National Security Brief: January 10, 2012

— The latest round of pressure tactics against Iran are working to cripple its economy and signals indicate the Islamic Republic could return to the nuclear negotiating table, but Iranian pushback “could lead to inadvertent conflict,” said George W. Bush’s national security adviser.

— The IAEA confirmed that Iran is enriching uranium to a 20 percent level — higher than the 3.5 percent being made at Iran’s main enrichment plant — in an underground bunker.

— Human rights groups worldwide are organizing events this week to mark 10 years of military detention at Guantanamo Bay. Detainees at the prison are also planning three days of protest.

— North Korea has held secret talks with Japan “in what is believed to be their first contact since the death of long-time leader Kim Jong-il.” Meanwhile, the reclusive communist state said today that it will release prisoners “in its first special amnesty in seven years.”

— China’s top military paper, the Liberation Army Daily, criticized the U.S., claiming its new defense strategy in the Asia-Pacific region is directed at containing China’s rise.

— The Pentagon’s new military strategy pays increased attention to the growing threat of inexpensive weapons like mines and cyber-attacks designed to slow, but not defeat, American military forces.

— Syrian President Bashar al Assad railed against the Arab League as 11 of its observers were lightly injured monitoring the country’s months-long unrest. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the country could be headed for a sectarian “civil war.”

— The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood dropped its demand to parlay an electoral victory into a leadership role, acquiescing to military rule until presidential elections either late this year or next.