National Security Brief: February 24, 2012

– Protests in Afghanistan against the improper disposal of Muslim holy books continued despite an American apology.

– The deaths of two U.S. soldiers there, widely connected to the Koran burnings, came as the U.S. was already reviewing vetting procedures for the Afghan army after a spate of shootings against Americans.

The first U.S. nuclear negotiations with North Korea since the death of Kim Jong Il ended today with no breakthroughs but “a little bit of progress,” according to chief U.S. negotiator Glyn Davis. “Diplomacy, sometimes, is a process that takes a while to work through,” he told reporters.

– The “Friends of Syria,” a group of 50 Western and Arab countries currently holding meetings in Tunis, will call on Syrians to “immediate cease of all violence” and pledged to deliver humanitarian supplies within 48 hours if Syria’s government “stopped its assault on civilian areas and permitted access,” according to an updated draft resolution obtained by Reuters.

– Syrian rebels, meanwhile, admitted publicly for the first time that they are asking for military aid and receiving defensive equipment, but would not say who specifically provided the materiel.

– Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called for more talks with the U.N. nuclear watchdog following two days of discussions in Tehran, characterized by one Western envoy as “very long and fruitless” negotiations.

– Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is instructing his cabinet not to speak publicly about Iran ahead of his White House meeting with President Obama in early March, where the two leaders are expected to discuss Iran’s nuclear program and U.S. opposition to an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites.

– At an international conference on Somalia in London, donor countries pledged a new round of aid to the anarchic country plagued by terror and pirate groups, demanding a stable government be formed and vowing penalties against those who impede progress.

– On the sidelines of the London conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told her Pakistani counterpart that the U.S. wanted to resume full diplomatic contacts between the countries, laying out a series of steps to take.