– Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans to meet Taliban representatives in Saudi Arabia, a move designed to put Karzai in the lead role in peace negotiations. Meanwhile, the French announcement that it would accelerate its troops’ departure timeline “cast a harsh light on potential cracks in the U.S.-led military coalition in the country.”
– American and Taliban negotiators are reportedly “edging closer to a deal for the release of five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo prison – the precondition for peace talks it is hoped will end the Western forces’ decade-long war in Afghanistan.”
– In a possible sign of trying to ratchet down tensions, Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi invited a group of U.N. nuclear inspectors arriving there to extend their visit to three days, but there are few hopes of any conclusive breakthroughs resulting from the inspections.
– Pentagon war planners have concluded that their 30,000 pound “bunker-buster” bomb isn’t yet capable of destroying Iran’s most heavily fortified underground nuclear facilities and are ramping up efforts to make it more powerful.
– The French and British foreign ministers, backed by the Qatari prime minister, will personally press for the U.N. Security Council to pass a tough resolution calling for Syrian president Bashar al Assad’s ouster from power, though they must first convince veto-wielding China and Russia to drop their strong opposition.
– A month after the last U.S. troops left Iraq, a Sunni-backed political bloc ended its boycott of parliament on Sunday, a success for Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki as he tries to consolidate political power. Meanwhile, Iraqi officials expressed outrage at the U.S. for using drone aircraft to protect the U.S. embassy and American personnel in Iraq.
– Top Egyptian generals arrive in Washington today to smooth tense relations after the military-led transitional government raided NGOs and civil society groups, including ones linked to the U.S. government, and imposed travel bans on some of their American employees.