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National Security Brief: October 12, 2011

— Vice President Biden blasted the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington as “an outrageous act,” telling CBS’s The Early Show, “It’s critically important that we unite the world in the isolation of and dealing with the Iranians.”

— The alleged Iran-backed plot was out of character for the Iranian elite military unit accused of leading the effort. One expert said the modus operandi was “unprecedented,” while a former Treasury official suspected the alleged tactical shift came because of “desperation.”

— In the deal with Hamas to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shallit, the Israeli government reportedly will not release Marwan Barghouti — who is sometimes referred to as “the Palestinian Nelson Mandela” — or Ahmed Saadat, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

— The top Israeli general in Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon, warned publicly against the U.S. and others cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority there: “Reducing the Palestinians’ ability to pay [salaries] decreases security. American aid is relevant to this issue.”

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— Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Congress the State Department cannot withstand deep budget cuts, saying, “Well, they wanted us to keep doing what we were expected to do in Iraq, doing in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and, oh by the way, what you’re trying to do in Yemen, what you’re trying to do in Somalia, what you’re trying to do in Sudan, etc., etc., […] But we don’t want to give you as much money, so you just keeping doing that.”

— Western forces in Afghanistan said attacks by Taliban insurgents decreased for the first time since the war started ten years ago, with violence down in 17 of the last 22 weeks compared to last year, according to the International Security Assistance Force.

— The United Nations reported that opium production surged 61 percent this year in Afghanistan. The U.N. also found that for the first time since 2007 an increase in the territory used for poppy cultivation, which increased 7 percent.

— The Senate passed a bill to threaten China with higher tariffs on Chinese products in retaliation for Beijing’s chronic undervaluing of their currency but the bill is unlikely to pass the House.