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Iran Deal Nearing, Syria Disarmament End Date Set: Early Bird-Brought to You By United Technologies

It was one of the deadliest attacks on government soldiers in recent months.

By Sara Sorcher (@SaraSorcherNJ) and Jordain Carney (@jordainc)


EDITOR'S NOTE: Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, a free morning assembly of the best national security, defense and foreign-policy coverage from around the web. Get this by forward? Click here to sign up directly.

U.S. Moves to Clear Obstacles to Iran Nuclear Deal
(The Wall Street Journal: Jay Solomon, Carol Lee)
Senior U.S. officials said that after the failure of world powers to reach an accord in negotiations with Tehran earlier this month, most of the problems are being addressed.

FBI Warns of U.S. Government Breaches by Anonymous Hackers
(Reuters: Jim Finkle, Joseph Menn)
Activist hackers linked to the collective known as Anonymous have secretly accessed U.S. government computers in multiple agencies and stolen sensitive information in a campaign that began almost a year ago, the FBI warned this week.


U.S. Military Eyes Cuts to Pay, Benefits
(The Wall Street Journal: Julian Barnes)
Top commanders, groping for ways to cope with a shrinking Pentagon budget, have agreed to a plan that would curb the growth of pay and benefits for housing, education and health-- prized features of military life that for years have been spared from cuts.

Weapons Inspectors Set End Date for Syrian Disarmament
(The Hill: Carlo Muñoz)
International weapons inspectors plan to have all of Syria's chemical weapons out of the country and destroyed by next June.

West Faces Challenges in Moving Syrian Chemical Arms Through Battlefields
(The New York Times: David Sanger, Thom Shanker, Eric Schmitt)
A plan announced over the weekend for getting the bulk of Syria's chemical weapons out of the country in coming weeks has raised major concerns in Washington.

Palestinians Committed to 9 Months of Peace Talks
(Associated Press)
The chief Palestinian negotiator says the Palestinians will participate in peace talks with Israel for the planned nine months, despite crises over Israel's settlement expansion on lands they want for their state.



Power Warns 'Time' in Iran Talks is a 'Legitimate Concern'
(The Hill: Rebecca Shabad)
The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. warned Iran could benefit from protracted talks.

Iran Points to Possible Way Round Nuclear Sticking Point
Iran has the right to enrich uranium, but does not insist others recognize that right, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator said on Sunday, in what could be a way around one of the main sticking points between Tehran and world powers in talks this week.

Israel Says It Is Ready for Iran Strike
(Financial Times: John Reed)
Country is confident it can halt Iran's nuclear capability.

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Israel, Saudi Arabia Cooperating to Plan Possible Iran Attack
(The Sunday Times: Uzi Mahnaimi)
The Saudis would allow Israel use of air space and provide drones, rescue helicopters and tanker planes.

Israel Steps Up Rhetoric Ahead of Iran Talks
(Financial Times: John Reed, Geoff Dyer)
One of Netanyahu's closest advisers warns over unilateral strike.

France Assures Israel It Will Stand Firm on Iran Deal
(Reuters: Jeffrey Heller)
President Francois Hollande assured Israel on Sunday that France would continue to oppose an easing of economic sanctions against Iran until it was convinced Tehran had ended a pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Strains with Israel Over Iran Snarl U.S. Goals in Mideast
(The Wall Street Journal: Jay Solomon, Carol Lee)
The Obama administration's overtures to Iran are straining the U.S. alliance with Israel in ways not seen in decades, compounding concerns about the White House's ability to manage the Middle East's proliferating security crises.


Syrian Delegation Holds Talks in Moscow on Peace Conference
A Syrian government delegation met Russian officials on Monday to discuss plans for an international peace conference on the conflict in the Middle East nation.

Syrian Government Makes Gains Ahead of Planned Talks
(The Washington Post: Loveday Morris)
Pressure on the battlefield is seen as likely to complicate efforts to bring rebels to negotiating table.

Key Syrian Rebel Leader Dies of Shrapnel Wounds
(Associated Press: Diaa Hadid)
The death of Abdul-Qadir Saleh, founder of the Tawhid Brigade, was another blow to the rebels, reeling from a series of recent battlefield losses to President Bashar Assad's forces.

Bomb at Base Kills at Least 31 Syrian Troops
(The New York Times: Anne Barnard)
It was one of the deadliest attacks on government soldiers in recent months.

Syrian Army Fights for Road Needed to Remove Chemical Weapons
(Reuters: Oliver Holmes)
Syrian forces went on the offensive on Saturday against rebels positioned along a major highway linking the capital with the coast, rebels said, a strategic road that is likely to be used to extract chemical weapons from the country.

Destruction of Syrian Arsenal Hits Snag over Disposal Site
(The Washington Post: Joby Warrick)
Albania turns down request to accept and destroy tons of chemicals stockpiled to be turned in weapons.


Gillibrand to Push Original Plan
(Politico: Darren Samuelsohn)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will seek a floor vote on her original military sexual assault proposal after supporters threatened to abandon the New York Democrat's effort if she made changes that weakened it.

Senate Showdown Over Military Sexual Assault Bill
(Associated Press: Donna Cassata)
Gillibrand has secured public support from nearly half the Senate, but not enough votes, for her proposal to give victims of rape and sexual assault in the military an independent route outside the chain of command for prosecuting attackers.

Holder to Congress: Allow Gitmo Detainee Transfers
(The Hill: Carlo Muñoz)
In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and ranking member Chuck Grassley, Holder railed against GOP-led efforts restricting the White House from transferring detainees out of Guantánamo.

White House Pushes to Loosen Gitmo Transfer Rules
(Associated Press: Nedra Pickler)
Administration officials say a Senate defense policy bill, coming up for debate within days, would allow them to move out prisoners who have long been cleared for transfer overseas but are still held, in part because of a complicated Pentagon certification process.


NSA Grapples with 988 Percent Increase in Records Requests
(USA Today: Yamiche Alcindor)
Fueled by the Edward Snowden scandal, more Americans than ever are asking the NSA if their personal life is being spied on.

U.S. Drone Strikes Down Since Curbs Were Imposed
(Los Angeles Times: Ken Dilanian)
Six months after President Obama vowed to change his administration's approach to lethal drone missile strikes, the pace of aerial attacks has fallen sharply, thanks in part to stricter targeting criteria.


Draft Security Pact with U.S. is Headed to Afghan Assembly
(The Washington Post: Karen DeYoung, Anne Gearan, Ernesto Londoño)
The agreement gives the U.S. exclusive legal jurisdiction over its military and civilian defense workers.

Afghan Talks at Impasse Before Vote, Officials Say
(The New York Times: Rod Nordland, Matthew Rosenberg)
Despite recent optimism about talks over a future American military presence here, two senior Afghan officials said on Sunday that the negotiations were at a profound impasse, days before an Afghan grand council is scheduled to meet to seek popular support for a deal.

Deadly Kabul Bombing Sends Message on Security Pact Vote
(The New York Times: Azam Ahmed, Jawad Sukhanyar)
At least 10 people were killed as a bomb exploded near a university where elders are scheduled to vote on a security agreement with the United States.

Military Finds No Wrongdoing in Never-Used Afghan Project
(Bloomberg; David Lerman, Tony Capaccio)
A U.S. military investigation found no wrongdoing in a decision to keep building a $25 million regional headquarters in Afghanistan that local commanders said they didn't need or want.

In Kabul, Clinic Funded by U.S. Military Closing Because of Lack of Government Support
(The Washington Post: Kevin Sieff)
As the United States' longest war winds down, hundreds of aid projects are being handed over to Afghan ministries, which sometimes lack of capacity or interest to sustain what foreign donors started.

Rift Within Pakistan Taliban Grows
(The Wall Street Journal: Yaroslav Trofimov)
A deadly rift within Pakistan's Taliban network has deepened since a U.S. drone strike killed the group's chief this month with the late leader's hard-line wing challenged by commanders interested in pursuing peace negotiations with the government.

Pakistan to Try Ex-Military Ruler Musharraf for Treason
(Agence France-Presse)
Pakistan announced Sunday it would put former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf on trial for treason, punishable by death or life imprisonment, for imposing emergency rule in 2007.


Watchdog Asks DoD to Remove Sexual Assault Chief
( Michael Hoffman)
Pressure is mounting on U.S. military leaders to remove the Army two-star general in charge of overseeing the Pentagon's sexual assault policy after he was accused of intimidating whistleblowers in Afghanistan.

Brass Shirk Obama's Marching Orders on Sex Assault
(Politico: Darren Samuelsohn)
Privately, military officials also are trying to be realistic about what they can do on sexual assault— and the rhetoric they're using and the policy prescriptions they're advocating fall well below the goals set for them by their commander in chief.

Pentagon Chief Raps Poker Scandal, Demands Ethical Behavior
(McClatchy: James Rosen)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday made his first public comments on a recent military scandal as he condemned the behavior of a senior officer fired last month for allegedly cheating at the poker table.

Pentagon Seeking Vaccine for Bioterror Disease Threat
(USA Today: Ray Locker)
Decades after it stopped using the animal-borne virus that causes the disease Q fever as a biological weapon, the Pentagon is still trying to develop a vaccine to protect troops.

DOD Delays Smart Bomb Production Decision By At Least Seven Months
(Inside Defense)
The Defense Department is delaying production of a new smart bomb designed for its premier fighters, bombers and drones because testing has uncovered problems that must be investigated and fixed, according to program officials.


More Marines and Ospreys to Philippines
( Richard Sisk)
About 1,000 Marines from Okinawa were headed to the Philippines Friday to aid in the Typhoon Haiyan disaster that has left hundreds of thousands desperately searching for food, water and shelter.

Pentagon Insists Typhoon Won't Open Door to Philippine Presence
(The Hill: Carlo Muñoz)
Backers of a ramped-up U.S. military footprint argue response could have been faster.

Aid Missions Boost U.S. Troops' Image, Readiness
(Associated Press: Eric Talmadge)
Humanitarian missions can be a strategic and publicity goldmine for U.S. troops whose presence in Asia isn't always portrayed in such a favorable light — and a powerful warning to countries that aren't on board.


Defense Industry Layoffs Picking Up Steam
(National Defense: Sandra Erwin)
About 30,000 jobs have been eliminated so far in 2013, and industry layoffs are on pace to exceed last year's totals by 30 percent, according to new data by the consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

New Boeing Jet, 777X, Hits $95 Billion in Orders
(The New York Times: Christopher Drew)
Three Middle Eastern airlines signed up on Sunday to buy 225 of Boeing's new 777X jets, helping to bring the initial batch of orders for the plane to $95 billion, a strong start for sales of the commercial jet


U.S. Soldier Charged With Murder of Two Civilians in Iraq
(Associated Press)
The charges stem from an investigation into the shootings of two people near the village of As Sadah in the Diyala Province on March 6, 2007.


Drone Malfunctions, Hits Navy Ship During Training
(Associated Press)
The Navy says an aerial target drone malfunctioned and struck a guided missile cruiser during training off Southern California, causing two minor injuries.

Navy To Seek Independent LCS Cost Estimates
(Aviation Week: Michael Fabey)
In the wake of a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report sparked by Aviation Week Intelligence Network (AWIN) stories, the U.S. Navy is striving for better cost estimates for its future Littoral Combat Ships.


Fight Over Handling of Marine Urination Scandal Escalates
(The Washington Post: Ernesto Londoño, Ellen Nakashima)
Lawyer files complaint after he says Marines removed him from his job for blowing whistle on the commandant.


Gen. Welsh: Air Force Will Not Quit Investment In New Space Fence
(Inside Defense)
The Air Force's top general said this week that acquisition of a modernized space situational awareness capability, known as Space Fence, will not be canceled -- at least not if the Air Force has the final say.

Air Force CSAR Mission in Jeopardy
(Defense News: Aaron Mehta, Marcus Weisgerber)
If sequester remains in effect, the U.S. Air Force's combat search-and-rescue mission is in danger of disappearing, according to multiple defense sources.

Boeing Defense Boss: C-17 Production Will End in 2015
(Defense News: Marcus Weisgerber)
Dennis Muilenburg, the president and CEO of Boeing Defense Space and Security, said that a final decision has been made to close the line and dismissed a proposal to buy back the U.S. Air Force's oldest 20 C-17s in exchange for 20 new, deeply discounted aircraft.


A Russian GPS Using U.S. Soil Stirs Spy Fears
(The New York Times: Michael Schmidt, Eric Schmitt)
In recent months, the CIA and the Pentagon have been trying to stop the State Department from allowing Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, to build about half a dozen monitor stations, on United States soil.

News Report Charges U.S. with Conducting Illegal Operations from German Soil
(McClatchy: Matthew Schofield)
Two news organizations – the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and German public television station NDR, two of Germany's most respected – say that the eight reports they published Friday were just the first of many that will come in the next few weeks.


Libya: U.S. Offers Rewards in Benghazi
(Associated Press: Matthew Lee)
The State Department said it has been quietly offering rewards of up to $10 million for information about last year's attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

U.S. Weighs Mission to Train Libyan Security Forces
(The New York Times: Thom Shanker)
The mission would be part of the Pentagon's evolving national security strategy to build counterterrorism capacity among local forces in allied nations, American officials said.

Kidnappers Free Libya's Deputy Spy Chief: Official
Kidnappers have freed Libya's deputy intelligence chief a day after he was abducted from Tripoli's international airport, a senior parliamentary security committee official said on Monday.

Libya Deputy Intelligence Chief Abducted
(Agence France-Presse)
Libya's deputy intelligence chief Mustafa Nur was abducted Sunday in Tripoli, a security official told AFP, as tensions ran high in the capital following deadly violence over the weekend.

The Terrorist Who Got Away
(NBC News: Michele Neubert, Keir Simmons)
A SEAL Team 6 operation targeting a seaside compound in Somalia may have ended in failure but it also cemented a jihadist's position as one of America's most-wanted terrorists.


Not the Time to Squeeze Iran
(The New York Times)
A rare opportunity for a diplomatic resolution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear program is at risk because many lawmakers are insisting that Congress impose tougher economic sanctions, perhaps next week as an amendment to the defense bill.

Will History Repeat in Iran Nuclear Negotiations?
(The Washington Post: David Ignatius)
This week, the showdown on Iran negotiations might be described as "Barack or Bibi."

Is Rouhani the New Gorbachev?
(The Wall Street Journal: Natan Sharansky)
How to test a supposed reformer: Stand firm on sanctions, wait for proof.

Something for Barack and Bibi to Talk About
(The New York Times: Thomas Friedman)
To understand Israel today requires acknowledging several truths, including the good, bad, pretty and ugly.

Et Tu, Menendez?
(Foreign Policy: James Traub)
Why Democrats beating Tehran down with additional sanctions and zero enrichment guarantees could backfire, badly.

With the Middle East in Crisis, U.S., Turkey Must Deepen Alliance
(Foreign Policy: Ahmet Davutoglu)
From Syria to Iran, regional stability depends on Washington and Ankara's continued cooperation.

A Way Forward for the U.S. and Russia
(The National Interest: Dmitry Ryurikov)
The future will show whether the idea of the US-Russia-China triangle as a foundation for the world order will be of use in coming years.

Bahrain Crackdown Intensifies Amid U.S. Retreat
(The Washington Post)
The consequences of President Obama's decision this fall to radically restrict U.S. ambitions in the Middle East are becoming apparent across the region.

For Assaulted Veterans, a Second Battle
(The New York Times)
The men and women who endure such crimes often have to fight a second battle, to convince the Department of Veterans Affairs that they are disabled and entitled to compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and other afflictions resulting from service-connected sexual violence.

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National Journal's Early Bird is not produced by or officially sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Defense. It was created to serve the defense community upon U.S. DoD's announcement, on Nov 1, 2013, of its decision to discontinue the much-beloved Early Bird news report.

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Don't Miss Today's Top Stories

Keeps me informed about national leadership concerns."

Senior Military Officer

The best!"

Mark, Compensation Analyst

Timely and informative."

Dave, HR specialist

I can browse over breakfast or while on the metro."

AJ, US Army Officer

Sign up form for the newsletter
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