National Security Brief: May 18, 2012

— The House passed a resolution yesterday saying that Iran must be stopped from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability, moving beyond President Obama’s assurances that he will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. One problem is that “no one knows exactly what ‘nuclear weapons capable’ means.”

— U.S. Senate Republicans blocked legislation for new economic sanctions on Iran’s oil sector on Thursday saying they needed more time to study the bill.

— With oil production down 12 percent and falling due to sanctions, according to experts, an OPEC report suggested Iran could fall out of the second-place production spot in the international oil producers’ consortium.

— Ahead of a meeting of NATO nations in Chicago on Sunday, American officials are lowering the bar for success in the ten year war in Afghanistan and giving up on the expectation that NATO will leave behind a cohesive central government with influence beyond Kabul and a handful of other population centers.

— The head of a U.N. observer team in Syria warned on Friday that no number of observers can achieve “a permanent end to the violence if the commitment to give dialogue a chance is not genuine from all internal and external actors.”

–Andrew Liepman, the departing deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told The Washington Post that while al Qaeda was weakened by Osama bin Laden’s death, the group “hasn’t been strategically defeated.”

— The U.S. is considering naming which groups associated with Al Qaeda can be targeted with drone strikes, a move that would further lift the veil of secrecy on a robust program that officials have barely commented on but which receives wide attention.

— Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced $70 million in assistance, separate from the $3.1 billion in regular defense aid, to support Israel’s anti-missile Iron Dome system, a joint project funded with robust U.S. help and widely viewed as a success.