National Security Brief: November 23, 2011

— The Republicans presidential candidates sparred on national security issues last night in a CNN-hosted debate in Washington, DC. We have a run-down of some the highlights here, including Rick Santorum referring to Africa as a country and Herman Cain referring to debate moderator Wolf Blitzer as “Blitz.”

— Intelligence sources tell the Washington Post that there are only two remaining “high value” Al Qaeda targets left in the U.S.’s Central Asian drone war to decimate the central node of the organization that attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.

— Afghanistan is projected to run at a $7 billion dollar deficit over the next ten years, according to a World Bank report that placed 90 percent of the war-torn’s budget as coming from foreign aid and U.S. military spending. A Western official called the situation giving rise to the report’s dire warning “unsustainable.”

— The U.N. General Assembly, with no dissent from any Arab members, adopted a non-binding but sharply worded condemnation of continued state violence against demonstrators in Syria as the Europeans sought to move a resolution through the Security Council.


— Turkish President Abdullah Gul warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that his eight-month violent crackdown on democracy protesters threatens to “drag the whole region into turmoil.”  — A day after reports yesterday that the Pakistani Taliban insurgency had accepted a ceasefire with the government, a spokesman for the group denied the ceasefire agreement had been made.

— Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh will sign a deal to stand down from power in exchange for immunity according to the U.N.’s envoy to Yemen.

— White House national security adviser Thomas Donilon says the Obama administration is putting Iran’s leaders under unprecedented pressure to give up its nuclear program and “Iran today is fundamentally weaker, more isolated, more vulnerable and badly discredited than ever.”