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National Security Brief: February 15, 2012

— Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told that Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that Israel is still undecided about an attack on Iran and emphasized that “We think that the approach of the international community, to apply sanctions, to apply pressure, is having an impact. It has isolated Iran.”

— Panetta also said during the hearing that U.S. and Afghan officials are weeks away from reaching a security pact allowing an American military mission to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

— “The world must denounce Iran’s terrorist activity and mark red lines on the Iranian nuclear program,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told members of the Israeli parliament today, following Iran’s unveiling of a new generation of domestically made enrichment centrifuges and locally made fuel rods.

— Modest demonstrations in Tehran on Tuesday marked the first anti-government protests since the opposition Green Movement marches in February 2011, raising questions about whether the opposition still has the power to mobilize large numbers of protesters.

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— Iranian state news reported that the Islamic Republic has stopped oil exports to six European states in retaliation for European Union sanctions on Iranian crude.

— Syrian President Bashar Assad ordered a referendum for later this month on a new constitution that would permit opposition political but details of how the vote would be conducted remains unclear as the Syrian military continues daily battles against army defectors.

— The U.S. and some Middle East allies are stepping up surveillance of Syria’s chemical and biological weapons depots amid fears that the weapons could go loose if unrest escalates out of control.

— The Obama administration is considering reducing the number of deployed nuclear weapons by 80 percent.