National Security Brief: September 29, 2011

— The Syrian Revolution General Commission, a coalition representing dozens of Syrian opposition groups, this week called for the international community to back a no-fly zone to protect civilians from the Assad regime’s bloody crackdown. The calls “drew a tepid response Wednesday from the Obama administration and European governments.”

— A European-led initiative to impose new sanctions on Syria has faltered after Russia’s U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin, blasted the effort as a “clear policy of regime range.”

— The White House and State Department are downplaying remarks made by chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen that the insurgents who attacked the American Embassy in Afghanistan were “a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s spy agency. But Mullen has stuck by his assertion, telling an interviewer, “I phrased it the way I wanted it to be phrased.”

— The White House is seeking an additional $25 billion in long-term Pentagon budget cuts — an increase from $464 billion to $489 billion — but will exempt spending on programs for military veterans, says a top U.S. defense consultant.

— The House Appropriations Committee “moved to cut off U.S. funding for the Palestinian Authority, totaling about $500 million a year, if it continues to seek United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state.”

— A new U.N. report says that, at more than 2,000 security incidents a month, violence in Afghanistan is up nearly 40 percent from the same period last year — a figure at odds with reports from the U.S.-led coalition.

— Iran’s defense minister announced the mass production of a new cruise missile and also slapped down the idea of a “hot line” floated by American commanders to prevent accidental escalation between Iran and the United States.

— The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said the Iraq-based Iranian exiled opposition Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) — which is designated as a terror group by the U.S. — agreed to individual interviews with members that would begin the process of giving them refugee status.