National Security Brief: July 13, 2011

— U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and French ambassador Eric Chevalier plan to visit eastern Syria to meet with protest leaders on the Iraqi border but Syrian government forces are reportedly poised to stop the diplomats.

— Unless Ambassador Ford obtains Senate approval, he will be forced to leave Syria at the end of the year. President Obama recess appointed Ford last year after Senate Republicans blocked his confirmation.

— A spokesperson for Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr lashed out at Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for saying U.S. troops can act unilaterally against insurgents, claiming he had “openly mocked Iraq’s sovereignty and flaunted security agreements.” However, Sadr said on Sunday that he “has withdrawn a threat to reactivate his powerful Mahdi Army.”

— The U.S. and President Obama both face falling popularity in the Arab world, according to a poll by Zogby International for the Arab American Institute.


— U.S. intelligence assessments indicate that Libyan government forces are facing large numbers of defections and running low on fuel after rebel troops shut down a major pipeline.  — As the U.S. suspends hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan, the country’s defense minister announced that its military might withdraw from the troubled border regions with Afghanistan.

— U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan will have a Chapter 7 mandate giving the 7,000 soldier and 900 police mission the authority to take action when civilians are under imminent threat.

— The House Armed Services Committee will form a bi-partisan panel to oversee Pentagon financial systems to ready for an audit.