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BenghazievolvingTerrorismevolvingThreatsMonday, February 25, 2013

What’s the Hold Up?

Yesterday Senator John McCain (R-AZ) renewed his threat to place a hold on the nomination of John Brennan to be Director of the CIA, demanding more information from the White House about the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last September that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. This reasoning was also invoked two weeks ago to delay Senator Chuck Hagel’s (R-NE) confirmation as Secretary of Defense.  Yet the response to Benghazi has already included an independent investigation that faulted the State Department and led to four employees being relieved of their duties; five hours of testimony from former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; testimony by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey about… Read More ›

IranThursday, February 21, 2013

Ahead of Negotiations With Iran

Next week P5+1 negotiators will meet with their Iranian counterparts in Almaty, Kazakhstan. As Western powers freshen their offer to Iran, strong economic pressure from sanctions and international isolation have brought Iran to the table, but internal Iranian politics make expectations low for now. As experts ask the hardest questions about the region’s nuclear future, a new report from the Center for a New American Security challenges common assumptions about the regional proliferation implications of Iran’s program and highlights that the risk of a nuclear “cascade” and other consequences – however unlikely – can best be averted through a negotiated solution with Iran. Major powers put deal on the table; meet Iran next week with modest expectations for breakthrough.  Reuters reports, “Major powers are ready to… Read More ›

CompetitivenessMilitarysequestrationWednesday, February 20, 2013

Congressional Action Needed to Avert Sequestration

As the March 1 deadline for sequestration approaches, new reports highlight how nonstrategic across-the-board cuts would cause harm to America’s social wellbeing, economy and national security. Today the Pentagon previewed hundreds of thousands of civilian furloughs — mirrored in federal law enforcement, public health, social security and other domestic priorities. Congress must act to avoid sequestration – a mechanism that was never intended to go into effect. President Obama has again called on Congress to do just that and, if necessary, delay sequestration “not to kick the can down the road, but give them time to work together on a plan to finish job of deficit reduction in a sensible way.” While the focus on the impact of sequestration has been mainly on jobs, the more… Read More ›

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Progress and Challenges on Cybersecurity

Today, there were fresh reminders of the serious cybersecurity challenge facing the United States as Anonymous claims to have stolen personnel information from the State Department and a cybersecurity firm publishes detailed evidence that appears to link the Chinese military to cyber espionage. Last week, the Obama administration issued an executive order to improve data sharing and create incentives for private firms to heighten cyber security. But new legislation is also needed — and lawmakers must learn from past failed attempts and more successfully balance security, privacy and commerce concerns. Cyber-espionage threatens America’s economic competitiveness, security and individual well-being. A recent classified National Intelligence Estimate report highlights the challenge of cyber espionage. The Washington Post reports, “The report, which represents the consensus view of the… Read More ›

EnergyThursday, February 14, 2013

Climate Security: Time for Politicians to Catch up with Security Professionals

In his State of the Union address this week, President Obama stressed the importance of making progress toward a sustainable energy future – drawing on concerns about climate change and competitiveness as well as the views of senior military personnel who have called for investment in greener energy. He said, “the good news is we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.” On the heels of the speech there will also be a large rally in Washington DC this Sunday to call attention to the issue. While our political leaders… Read More ›

diplomacySOTUWednesday, February 13, 2013

State Of the Union’s Foreign Policy: Addressing Today’s Challenges Working for Tomorrow’s Opportunities

Last night’s State of the Union address set out a two-part clear vision for America’s role in the world. First, America will engage with security challenges effectively, by completing transitions away from combat in Afghanistan and towards a sustainable, values-led counter-terrorism policy; stand firm on diminishing the role of outdated nuclear weapons and lead global opposition to those who seek to acquire them; and prepare to meet the new challenges of cybersecurity. At the same time, the world presents a host of opportunities for engaged American leadership:  expanding trade, addressing climate change, combatting poverty, partnering with democratic reformers in ways that promote others’ interests – and our own. ADDRESSING 21st CENTURY SECURITY CHALLENGES Safely concluding U.S. combat in Afghanistan to put Afghans in the lead… Read More ›

diplomacyNorth KoreaNuclear SecurityTuesday, February 12, 2013

North Korea’s Nuclear Test: Known and Unknowns

North Korea claims to have just conducted its third test of a nuclear device. What is not known is whether the device was plutonium-based like previous devices or uranium-based, which would allow North Korea to produce a larger number of weapons because it continues uranium enrichment but no longer produces plutonium. Whether North Korea has any near-term plans for further provocations is likewise unknown. We do know, however, that the test has serious implications for regional stability and American national security; and that North Korea’s flouting of international norms only further isolates the regime as world governments condemn the test. NSN Executive Director Heather Hurlburt explains, “As the President prepares to give the State of the Union this evening, the United States stands shoulder to… Read More ›

diplomacySOTUMonday, February 11, 2013

SOTU, the Economy and National Security

As Washington prepares for this year’s State of the Union, expected to focus heavily on the economy, the White House previewed a set of national security initiatives that would heighten U.S. global influence – and move scarce financial resources from outdated initiatives into 21st-century priorities. Last week Vice President Biden listed them: “[I]t will reflect our shared interests in the following areas: advancing a comprehensive nuclear agenda to strengthen the nonproliferation regime, reduce global stockpiles and secure nuclear materials;… combating climate change, moving it up on the agenda; enhancing our development initiatives to promote global health and food security and end extreme poverty in the near future; strengthening our alliances, which are essentially — essential to our ability to meet our challenges in the 21st… Read More ›

Arab SpringdiplomacyThursday, February 7, 2013

Middle East Update

Two years into the Arab uprisings, the region remains in deep transition with each country facing its own challenges and opportunities. Tunisia, the region’s most stable transition, was shocked this week by the assassination of an opposition leader that has led to protests and a new cabinet of technocrats. Egypt continues to face three-pronged challenges of politics, security and economics. Syria’s violent conflict showed its ability to pull in Israel and Iran. Meanwhile, there is more fighting in the capital and an offer – as yet unanswered – from the opposition to Assad for talks. Tunisia Now more than two years after President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced from power, Tunisia has been on a steady, if bumpy, path. However, the economy continues… Read More ›

CIATerrorismtortureWednesday, February 6, 2013

Brennan Hearing and the Future of the CIA

John Brennan’s confirmation hearing as CIA Director comes as the Agency faces central questions about its role and missions: has the pendulum swung too far toward its paramilitary and counter-terrorism activities? Mission of the CIA Late last year, former acting CIA Director John McLaughlin summed up the challenges facing the intelligence community for Wired Magazine: “Nearly every major international security concern facing Petraeus’ successors is, in essence, a question of intelligence: What is Iran’s nuclear capability, really? Which way will the Syrian civil war go? Why is China building up its Navy so fast? What the hell is Kim Jong-Un up to? ‘Those are things that you’re not going to learn through diplomacy or through press reporting. And that takes you to intelligence,’ notes John E. McLaughlin, the… Read More ›

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