National Security Brief: August 8, 2011

— Syrian military forces expanded their assault on the country’s pro-democracy uprising, launching an attack on the eastern city of Deir al-Zour.

— Saudi King Abdullah warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to reform or risk defeat. “What is happening in Syria is not acceptable,” he said. Abdullah — who sent Saudi troops into Bahrain to help crush a pro-democracy movement there — demanded “an end to the killing machine and bloodshed.”

— The 22-member Arab League — which had been silent since the uprising in Syria began — also spoke out against Assad yesterday, saying it is “alarmed” by the situation there. A German government spokesman said Assad will lose his legitimacy soon, while the Turkish foreign minister is heading to Damascus “to deliver a strong message about the crackdown.”

— The Internet hacktivist group known as Anonymous claimed credit today for vandalizing the Syrian military’s website. Screenshots showed the group’s trademark headless suit and a message addressed to the Syrian people saying that “the world stands with you against the brutal regime.”

— The Tangi valley in Afghanistan, where 30 U.S. soldiers died in an insurgent attack on their helicopter on Saturday, was the site of frequent U.S.-led night raids which has fueled popular support for the Taliban.

— Muqtada al-Sadr, a powerful anti-American Shiite cleric in Iraq, told his followers that any U.S. forces who stay in Iraq past the December 31 withdrawal deadline are fair game to attack.

— U.S. officials have reportedly convinced Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh not to return to Yemen. Saleh has been receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia after an assassination attempt left him badly burned.

— Reuters reports that “Chinese state media on Monday blamed Washington’s huge military spending and global footprint for the crisis that led to the U.S. debt rating downgrade, calling for an end to the foreign ‘domineering’ dragging down its economy.”