National Security Brief: January 13, 2012

— The U.S. used a back channel to warn Iran not to follow through on various belligerent statements about blocking access to the Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for much of the world’s oil supply.

— Now that Iran has switched production of higher-grade enriched uranium to a new, underground site, Olli Heinonen, the former head of U.N. nuclear inspections, wrote yesterday that Iran is now just a year or so away from having enough material for a nuclear bomb.

— The U.S. received assurances from Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf oil rich countries that they would increase production to make up for any gap in supply resulting from an oil embargo of Iran.

— At least 200 political prisoners were freed by Myanmar’s government in a move that emboldens the opposition and is the latest in a series of reforms implemented by the new nominally civilian government.

— The video showing U.S. Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters is “deplorable” said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clifton warned that the Marines in the video could be party to a war crime.

— The Taliban dimmed prospects for broad peace talks — for the moment, at least — with the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan and the government it supports there, decrying president Hamid Karzai’s government as the “stooge of Kabul administration” and limiting anticipated talks to its goal of a prisoner release.

— The U.S. plans on removing two of four brigades stationed in Europe as part of its cost-saving moves.

— The head of the Arab League says Syria may be sliding toward civil war, the 10-month uprising has included security forces firing on thousands of people and the more recent trend of breakaway soldiers attacking the Syrian military.