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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 9:50 AM

Iran may have agreed to an interim nuclear deal, but that hasn’t stopped war from brewing on the home front. The New York Times reports that President Obama is struggling against a mighty effort by Senate Republicans to push through a sanctions bill that would seek to drive Iran’s oil exports to zero, a move that the White House has described as a “march toward war.” Reuters cites experts who say that recent developments make the sanctions supporters unlikely to succeed.
The Associated Press is reporting that the U.N’s International Atomic Energy Agency will be meeting on Jan. 24 to discuss its role in supervising Iranian adherence to the temporary deal.
Intense infighting among Syrian rebel groups is working to the advantage of the Assad regime, writes the Wall Street Journal. Secretary of State John Kerry is pressing the Syrian opposition to attend the upcoming peace conference in Geneva, and hinting that the West might diminish its support if that doesn’t happen, reports the Times.
In a post on Foreign Policy‘s national security blog, Dan Lamothe reminds us that though the U.S. plans to pull its troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, it has committed hundreds of millions to development projects that have yet to be completed.
Yesterday Elliot Ackerman, a Marine who served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, had a piece in the New Republic reflecting on his experiences in Fallujah and the friend who saved his life.
Also over at the FP‘s “Complex”: Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, isn’t keen on cutting back on U.S. troops in Europe any time soon.
The U.S. embassy has lodged a protest with the Russian Foreign Ministry over the country’s decision to issue a five-year ban on a journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.  The reason for the ban, ostensibly, was a visa infraction. The AP reports.
In an interview yesterday, former U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates stated that Chinese President Xi Jinping has more control over the People’s Liberation Army than predecessor Hu Jintao, which heightens the significance of Xi’s relationship with the White House. Here‘s the Bloomberg story. Gates also talked about his new book at length with NPR; here‘s the full transcript. The President has been decidedly diplomatic in his response to Gates’s book criticism of how the administration handled the war in Afghanistan, if this Reuters story is any indication.
Walter Pincus of the Washington Post takes the Obama administration to task for failing to make a real attempt to kick its expensive nuclear habit.

The administration had an opportunity to lessen the attraction of nuclear weapons by unilaterally lowering numbers, de-alerting some deployed systems and asking other nuclear powers to do the same. That’s a far cry from Global Zero, a distant goal both Obama and Hagel have supported. Most Americans — and most nations — would approve such moves. The United States would save money and still remain by far the most powerful military force in the world.

Yesterday the Supreme Court denied cert in Cotterman v. United States, in which the Ninth Circuit held that border officials need “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity to use software to decrypt files or ferret out deleted files when searching traveler’s electronic equipment without a warrant under the “border search exception.” Wired‘s “Danger Room” is calling the denial a digital privacy win.
Here’s some news about Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 22, an Oregon man convicted last year of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, after the FBI caught him trying to detonate what turned out to be a fake bomb at a 2010 Christmas tree lighting ceremony.  Yesterday Mohamud’s lawyers filed a 66-page motion, seeking discovery into evidence obtained by means of NSA surveillance programs. The Washington Post has more.
A lot of speculation in the days leading up to President Obama’s big Friday announcement about his proposed NSA surveillance reforms. The review committee’s recommendation that some third-party other than NSA or phone companies store phone records is attracting special attention. Here‘s the AP on the phone industry’s objections to long-term data retention obligations. Meanwhile the Hill focuses on President Obama’s expected overhaul of the security clearance system in an effort to prevent future Snowdens.
Is the U.S. falling behind other countries by dithering on commercial drone deployment? Check out L. Gordon Crovtiz’s critique in the WSJ.
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