National Security Brief: Former Assad Ally Defects

— French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed to a meeting of Syrian opposition leaders in the French captial that a “senior official” and commander of the Republican Guard had “defected and is on his way to Paris.”

— Syrian opposition leader Hassan Hashimi is asking the international community to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria to prevent military forces “flying over defected soldiers and civilians and bombarding them.”

— A group of senators led by John McCain (R-AZ) is asking 15 of the biggest defense contractors to explain how $500 billion in defense cuts could impact them, the latest effort in a campaign to pry information from the White House and Pentagon about the automatic cuts.

— Politico reports that “Mitt Romney’s campaign is considering a major foreign policy offensive at the end of the month that would take him to five countries over three continents and mark his first move away from a campaign message devoted almost singularly to criticizing President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy.”

— The Pentagon is pushing ahead with a $420 million effort to build refineries to make competitively priced biofuels, despite anger in Congress over the price the Navy paid for alternative fuel to test a carrier strike group this month.