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Navy Sends Aid to Philippines, Boko Haram to Get 'Terror' Label, White House Fears Iran Sanctions

By Sara Sorcher ( @SaraSorcherNJ) and Dustin Volz ( @dnvolz)

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.

 

White House: Public Doesn't Want 'March To War' On Iran
(The Hill; Jeremy Herb)
The White House ratcheted up its rhetoric targeting lawmakers considering new sanctions against Iran Tuesday, warning that scuttling a diplomatic deal with Iran would be a "march to war."

Iran Talks Face Resistance in U.S. Congress
(The New York Times; Jonathan Weisman)
Secretary of State John Kerry will meet behind closed doors on Wednesday with members of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee to try to head off a new round of stiff sanctions on Iran.

U.S. Welcomes Syrian Rebels' Decision to Attend Mooted Peace Talks
(Agence France-Presse)
The United States welcomed the decision by Syria's rebel Opposition National Coalition to take part in mooted Geneva peace talks.

 

U.S. to Designate Boko Haram a Terror Group
(CNN; Elise Labott)
The State Department will designate Boko Haram, a Nigeria-based extremist group with ties to al Qaeda, and Ansaru, an offshoot, as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

Navy Sending Two More Ships to Philippines
(Associated Press; Lolita Baldor)
A Navy official said the USS Germantown and USS Ashland will get underway soon from Sasebo, Japan, where they are deployed.

IRAN

Iran Delay Puts White House on Defense
(Politico; Josh Gerstein)
A ten-day delay in talks aimed at negotiating an interim halt to Iran's nuclear program could allow opponents of such a deal to build momentum on Capitol Hill, analysts said Monday.

Khamenei's Conglomerate Thrived as Sanctions Squeezed Iran
(Reuters; Babak Dehghanpisheh, Steve Stecklow)
An organization controlled by Iran's supreme leader generates billions of dollars a year, helping to solidify his control over a country hobbled by sanctions.

 

With Iran Nuclear Deal Missed, World Powers Rush Back to Talks
(The Christian Science Monitor; Scott Peterson)
Such a deal has never been closer, diplomats say, and talks are set to resume in Geneva.

Iran Talks Showed New French Assertiveness in Mideast
(The Wall Street Journal; Stacy Meichtry)
France's hard line on concessions to Iran in the last round of nuclear negotiations showcased the country's growing influence and assertiveness in Middle East diplomacy at a time when Washington is treading softly.

Iranian Official Faults Kerry and France for Breakdown in Talks
(The New York Times; Alan Cowell)
The Iranian foreign minister turned to a Twitter account late Monday to challenge Kerry over the failure of weekend talks in Geneva to produce agreement on Tehran's nuclear program.

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CONGRESS

Senate to Start Sweeping Intel Review This Month
(Foreign Policy; Shane Harris)
The review will include not only an examination of how the agencies collect information, but how senior government officials direct those activities.

Graham Presses for Administration's Iran Endgame
(National Journal; Stacy Kaper)
Kerry is likely to face tough questions about the administration's endgame in its negotiations with Tehran.

Rep. McCaul: Jeh Johnson is a 'Hack'
(The Hill; Rebecca Shabad)
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, criticized Jeh Johnson, Obama's pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, and said outgoing New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis would have been better choices.

INTELLIGENCE

Intelligence Agency Seeks Facial Recognition Upgrade
(USA Today; Ray Locker)
The U.S. intelligence community is pushing a leap forward in facial recognition software that will enable it to determine better the identity of people through a variety of photographs, video and other images.

Kerry: World Leaders Have Been Understanding About NSA Leaks
(The Guardian; Rowena Mason)
Kerry said foreign governments understood the president did not personally authorize all the surveillance, which included tapping the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

Afghanistan Drops Probe into 17 Civilian Deaths
(United Press International)
The National Directorate of Security in Afghanistan said it has dropped its investigation into 17 civilian deaths allegedly caused by the United States.

Afghan Opium Production and Cultivation Seen Rising
(The New York Times; Rod Nordland, Azam Ahmed)
Despite years of international effort to reel back Afghanistan's opium culture, cultivation and production hit record levels this year, and programs to counteract them have floundered, according to a new United Nations study.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Pentagon Contracts Drop as Shutdown Intensifies U.S. Cuts
(Bloomberg; Jonathan Salant)
Pentagon contracts plunged 66 percent to $15.7 billion last month, the lowest level since January, driven by automatic U.S. spending cuts and a partial government shutdown.

Automatic Spending Cuts Would Bite More In 2014
(Associated Press; Andrew Taylor)
Federal agencies that have emptied the change jar and searched beneath the sofa cushions for money to ease the pain of sequestration have been so far able to make it through the automatic cuts relatively unscathed.

Pentagon Wary of Syrian Disarmament Efforts
(The Hill; Carlo Munoz)
The Defense Department is wary of Syrian claims of compliance on its disarmament efforts, echoing recent concerns by the State Department that the country is being less than open about its chemical weapon stocks.

Little: DOD Did the 'Right Thing' in Sequestration Fight with Congress
(The Hill; Carlo Munoz)
In his last briefing as the Pentagon's top spokesman, George Little was adamant the game of chicken the department and Obama administration played with Capitol Hill in the run up to sequestration was the right call.

Obama Lunches With Service Members at Irish Pub
(Associated Press; Josh Lederman)
The White House said it was a chance for the president to hear directly from enlisted troops and junior officers in all five branches before meeting and having dinner with military leadership.

SYRIA

Main Syria Opposition Group in Exile Chooses Government
(The New York Times; Rima Abushakra)

The main Syrian opposition group in exile has elected an interim government to administer rebel-held areas in the country's north in a new effort to unify the fractured movement fighting to topple the regime.

Private Donor Funds Add Wild Card to War in Syria
(The New York Times; Ben Hubbard)

While the West has been hesitant to arm and finance the more secular forces that initially led the turn to armed rebellion, fighters have flocked to Islamist militias and in some cases rebranded themselves as jihadist because that is where the money is.

Syrian Troops, Rebels Clash South of Damascus
(Associated Press; Albert Aji)
The fighting came as rebels intensified their mortar fire into the heart of Damascus, an often-random shelling that has killed dozens of civilians this year.

Syrian Activists Mock Geneva 2 Talks Online
(The Los Angeles Times; Nabih Bulos)
Many Syrians are heading online to vent their frustrations with the so-called Geneva 2 peace process, mired in seemingly perpetual postponement as opposition elements bicker about whether to attend.

MIDDLE EAST

Despite Ruling, Egypt Holds Off On Ending Curfew
(Associated Press; Maggie Michael, Sarah el Deeb)
A court declared that Egypt's 3-month-old state of emergency expired Tuesday, two days earlier than expected, but the military and security officials did not lift a nighttime curfew.

Egypt's Secular Parties Hampered By Disorganization, Infighting
(The Washington Post; Erin Cunningham)
Plagued by infighting, disorganization and disparate ideologies, the non-Islamist parties that backed the July coup against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi are struggling to capitalize on the downfall of their chief political foe and his Muslim Brotherhood backers.

Israel Says it is Halting Plans to Explore New Settlement Construction
(Associated Press)
Israel's prime minister on Tuesday abruptly halted a plan to explore the potential construction of thousands of new homes in West Bank settlements, saying it had created an "unnecessary confrontation" with the international community that threatened to weaken his campaign against Iran's suspect nuclear program.

INDUSTRY

BAE and EADS Hold Steady Year on From Failed Merger
(Agence France-Presse)
Talks between the two companies aimed at combining BAE's drive for profits and globe-reaching customer base with the commercial might of EADS' successful Airbus to create an industry leader.

ARMY

U.S. Hosts China in First Joint Field Exercise
(Army Times; Michelle Tan)
In a continuation of an annual exchange, about 60 soldiers from the Chinese army are in Hawaii this month to train with the U.S. Army.

NAVY

Navy Ship Plan Faces Pentagon Budget-Cutters
(The Wall Street Journal; Dion Nissenbaum)
The Littoral Combat Ship, troubled in early tess, may have scaled-back future.

Senior Navy Civilians Investigated in Alleged Scheme to Defraud Military for $1.6 Million
(The Washington Post; Craig Whitlock)
Federal authorities are investigating three senior Navy intelligence officials as part of a probe into an alleged contracting scheme that charged the military $1.6 million for homemade firearm silencers that cost only $8,000 to manufacture, court records show.

Navy Will Keep Its Carrier-Hopping Killer Drone Flying Until 2015
(Foreign Policy; David Axe)
The Navy had planned to decommission the X-47Bs following the July launches, but decided at the last minute that it would be better to keep testing the 'bots in order to ease the transition to the combat-ready drone.

Once Ballyhooed High-Speed Vessel Leaves Service Quietly
(Defense News)
One of the most publicized ships to serve the U.S. Navy over the past decade quietly slipped out of service last summer, ending an almost frenetic career that saw the ship call at dozens of ports all over the world.

Submarine, Its Sailors Maintain Cold War Secrets
(Associated Press; Michael Melia)
The Navy has collected pieces of one of the most secretive vessels in the U.S. undersea force, the nuclear-powered NR-1, for an exhibit at a submarine museum in Groton.

Navy, Marines to Analyze Pentagon's Cloud Email System
(NextGov; Bob Brewin)
The Navy plans to conduct a cost, security and performance analysis before it complies with a Pentagon directive to use a Defense Department email system, Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen told Nextgov.

AIR FORCE

Air Force to Unveil Plans to Meet Sequestration Requirements
(Air Force Times; Stephen Losey)
Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said announcements are forthcoming on how the personnel cut of about 25,000 required in the next five years will be met.

1,000 to Be Picked for Special Duties
(Air Force Times; Stephen Losey)
The Air Force this month will select about 1,000 staff sergeants, technical sergeants, and master sergeants to fill developmental special-duty assignments.

Trial Starts for Former Air Force Sex Assault Chief
(Military.com; Bryant Jordan)
The officer fired as the Air Force's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch chief after he was arrested for sexual battery outside a Virginia strip club went on trial today.

Jeffrey Krusinski, Air Force Colonel Accused of Assault, Begins Trial
(The Washington Post; Rachel Weiner)
Krusinski's arrest, which came as the Pentagon reported that there had been a surge in the number of military personnel who are victims of sexual assaults and related crimes, attracted significant attention.

ASIA/PACIFIC

China Deepens Xi's Powers with New Security Plan
(The Wall Street Journal; Jeremy Page)
China's Communist Party plans to establish a state security committee that has the potential to cement President Xi Jinping's hold on the military, domestic security and foreign policy.

New Ambassador Caroline Kennedy Has Built-In Following in Japan
(The Los Angeles Times; Yuriko Nagano)
Kennedy, the late president's daughter, signed her appointment papers Tuesday during a private ceremony with John Kerry in Washington and is expected to take up her new post in Tokyo this month.

AFRICA

In Libya, the Militias Rule While Government Founders
(NPR; Leila Fadel)
Analysts say the country is awash with heavy weapons in the hands of militias divided by tribe, ideology and region.

New U.N. Brigade's Aggressive Stance in Africa Brings Success, and Risks
(The New York Times; Nicholas Kulish, Somini Sengupta)

Authorizing peacekeeping forces to "neutralize armed groups" in Congo in was a major departure from the often passive approach that has given peacekeepers a bad reputation.

2 U.S. Mariners Kidnapped in Nigeria Released
(Associated Press)
The State Department says two American mariners kidnapped last month off the coast of Nigeria have been released.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

The End of Iran's Oil Shield
(The Daily Beast; Christopher Dickey)
Why Iran is willing to bargain about its nuclear program and how the West can force its hand.

The Iranian Sanction Paradox
(Bloomberg; Jeffrey Goldberg)
Lifting sanctions on Iran prematurely is a bad idea. Hitting Iran with more sanctions is also a bad idea. A conundrum!

The Future of Egypt's Intelligence Service
(The Washington Post; David Ignatius)
Gen. Mohammed Farid el-Tohamy, the director of Egypt's General Intelligence Service, said there has been "no change" in his organization's relationship with U.S. spy agencies, despite delay of some U.S. weapons deliveries to the Egyptian military and talk of new Egyptian military contacts with Russia.

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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

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