National Security Brief: September 14, 2011

— The European Union will significantly expand its sanctions on Syria over President Bashar al-Assad’s the country’s violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests. The new sanctions will include a ban on investment in Syria’s oil sector and a move to block Damascus from importing bank notes printed in Europe.

— The Arab League called for an “immediate change” in Syria and Qatar’s foreign minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who chaired the meeting, said Syrian president Bashar al-Assad must stop his “killing machine.”

— On Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford attended the funeral of a Syrian activist, but left a few hours before the services were tear gassed by security forces loyal to Assad.

— Syrian opposition activists held a “day of anger” protest aimed at Russia, which has blocked efforts at the U.N. Security Council to pass stronger resolutions against Assad’s government for its months-long crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.

— Al-Qaeda could lose its operational capabilities within 18 to 24 months and al-Qaeda affiliates have already eclipsed the network’s core according to Michael G. Vicker, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

— Palestinian Authority leaders are considering the strong urging of both the Arab states and the Europeans to turn to the U.N. General Assembly — and not the Security Council — in a bid to win international recognition as a state.

— Tunisian political parties will sign a document tomorrow limiting the term of a constituent assembly — decided at the polls next month and tasked with writing a constitution — to one year.

— A new Iranian offer to negotiate with world leaders suggests that Tehran may be ready to discuss nuclear issues which were previously taboo but Western diplomats characterized the letter a part of a “charm offensive.”