National Security Brief: Secretary Of State Kerry Makes First Moves On Middle East Peace

Former senator John Kerry, newly minted as Secretary of State on Friday, made calls on Sunday to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to stress his commitment to promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace. “Turning to Middle East peace, the secretary underscored his personal commitment and that of President (Barack) Obama to support Israel’s security and to pursue a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said of Kerry’s conversation with Netanyahu. Kerry will introduce himself to employees at Foggy Bottom on Monday. The New York Times has an in-depth look at Hillary Clinton’s time as the nation’s top diplomat, including her close working relationship with former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus.

In other news:

  • Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defended the man nominated to succeed him as the next Pentagon chief on Sunday, saying that “the political knives” were out for Chuck Hagel during his confirmation hearing last week. Referring to terrorism, budget cuts and military readiness, Panetta added, “We just did not see enough time spent on discussing those issues. And in the end, that’s what counts.”
  • The New York Times reports: A secret legal review on the use of America’s growing arsenal of cyberweapons has concluded that President Obama has the broad power to order a pre-emptive strike if the United States detects credible evidence of a major digital attack looming from abroad, according to officials involved in the review.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend that French President Francois Hollande “said his military is seeking to wind down a three-week campaign even as soldiers continue to hunt for al Qaeda-backed rebels who had occupied the northern half of the West African country.”
  • Reuters reports: A Kuwaiti court sentenced a man to five years in prison on Sunday for insulting the emir on Twitter, a rights lawyer and news websites said, in the latest prosecution for criticism of authorities via social media in the Gulf Arab state.