National Security Brief: January 20, 2012

— Six U.S. Marines died today in a helicopter crash in Helmand province. The Taliban claimed credit for bringing down the aircraft but NATO reported no enemy activity in the area.

— Between May 2007 and May 2011, at least 58 Western service members were killed by the Afghan soldiers they train and fight alongside according to a classified coalition report obtained by The New York Times.

— In a statement to Gulf leaders widely perceived as signaling Iran’s deepening isolation, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao said his country, a major purchaser of Iranian oil, “adamantly opposes Iran developing and possessing nuclear weapons.”

— Gen. Michael Hayden, a former chief at both the CIA and National Security Agency, said that discussions during the Bush administration concluded that attacking Iran “would guarantee that which we are trying to prevent — an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon and that would build it in secret.”


— The Arab League is likely to extend its observer mission in Syria despite complaints from both League observers and the Syrian opposition that it has been unsuccessful in curbing the government’s violence against civilians.

— Ethnic clashes in the six-month old country of South Sudan created a situation where 120,000 need humanitarian aid, according to the U.N.

— Myanmar President Thein Sein tells the Washington Post that “we are on the right track to democracy” but the military will maintain a strong role in government as opposition members join the parliament.

— Despite recent political reforms, the Myanmar government has intensified an ethnic civil war in the northern part of the country.