under: Assad • Military • Obama • Sec. State John Kerry • Security Brief • State Department • Syria • White House
September 4th, 2013
08:05 PM ET

Breaking up is hard to do: the Obama-Putin relationship

By Jill Dougherty

Relationships can be tough, especially long-distance ones. And talking to that special someone all night on the "red phone" isn't easy when you're pulling all-nighters dealing with world crises.

President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin showed one public display of affection on Thursday, shaking hands and exchanging a few words. Officials say the world leaders could have a longer meeting on the margins of the G-20. The issue of what to do in Syria is adding a lot of stress to an already strained relationship.

Back in January 2009 when Obama was sworn into office for the first time, he had high hopes for U.S.-Russian relations after things went south between George W. Bush and Putin.

There was a new young president – Dmitry Medvedev – in the Kremlin and Obama thought maybe Washington and Moscow could start over.

September 4th, 2013
11:53 AM ET

Obama: Red line on Syria is the world's, not his

By Tom Cohen

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the red line he spoke of last year regarding Syria's use of chemical weapons came from international treaties and past congressional action, and he challenged the international community to join him in enforcing bans on such armaments.

In direct and confrontational remarks to reporters in Sweden, Obama laid out his rationale for wanting to attack Syria on the same day a Senate committee in Washington will vote on a proposed resolution authorizing limited U.S. military strikes.

He also insisted he had the authority to order attacks on Syria - expected to be cruise missile strikes on Syrian military command targets - even if Congress rejects his request for authorization.


Filed under: Obama • Syria
August 28th, 2013
08:23 PM ET

U.S. officials: United States to act on Syria on its own timetable

By Elise Labott

As President Barack Obama insisted he has made no decision on how to respond to Syria, behind the scenes American officials insisted Wednesday that ultimately the president will decide on his own timeline, dismissing the notion that maneuvers in the United Nations and British Parliament suggest a longer-term horizon before any cohesive response.

“We can’t wait, we need to act according to our own national interests,” said one senior U.S. official.  While the official noted the president has not made any decisions yet, “this is moving quickly.”

The British Parliament is set Thursday to consider a resolution that calls for no military action before the United Nations Security Council considers a report from weapons inspectors who are still in Syria and who are expected to be there for several more days.

“Why do we need to wait for a UN report to tell us what we already know,” said a second senior U.S. official.  Any decision to respond would not wait for UN inspectors, he said, noting the United States has told the UN it is not safe to be there.  But “if they are there, it is not going to stop us.” Targets would not be in areas where inspectors are located.


August 23rd, 2013
04:00 PM ET

Official: US military updates options for possible strikes on Syria

By Chris Lawrence
CNN Pentagon Correspondent

The U.S. military has updated options for a forceful intervention in Syria to give President Barack Obama a range of choices should he decide to deepen American involvement in a civil war where new claims surfaced this week about possible chemical weapons use by the regime.

A senior Defense Department official told CNN on Friday that target lists for possible air strikes have been updated. The planning also included updates on the potential use of cruise missiles, which would not require fighter pilots to enter Syrian airspace.

But the official cautioned the steps were taken "to give the president a current and comprehensive range of choices" and that no decisions were made at a national security meeting on Thursday at the White House.

The official said there are certain static targets, like government buildings and military installations, but that forces and equipment of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "continue to move" and thus require flexibility in planning.

Military to extend same-sex marriage benefits
August 14th, 2013
06:52 PM ET

Military to extend same-sex marriage benefits

(CNN) - The Pentagon will permit members of the military to travel to wed same-sex partners if the community or state where they are based does not permit it, a key element of a new benefits policy unveiled Wednesday.

The Defense Department announced its intention to extended health, housing and other benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed military personnel and defense civilian employees.

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Filed under: DADT • Military • Military life • Obama • Pentagon • Security Brief
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.

Obama administration faces gut check moment in Syria
June 10th, 2013
05:36 PM ET

Obama administration faces gut check moment in Syria

By Elise Labott

Key meetings this week on Syria will try to figure out how the Obama administration can help moderate heavy rebel casualties and stem opposition defections to radical groups as the prospect for a political solution to the civil war grows dim.

Recent gains by the regime in Qusayr and its ongoing offensive to retake areas of Aleppo - all with the help of Hezbollah fighters - has created an urgency in the administration to act before President Barack Obama's stated policy objective of ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is lost.

"It's really bad but whether this is fatal, we don't' know," one senior administration official said of recent gains by regime forces. "There is a recognition that unless we provide help, a lot of help, the situation is going to be very, very terrible."

Obama administration regroups to counter Benghazi criticism
May 16th, 2013
07:42 PM ET

Obama administration regroups to counter Benghazi criticism

By Jill Dougherty

Buffeted by Republican criticism for its handling of last September's deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, the Obama administration is mounting a coordinated response.

Thursday, at a Rose Garden news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Barack Obama went out of his way to challenge Republicans to fully fund security for America's diplomats.

Republicans have ripped the administration for not providing adequate security for the Benghazi mission at which four Americans, including Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, were killed.

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