National Security Brief: January 24, 2012

— Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s grip on Afghan insurgency is weakening as coalition battlefield successes have produced a series of setbacks for the Taliban, Marine Maj. Gen. John Toolan, top U.S. commander, told USA Today.

— French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe says France will wait until Afghan President Hamid Karzai visits Paris on January 27 to decide whether to speed up the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan after an Afghan soldier killed four French soldiers last week.

— The IAEA said it plans to visit Iran at the end of this month to “resolve all outstanding substantive issues,” referring to suspicions of military dimensions to the Iranian atomic energy program.

— Gulf Arab states pulled out of an Arab League monitoring team in Syria following Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rejection of an Arab League call for him to step down from power.

— The newly-seated Egyptian parliament elected Muslim Brotherhood member Saad el-Katatni as speaker after a contentious floor debate among Egypt’s first freely elected governing body in sixty years.

— UNICEF, the U.N.’s children’s relief organization, said three quarters of a million Yemeni children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition in the Arab world’s most impoverished state.

— Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan promised to “take steps” against France after the French Senate passed a bill criminalizing genocide denial, including the Ottoman killing of Armenians during and after World War I, which Turkey opposes to labeling a genocide.

— The Justice Department charged former CIA officer John Kiriakou — one of the first CIA officers to go public with details of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation measures — with leaking classified information, including the identities of CIA operatives involved in the capture and interrogation of alleged terrorists.