National Security Brief: January 3, 2012

— Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected this week in a meeting with President Obama to reveal his strategy that will guide the Pentagon in cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from its budget. The Pentagon will reportedly no longer maintain the ability to fight two ground wars at once.

— Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al Arabi acknowledged that the 22-country association’s observers in Syria have failed to stem the violence there. French President Nicholas Sarkozy called for President Bashar Assad to step aside because of “massacres” committed by his security forces.  — Even as his group signed a pact that avoids calls for foreign intervention, a leader of the opposition Syrian National Council said Syrians support Libya-style military action to stop attacks against anti-government demonstrators.

— Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani militants have held meetings aimed at containing what could soon be open warfare between the two most powerful Pakistani Taliban leaders, militant sources have said. Reuters reports that the two leaders “were at each other’s throats.”   — France’s foreign minister Alain Juppe said, “Iran is pursuing the development of its nuclear arms, I have no doubt about it,” adding that his president is pursuing an embargo of Iranian oil and freezing assets of the country’s central bank.  — The Iranian rial hit a record low against the dollar less than a week after President Obama signed into law a defense bill containing sanctions against the Islamic Republic’s central bank.

— The U.N. said yesterday that up to 50,000 people have fled violence in a remote border area of South Sudan after days of clashes between two tribes.


— As China begins its once-in-a-decade leadership change in 2012, a senior White House official has said that Vice President Biden will take the lead on the next phase of the administration’s China policy.  For breaking news and analysis throughout the day, follow ThinkProgress Security on Twitter.