National Security Brief: March 21, 2012

— Gen. John Allen, the top allied commander in Afghanistan, told the House Armed Services Committee yesterday that he will not be recommending further U.S. troop reductions until late this year.

— Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) told Allen that “it is time to find additional ways to put the Afghans in charge of their own fate as quickly as we responsibly can and bring our troops home.”

The new budget plan released by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) contains huge cuts for diplomacy and international development programs between FY 2012 and FY 2013 while defense spending would rise over the same timeframe.  — A U.N. Security Council draft statement will express “full support” for U.N.-Arab League Syrian envoy Kofi Annan’s peace efforts with Syria while threatening Damascus with “further steps” if it failed to comply but language threatening Syria with new U.N. measures if Damascus failed to comply within a week was dropped to secure Russian support.

— Former Israeli Mossad chief Meir Dagan says he believes Israel will know if Iran decides to move forward with nuclear weapons production and at that point, Israel will have to attack the Iranian nuclear sites if the international community does not stop its program.


— “The CIA and other U.S. officials admit they now have no information about the Iranian leadership taking the political decision to produce nuclear weapons,” said Russian’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Russian radio. “But I am almost certain that such a decision will surely be taken after (any) strikes on Iran.”

— Ten European countries and Japan earned exemptions from U.S. sanctions against those who do business with Iran’s central bank because they took steps to significantly curtail their imports of Iranian oil, announced Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  — An official at the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar said she was “encouraged” at an invitation from the repressive but rapidly reforming government there to invite U.S. and E.U. election monitors to the country.