The Envoy
  • Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and CJCS Gen. Martin Dempsey testified on Syria to the Senate Armed Services panel March 7, 2012. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and top general Martin Dempsey, testifying to the Senate Armed Services panel Wednesday, cautioned that military intervention in Syria would be a risky and very complicated endeavor, but said it's a future possibility. But they stressed that the United States should not act alone.

    Facing tough questions from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who called earlier this week for U.S. airstrikes against the Bashar al-Assad regime, Panetta said the United States should consider acting only as part of an international coalition.

    "What doesn't make sense is to take unilateral action at this point," Panetta said. "As secretary of defense, before I recommend we put our sons and daughters in uniform in harm's way, I've got to be very sure what the mission is, if we can achieve that mission, at what price and whether it will make matters better or worse."

    "Can you tell me how much longer the killing would have to continue in order to convince you that military measures of the kind we are proposing be considered?" an impatient McCain fired back. "What's wrong with your statement is American leadership. America should lead, it should be building the international coalition."

    The defense chiefs said they had provided assessments of the situation on the ground in Syria to the administration, but had not yet been tasked by the president with drawing up full-fledged options for possible military intervention there.

    Questioning from Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Jack Reed, a former Army Ranger and West Point graduate, gave the U.S. defense chiefs a chance to elaborate on the complexities of such an intervention and the reasons to proceed extremely cautiously.

    Syria, "unlike Iraq, has no natural safe haven areas," Reed said. "The notion that we can in a few hours or days quickly go in and establish superiority and stop the fighting is not accurate."

    After acknowledging the many challenges, Dempsey said, "But I want to be clear: We can do it. It's not a question of 'can we do it;' it's 'should we do it.'"

    Read More »from Pentagon chiefs say U.S. should not act alone in Syria
  • Window for Iran diplomacy: How much time?

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to AIPAC March 5, 2012. (Cliff Owen/AP)President Obama said Tuesday that talk of a decision on military force against Iran in the next two months is hype.

    "We have a window through which we can resolve this peacefully," Obama said at his White House news conference Tuesday. "The notion that we have a choice to make in the next week or two weeks or one month or two months is not borne out by the facts."

    But how long is that window for diplomacy with Iran?

    As world powers formally asked Iran Tuesday to set a date for new nuclear talks,  American policymakers were parsing the words of visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for signs of his timeline. Their conclusion is that he may not have decided yet.

    "Israel has waited patiently for the international community to resolve this issue," Netanyahu told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, D.C. Monday night. "None of us can afford to wait much longer."

    "I don't think he has decided conclusively," former U.S. Middle East diplomat Robert Danin, now with the Council on Foreign Relations, told Yahoo News, referring to Netanyahu's decision on possible Israeli strikes on Iran. "He just kicked the ball down the field a few weeks, a few months maybe. But the intensive exchanges between the U.S. and Israel will continue."

    How to interpret Netanyahu's timeline for Iran action from his remarks Monday was a topic of hot debate among Israeli journalists and analysts a day later, Danin noted: "Some are arguing that the Prime Minister doesn't want to use force and got sufficient support from President Obama to be able to forestall that option," he said. "Others are arguing the exact opposite: That Mr. Netanyahu, by likening Iranian nuclear facilities to Auschwitz, has boxed himself in."

    "I still think it was mostly capitulation dressed up as belligerence," former Israeli peace talks advisor Daniel Levy, now with the New American Foundation, told Yahoo News by email Monday, of Netanyahu's speech.

    Though Netanyahu offered the receptive crowd some of his trademark fire and brimstone--repeatedly reserving Israel's right to defend itself and his responsibility to protect the Jewish people from annihilation--he notably used language that seized on Israel's solidarity with the U.S., rather than making a case for why Israel should strike out against Iran on its own, Levy noted.

    President Obama, for his part, said his private case to Netanyahu for more time for the Iran diplomatic track doesn't differ much from what he has argued publicly.

    Read More »from Window for Iran diplomacy: How much time?
  • World powers propose new nuclear talks with Iran

    European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (left) attends a new conference with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Feb. 17 2012. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)Top international Iran negotiator Catherine Ashton has written to Iran proposing new talks on its nuclear program as soon as possible. But Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, stresses in her letter to Iran's Saeed Jalili, the talks should initially focus on a confidence-building measure.

    "At this stage, the main focus of efforts will have to be on building confidence by developing concrete and practical steps," Ashton wrote to Jalili, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, in a letter Tuesday.

    "Therefore, looking forward to a sustained process of dialogue aimed at producing concrete results and in order not to repeat the experience of Istanbul, I would propose that we resume our talks at a mutually convenient date and venue as soon as possible," it says. Ashton suggests in her letters that their two deputies meet first to prepare for the next round of talks.

    "We are willing to meet with Iran via the P5+1 because, as the president said yesterday, we still believe diplomacy coupled with strong pressure can achieve the long-term solution we seek," National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement Tuesday. "It will be up to Iran to demonstrate in those talks a similar commitment to allaying the concerns of the international community by building confidence through concrete and practical steps."

    Under a proposed confidence-building measure that American diplomats have been quietly discussing with international partners, Iran would be asked to halt its 20 percent enrichment in exchange for a suspension of new U.N. Security Council sanctions.

    The measure is seen as a more achievable, intermediate step that can help reduce the tremendous mistrust between Iran and the international community, explained Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

    Ashton's letter accepting new international talks with Iran comes as President Barack Obama has been meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week to try to persuade him to give more time for the diplomatic track with Iran to succeed.

    Netanyahu, in his remarks to the pro-Israel lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Monday, indicated Israel's patience for more time for the diplomatic track with Iran is limited and wearing thin.

    Read More »from World powers propose new nuclear talks with Iran

Pagination

(679 Stories)
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  • Huge leak: This is the trailer for Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ coming in 2018 and 2019
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  • Closure of Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa 'declaration of war': Abbas
    Closure of Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa 'declaration of war': Abbas

    Israel's closure of the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound to all visitors following the shooting of a Jewish hardliner is tantamount to a "declaration of war," Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Thursday. "This dangerous Israeli escalation is a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its sacred places and on the Arab and Islamic nation," his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina quoted him as saying. "We hold the Israeli government responsible for this dangerous escalation in Jerusalem that has reached its peak through the closure of the Al-Aqsa mosque this morning," he told AFP. "The state of Palestine will take all legal measures to hold Israel accountable and to stop these ongoing attacks."

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