National Security Brief: March 7, 2012

— For the first time in more than a year, the world powers dealing with Iran’s nuclear program agreed to an Iranian offer to resume face-to-face negotiations. The U.S. and its allies are preparing to ask that Iran cease enriching uranium to 20 percent purity level.   — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are “gaining physical momentum on the battlefield” and the uprising “is going to be there for some time because I think he will continue to employ heavier and heavier weapons on his people” Marine Gen. James Mattis told Senate lawmakers on Tuesday.  — The Obama administration is reportedly moving toward providing assistance to Syrian opposition forces despite warnings from President Obama against involving the U.S. military in the fight against the Assad regime.

— Top U.S. military leaders said in a Senate hearing yesterday that creating “safe havens” for rebels or imposing a no-fly zone would be extremely difficult because of the Syrian regime’s Russian-provided air defense weaponry.

— “The tide has turned” in southwestern Afghanistan said the U.S. regional commander there, Marine Maj. Gen. John Toolan, amid troop drawdowns there. He added that the Taliban was weakened and “no longer able to intimidate the local nationals to the point where they’re fearful of siding with the government of Afghanistan.”

— Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he’s losing his patience with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. “I am going to pull the plug on Afghanistan from a personal point of view if we don’t get this strategic partnership signed,” Graham said.


— Despite the global economic slump, market conditions favorable to the developing world helped reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty, said a report from the World Bank.  — “One of our problems is we don’t really have an Egyptian government to have a conversation with,” said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, expressing concern that U.S. doesn’t have a reliable partner in Egypt due to continuing transition after last year’s Egyptian revolution.