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Second Round of Iran Talks Start, NDAA Stalled: Early Bird - Brought to You by United Technologies

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

Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, a 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.


Obama Plunges Ahead Toward Iran Nuclear Deal
(Associated Press: Matthew Lee)
On the eve of new talks, President Obama is plunging ahead in search of a nuclear agreement with Iran despite outright opposition from American allies in the Middle East and deep skepticism, if not open hostility, from Congress.

U.S. to Offer Afghans Assurances to Remove Hurdle in Post-2014 Deal
(The Washington Post: Karen DeYoung, Tim Craig)
A last-minute hitch in the agreement over a post-2014 U.S. military presence in Afghanistan appeared to have been resolved as the United States agreed to put certain assurances in a letter to Afghans that is likely to be signed by President Obama.

Senate Defense Authorization Bill Stalled—for Now
(Defense News: John Bennet)
The Senate's 2014 defense authorization bill appears stalled while rank-and-file members and leadership determine a process to debate and vote on amendments.


Harry Reid Becomes 50th Backer for Gillibrand's Military Sexual Assault Bill
(The Washington Post: Aaron Blake)
The Senate majority leader says he hopes to debate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's bill and a less-far-reaching measure from Sen. Claire McCaskill on Wednesday.

Gary Locke to Step Down as U.S. Ambassador to China
(The Wall Street Journal: Jeremy Page)
Locke will step down from his post in early 2014 to rejoin his family in Seattle, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.


World Powers, Iran Make New Attempt to Clinch Nuclear Deal
(Reuters: Justyna Pawlak, Fredrik Dahl)
World powers aim to clinch a preliminary deal to curb Iran's nuclear program in politically charged talks resuming today in Geneva to end a long standoff and head off the risk of a wider Middle East war.

Iran Leader: Sanctions Won't Force Concessions
(Associated Press)
Iran's supreme leader says pressure from economic sanctions will never force the country into unwelcome concessions as nuclear negotiators resumed talks with world powers.


Bipartisan Assent to Hold off on New Sanctions
(The New York Times: Mark Landler, Jonathan Weisman)
Obama failed to sway critics of his effort to sign an interim nuclear deal with Iran. But in a modest concession, they agreed to hold off on a vote to impose new sanctions on Iran until after talks in Geneva.

GOP Defies Obama on Iran Sanctions
(The Daily Beast: Eli Lake)
On the eve of talks the president hopes will halt Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon, six Republican senators are trying to introduce new sanctions.

If Israel Strikes Iran, Martin Dempsey Says U.S. 'Would Meet' Obligations
(CNN: Dan Merica)
The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman's remarks came during the Wall Street Journal CEO Council.

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Afghans Demand that U.S. Admit Military Errors
(The New York Times: Rod Nordland)
Months of fraught negotiations over how a long-term American military force could remain in Afghanistan have suddenly come down to a demand for a single personal gesture: a display of contrition by President Obama for military mistakes that have hurt Afghans.

White House Says No Apology Planned for Afghanistan
Susan Rice, Obama's national security adviser, told CNN in an interview no apology was in the works as part of framework for the security pact.

U.S.-Afghanistan Move Toward Security Deal
(The Wall Street Journal: Yaroslav Trofimov, Nathan Hodge)
U.S. and Afghan officials differed over whether the U.S. had committed to a letter from President Obama acknowledging mistakes made by the U.S. in the war.

John Kerry Acknowledges 'Mistakes' in U.S.-Afghan Postwar Talks
(The Hill: Carlo Muñoz)
The secretary of State admitted a handful of Washington's hard-line positions in postwar negotiations with Afghanistan were "mistakes," vowing to grant Kabul more leeway on those issues.

Afghans Know Future Depends on U.S. Accord, Carter Says
(Bloomberg: Tony Capaccio, Eltaf Najafizada)
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the continued success of the Afghan security forces depends on the security agreement.

Afghan Tribal Assembly Seen as Karzai Stalling Tactic
(Los Angeles Times: David Zucchino)
This country has a president and parliament responsible for critical decisions on national security. But Karzai has convened a traditional tribal gathering to discuss a security deal with the United States.

Meet Pakistan's Next-Gen Terrorists
(Defense One: Zachary Lamb)
Pakistani authorities have long had ties to domestic militant groups that help advance the country's core foreign policy interests, namely in connection with Afghanistan and India.


Syria's Chemical Weapons May Be Destroyed at Sea
(Reuters: Anthony Deutsch, Michelle Nichols)
Syria's chemical weapons could be processed and destroyed out at sea, say sources familiar with discussions at the international body in charge of eliminating the toxic arsenal.

Russian Official: Syrian Opposition Warms Up to Talks
(Associated Press: Vladimir Isachenkov)
Russia on Tuesday urged the Syrian government to cooperate with the opposition in fighting "terrorists" and speed up the deliveries of humanitarian aid to the population.

Meet the Syrian Rebel Commander Assad, Russia and the U.S. Fear
(The Wall Street Journal: Alan Cullison)
Tarkhan Batirashvili, ethnic Chechen, leads group deeply at odds with Western-backed rebels in Syria.

A Violent Year in the Life of the Syria-Turkey Border
(The Wall Street Journal: Joe Parkinson, Nour Malas, Ayla Albayrak)
Syria's conflict is increasingly migrating onto Turkish soil, reshaping communities and feeding fears that Ankara's support for rebel groups could backfire, igniting fresh violence on this side of the border.


Carl Levin: Defense Bill Must Pass This Week
(The Hill: Ramsey Cox)
The Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman said it was "critically important" that the Senate pass a defense authorization bill this week.

Senate Dems Defeat Gitmo Amendment
(The Hill: Ramsey Cox, Jeremy Herb)
Senate Democrats blocked a Republican amendment Tuesday that would have restricted the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees for at least one year.

Obama Won't Pick Sides in Debate Over Military Sexual-Assault Reform
(ABC News: Arlette Saenz)
With a vote in the Senate approaching, the White House has steered clear from picking sides in the fight over how best to address prosecutions of sexual assault in the military.

Gillibrand Targets Undeclared on Military Sexual Assault
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
Though senators have had months to think through their position on measures to curb military sexual assaults, more than 20 have shied away from taking public positions—including major figures such as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Marco Rubio, Jon Tester Push Plan to Increase Military Pay
(The Hill: Carlo Muñoz)
The two senators are pushing a plan to increase military pay rates, just as the Pentagon is weighing possible cuts to housing, health care, and education benefits

White House Warns Senate Off of Warhead-Cost Measure
(Global Security Newswire: Elaine Grossman, Douglas Guarino)
The Obama administration pushed back against suggestions it might reconsider a costly plan for upgrading a pair of U.S. nuclear warheads.


Senators: 'No Evidence' NSA Phone Sweeps Are Useful
(The Hill: Brendan Sasso)
Three Democratic senators filed a brief in federal court on Tuesday supporting a lawsuit to end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records.

Secret U.S. Court Approved Wider NSA Spying Even After Finding Excesses
(Reuters: Joseph Menn)
A secret U.S. intelligence court let the NSA collect an expanded amount of data about Americans' email even after finding that the agency systematically exceeded the limits of a smaller program.

Spy Copters, Lasers, and Break-In Teams
(Foreign Policy: Matthew Aid)
The FBI has been in the business of spying on diplomats and breaking their codes for far longer than the NSA has.


Blasts in Beirut Signal Wider Middle East War
(USA Today: Mona Alami, Emma Gatten, Jesse Signal)
The bombing attack outside the Iran embassy shows that the Syrian civil war may be hastening open warfare between the two main branches of Islam and lead to attacks throughout the Middle East.

Beirut Bombs Strike at Iran as Assad's Ally
(The New York Times: Anne Barnard, Thomas Erdbrink, Rick Gladstone)
It was quickly seen as retaliation against Iran and Hezbollah, Iran’s ally, for supporting the Syrian government.

Blasts Near Iran's Embassy in Beirut Linked to Syrian War
(The Washington Post: Loveday Morris, Ahmed Ramadan)
The long-running Syrian civil war has inflamed sectarian tensions across the region.


Senate Republicans Demand More Answers From DHS Nominee
(McClatchy: Franco Ordonez)
A group of Senate Republicans is pressing for more answers about immigration enforcement from the nominee tapped to lead the Homeland Security Department.


Interview: Carter, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary
(Defense News: Vago Muradian)
Carter is stepping down early next month after an action-packed tenure.

White House Fights Bid to Kill Pentagon Propaganda Sites
(USA Today: Tom Vanden Brook)
The White House has announced opposition to a Senate measure that would shut down Pentagon propaganda websites in foreign countries aimed at countering "extremist ideology."


Pentagon Ramps Up Cybersecurity Measures for Defense Industry
(The Hill: Carlo Muñoz)
For the first time, the Pentagon will now require all defense contracting firms doing business with the department to install "established information security standards" on classified and unclassified computer networks.

Blackwater Founder Erik Prince: War on Terror Has Become Too Big
(The Daily Beast: Eli Lake)
When the war on terror has lost the founder of Blackwater, counterterrorism efforts could be in real trouble.


Gen. Raymond Odierno Still Hopeful About Iraq
(USA Today: Jim Michaels)
Few U.S. commanders have spent as much time in Iraq as the Army's chief of staff.

Army PR Push: 'Average-Looking Women'
(Politico: Kate Brannen)
An internal email says images of women who are too pretty undermine the communications strategy.


Fanning: USAF Looking at Reduced Readiness, Modernization Under Sequester
(Defense News: Aaron Mehta)
With sequestration likely to continue into next year, the acting secretary of the Air Force is warning that deep cuts to readiness and modernization are coming.

Senator Moves to Block A-10 Warthog Retirement
( Brendan McGarry)
A Republican senator on a leading defense panel in Congress has moved to block the Air Force's plans to retire the A-10 Warthog attack plane.

USAF Secretary: 'Hard-Pressed' to Imagine CRH Contract Soon
(Defense News: Aaron Mehta)
The U.S. Air Force is unlikely to see a new combat search and rescue helicopter in the near future, but the service remains committed to the mission, according to its top civilian.


Women Will Be First to Graduate from Marine Corps Infantry Training Course
On Thursday, three women will graduate from the course, a milestone for women seeking equality in the Armed Forces, according to Capt. Maureen Krebs, a Marine Corps spokeswoman.


Vice Chief of Naval Operations Sees More U.S.-Chinese Navy Cooperative Engagements
(Inside Defense)
Following a recent trip to China, Adm. Mark Ferguson said he expects an increase in the interaction between the U.S. Navy and China's navy.


National Guard Vows to Extend Same-Sex Benefits in All States
(Stars and Stripes: Chris Carroll)
The National Guard's top officer promised to keep pushing until all states comply with Defense Department policies.

'The Dialogue's Never Been Better' With Army, Air Force, Says National Guard Chief
(Breaking Defense: Sydney Freedberg Jr.)
While other Army generals are increasingly glum about looming cutbacks to the active-duty force, Gen. Grass has less cause for alarm.

Guard Chief: Bigger Reserve Components Not Feasible
(Marine Times: Andrew Tilghman)
The four-star chief of the National Guard Bureau said he does not envision the Reserve components growing in size, as some have suggested, for a simple reason: The Pentagon simply doesn't have the money to make that happen.


Vice President Praises Panama Cooperation
(Associated Press)
Joe Biden says Panama has made a contribution to international security by seizing a ship carrying weapons from Cuba to North Korea.


Spy Chief: Norway Spies on Phones Outside Country
(Associated Press)
Norway's military intelligence chief said Tuesday his country carries out surveillance on millions of phone calls in conflict areas around the world and shares that data with allies, including the United States.

Europeans Form 'Drone Club' to Compete with U.S.
(Associated Press: John-Thor Dahlburg)
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the European Defense Agency has been tasked with drawing up a list of military requirements, with the ultimate goal of creating a "European generation" of drones within 10 years.


LCS One Headed to Philippines to Provide Relief
( Kris Osborn)
The Navy's first Littoral Combat Ship, the USS Freedom, is on its way to the Philippines to assist the relief effort and bring supplies to the typhoon-ravaged areas, service officials said.


State Dept. Releases New Benghazi Aftermath Photos
(CBS News: Sharyl Attkisson)
It's unclear as to why the State Department previously withheld the photographs and the public news articles.


It Was Not Sanctions That Brought Iran to the Table
(Financial Times: Hossein Mousavian)
Tehran suggested strong measures similar to recent proposals in 2005.

Why Additional Iran Sanctions Will Not Work
(Defense One: Tara Maller)
In Congress, Israel and Saudi Arabia, those who insist Iran face additional sanctions and zero enrichment of nuclear material miss three realities associated with the use of economic sanctions.

Obama and Netanyahu Go to War
(The National Interest: Robert Merry)
If Obama wants to save efforts to foster a negotiated agreement with Iran, he must take on, directly, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israel lobby in the United States.

Let's Make a Deal
(The New York Times: Thomas Friedman)
Never have I seen Israel and America’s core Arab allies working more in concert to stymie a major foreign policy initiative of a sitting U.S. president, and never have I seen more lawmakers more willing to take Israel’s side against their own president’s.

Vladimir Putin Clings to the Past
(The New York Times)
The former republics of the Soviet Union have been sovereign, independent countries for almost 22 years, free to develop economic and political relations with any foreign nation or trading bloc they choose. That point appears to have eluded President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Digging the NSA Out of the Snowden Storm
(The Wall Street Journal: Mike Pompeo, David Rivkin, Jr.)
The National Security Agency's surveillance hasn't changed. Washington has.

Prioritize the Long-Range Strike Mission
(The National Interest: J. Randy Forbes, Chris Stewart)
The atrophy of the Air Force's bomber fleet mirrors the service's overall decline to the smallest number of aircraft in its history.

Contractor Cash Flow
(Marine Times)
U.S. citizens, especially those with loved ones in uniform, would be red with anger if they learned their tax dollars are helping to support terrorists in Afghanistan who are out to kill their sons, daughters, and spouses.

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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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Keeps me informed about national leadership concerns."

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AJ, US Army Officer

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