National Security Brief: February 17, 2012

— Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate panel yesterday that Israel has not yet decided whether to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities but that if it did, a strike would only set back Iran’s nuclear development by one or two years.

— Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) are circulating a letter urging President Obama not to start a war with Iran. “We agree with most Americans that the United States should not enter a new war, just as we are finally ending two others,” they write. “A military strike against Iran could lead to a regional war in the Middle East and attacks against U.S. interests.”

Shelling continued in the Syrian city of Homs a day after the U.N. General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution condemning human rights violations by the Syrian government, leading British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, following a meeting in Paris today, to say the Syrian opposition needs more international support.

— Defense undersecretary for policy James Miller said this week that new reductions in deployed nuclear weapons could take place without harming U.S. security. “I do believe that there are steps that we can take to further strengthen our deterrence posture and assurance of allies, and that I believe we can do so with lower numbers,” he said.

— Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) is planning a “speak-up tour” to get members of the military and the defense industry to speak out publicly against the cuts that are facing the military.

— Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood political party, the Islamist party that currently leads the Egyptian Parliament, is threatening to review the 33-year old peace treaty with Israel if Washington cuts off aid in response to a crackdown on American-based nonprofits in Egypt.

— The U.S. military estimates that supporting the Afghan army and police forces after the withdrawal of American combat forces in 2014 will cost $4 billion per year, a bill that will have to be paid by the U.S. and outside donors.

— New York Times foreign correspondent and two time Pulitzer prize winning journalist Anthony Shadid died yesterday in Syria after suffering an asthma attack.