National Security Brief: March 16, 2012

— The American staff sergeant suspected of conducting a massacre of 16 Afghan villagers last weekend had been drinking alcohol and suffering from stress related to his fourth combat tour and tensions with his wife, a senior American official told the New York Times.

— Mohammad Javad Larijani, a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said in an interview with CNNs Christiane Amanpour that “every possibility is on the table” in regards to an Iranian response to a possible attack on its nuclear facilities but added that — despite claims from Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — the Islamic Republic does not want to “wipe Israel off the map” in a military sense.

— The Iraqi government has refused American requests to stop Iranian cargo flights to Syria. Intelligence indicates that the panes are transporting up to 30 tons of weapons.

— A new Pew poll found that 62 percent of Americans oppose intervening militarily in Syria and 63 percent opposed sending weapons to rebels fighting the Assad regime.

— Over the objections of rights groups, the U.S. is set to waive a requirement in this year’s foreign aid laws that the State Department certify Egypt’s compliance with human rights norms before dispersing $1.3 billion in military aid.

— As Russian courts sentenced opposition activists to jail terms, the U.S. sought to overcome Cold War-era restrictions and free up $50 million in funds to support democracy there using funds that had invested in nascent Eastern European democracies.

— Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) demanded that the administration hand over legal memos laying out its justification for killing American citizens abroad suspected of involvement in terrorism, dismissing a recent speech by Attorney General Eric Holder touching on the administration’s position as a “Cliff’s Notes” version.

— The Chinese government is moving forward with a multi-billion dollar plan to blanket Chinese cities with surveillance cameras supplied by Uniview Technologies, a company purchased in December by a Bain Capital-run fund in which a Romney family blind trust has holdings.