National Security Brief: June 9, 2011

The AP reports that the Islamic militant group Hamas is considering a new strategy of “not directly participating in future governments even if it wins elections — an approach aimed at avoiding isolation by the world community and allowing for continued economic aid.”

The U.S. should maintain a military presence in Afghanistan on bases jointly occupied with Afghan forces even after the end of U.S. combat missions and U.S. forces have been drawn down, said outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. “Joint bases,” said Gates, would be “more tolerable to the Afghan people.”

As political unrest and violent conflict have spread across Yemen, the U.S. has expanded its campaign of covert air strikes against Al Qaeda linked militants in the south. American airstrikes had been paused for nearly a year following concerns that poor intelligence had led to mistakes and civilian casualties.

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) may scrap a resolution backing President Obama’s military strategy in Libya while Sens. Jim Webb (D-VA) and Bob Corker (R-TN) introduced a resolution pressuring Obama to get congressional consent for the war.

Leon Panetta, Obama’s choice to be the next Defense Secretary, said that every part of the defense budget “must be on the table,” including possible changes in military pay and benefits, as the administration grapples with spending cuts to deal with soaring deficits.

Saudi Arabia is boosting public spending by $130 billion to neutralize domestic opposition that might threaten order in the kingdom. The increase spending coincided with the fall of leaders in Tunisia and Egypt as the royal family sought to boost the religious establishment and placate the public.

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on Syria to halt its “assault on its own people” and said more than 1,100 people may have been killed and up to 10,000 detained since March. Meanwhile, more that 1,500 Syrians have reportedly fled to Turkey to escape the Syrian army’s crackdown.

A top Chinese military official “has confirmed that Beijing is building an aircraft carrier, marking the first acknowledgement of the ship’s existence from China’s secretive armed forces.”