National Security Brief: Obama Reiterates Push To Release Yemenis From Gitmo As Hunger Strike Wanes

President Obama discussed transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay with Yemeni President Abdo Rabu Mansour Hadi on Thursday as the hunger strike there continues to ebb. The military said on Friday that 60 detainees are currently on hunger strike — down from a peak of 106 before Ramadan — and 42 of those are on the force-feed list.

While the Obama administration announced last week that it will repatriate two prisoners to Algeria, nearly 60 Gitmo detainees from Yemen have been cleared for release and the U.S. has recently lifted the moratorium on repatriating them. In a joint statement, Presidents Obama and Hadi “agreed their governments would work together to facilitate the repatriation of Yemeni detainees” and that “President Hadi affirmed his intention to establish an extremist rehabilitation program to address the problem of violent extremism within Yemen, which could also facilitate the transfer of Yemeni detainees held at Guantanamo.”

Reuters reported on Thursday that the hunger strike has “tapered off with a Ramadan pardon that has allowed some prisoners to be together during Islam’s holy month” but authorities there “did not know if the hunger strike would revive when the traditionally quiet period of Ramadan ends on August 7 and normal routines resume.”

In other news:

  • Fox News reports: On the eve of his military trial, accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan released seven pages of handwritten and typed documents to Fox News in which he appears to renounce his U.S. citizenship, abandons his military oath as a commissioned officer, and explains his relationship with radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki — the first American targeted for death by the CIA.
  • The New York Times reports: Iran reacted angrily on Thursday to the overwhelming approval of harsh legislation on sanctions by the House of Representatives, saying the action would further complicate stalled negotiations aimed at resolving the protracted dispute over the Iranian nuclear energy program.
  • Reuters reports: The chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee said al Qaeda appears to be behind a threat that has prompted several U.S. embassies to close on Sunday.
  • The Senate confirmed Gen. Martin Dempsey for a second term as the nation’s top military officer and Samantha Power as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Meanwhile, U.S. envoy to Syria will reportedly be nominated as the next U.S. Ambassador to Egypt.