National Secuirty Brief: August 10, 2011

— The White House is preparing to explicitly demand the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad and unveil tough new sanctions following the Syrian military’s brutal crackdown on protesters, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

— Assad rebuffed an appeal from Turkey’s foreign minister to end the crackdown on pro-democracy activists. Meanwhile, Egypt’s foreign minister said Syria is heading to a “point of no return” and national reforms must be implemented to avoid foreign interference.

— The Pentagon barred media from covering the ceremony at Dover Air Force Base yesterday when President Obama honored the remains of U.S. troops killed in the helicopter attack in Afghanistan last weekend. The Pentagon that 19 of the 30 families of the U.S. dead had objected to media coverage.

— More than 2,000 Afghans have applied to a special program that awards U.S. visas to Afghans who have worked for the U.S. government. But since the program began in 2009, not a single visa has been issued.


— Libya’s National Transitional Council is fighting a domestic battle to foster loyalty in the “liberated areas” but “the cash-strapped de-facto government is struggling to balance the provision of domestic services with the war effort.”

Religious-linked violence and abuse rose around the world between 2006 and 2009 with incidents of government or social harassment against Christians reported in 66-percent of countries and against Muslims in 59-percent, according to a Pew Research Center study.

— China’s first aircraft carrier, purchased as an unfinished hull from Ukraine in 1998, began sea trials on Wednesday following a decade of repairs and refitting.

— South Korea said it fired artillery rounds near the sea border with North Korea in response to hearing explosions coming from the North.