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National Security Brief: Rebels Kill Syrian Defense Minister

— Amid intense fighting in Damascus, an explosion inside the Syrian national security headquarters killed Defense Minister Gen. Dawoud Rajha and his deputy Asef Shawkat, two of the most senior members of Assad’s inner circle. Syrian rebels claimed responsibility for the attack but denied it was a suicide bombing.

— Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said this week that the Navy’s plan to use alternative fuels for half of its fleet by 2020 is proceeding and that he hoped Republicans would soon be convinced to allow the program to continue.

— Security experts have identified a cyber espionage attack that appears to have chiefly targeted computers in Iran that differs from Flame or Stuxnet. The malware was reportedly delivered via email attachments of a PowerPoint presentation of religious-themed photographs or a Word doc of a Daily Beast article about Israel’s cyberwar campaign against Iran.

— The Hill reports: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said he had enough support to force a vote on his measure to end all aid to Pakistan if the government there fails to release a doctor who aided American forces in the tracking of Osama bin Laden.

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— The New York Times reports: “For the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, a bipartisan coalition in Congress has agreed to normalize trade relations with Russia. … But at a time of renewed tension with Moscow, lawmakers have decided to grant the status with one large caveat — that Russian officials be held responsible for human rights abuses.”