National Security Brief: Egyptians Protest Morsi’s Power Grab

— Tens of thousands of Egyptians poured into the streets of Cairo in and around Tahrir Square to protest Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi’s authoritarian-like power grab. “Morsi may have misjudged Egypt’s tolerance of authoritarianism,” a headline in today’s Los Angeles Times reads.

— Syrian rebels took two government military bases on Tuesday, “breaking a weeks-long stalemate and making progress” against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. Rebels there also downed a military helicopter with a surface-to-air-missile “marking what is potentially a major battlefield advance: confirmation that rebels have put their growing stock of heat-seeking missiles to effective use.”

— U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said she had previously incorrectly described the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi in September the result of a spontaneous uprising against an anti-Islam video rather than a premeditated terror attack. “Neither I nor anyone else in the administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in the process,” she said.

— The Senate is working on new package of Iran sanctions as part of the annual defense policy bill. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that “[a]n increase in Iran’s higher-grade uranium stockpile is worrying but may arise from a bottleneck in making reactor fuel rather than a bid to quickly accumulate material that could be used for nuclear weapons.”

— USA Today reports: The Taliban terrorists who pulled off one of the most damaging attacks of the Afghanistan War were probably trained for the plot in Pakistan, illustrating how the U.S. ally threatens to jeopardize a successful withdrawal.

— A study conducted by the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said that, according to Defense News, “the Pentagon should continue to invest in special operations forces, offensive and defensive cyber capabilities, new manned and unmanned long-range strike aircraft and undersea vessels even as defense spending declines in the coming decade.”