National Security Brief: March 29, 2012

— Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey clarified a statement he made earlier this year when he said the U.S. “would no longer be a global power” if sequestration military cuts were to take effect. “The idea that I really wanted to get across was that we wouldn’t be the global power that we know ourselves to be today,” he said yesterday in Brazil.

— A White House official took a swipe at Mitt Romney for saying Russia is America’s “number one geopolitical foe.” You don’t have to be a foreign policy expert to know that the greatest threat that the president has been fighting on behalf of the American people is the threat posed by al Qaeda,” deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said.

— U.S. combat forces in Afghanistan are now assigned “guardian angels,” fellow troops who will guard them as they sleep, after a rash of deadly attacks on U.S. and coalition forces by their Afghan allies.

— New rules imposed by Afghanistan on the U.S.-government’s private security contractors may drive up the costs of protection as the war winds down, the U.S. Afghan war auditor said, though the U.S. Agency for International Development in the country disputed the calculation.

— The U.S. suspended planned food aid to North Korea after Pyongyang moved forward with a plan to launch what the U.S. says is a ballistic missile test disguised as a weather satellite launch.

— Iran’s oil output has fallen by 14 percent under heavy sanctions, but increased sanctions may drive up the price of what oil Iran is still still selling and allow the Islamic Republic to still haul in a high income form sales.

— Refugees pouring into Turkey from restive Syrian cities recount the government of Bashar al Assad’s desperate attempts to disperse demonstrations and stories of sectarian violence that has pitted neighbors against each other.

— A plane carrying presidents from Ivory Coast, Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso, who were travelling to Bamako, Mali to negotiate with the ruling junta that seized power last week, has turned back and returned to the Ivory Coast.