Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Ritika Singh
Thursday, September 12, 2013, 2:38 PM

While the Obama administration quickly backs away from a military strike on Syria, the CIA has been delivering weapons to Syrian rebels and the State Department is providing vehicles and gear, reports the Washington Post.

Or not. Gen.  Salim Idris, the commander of the Free Syrian Army, told NPR this morning that rebel fighters have not received "any weapons from our American friends." Nour Malas of the Wall Street Journal describes why the rebels are unhappy with a continuously vacillating U.S. position.

Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times discusses Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent emergence as the shepherd of the international response to the Syrian conflict. Putin, meanwhile, has an op-ed in the Times in which he argues:

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Jethro Mullen of CNN has reactions to the op-ed. My favorite? "Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez said the piece made him almost want to throw up."

From the Department of Good News---Sort Of: A new Gallup poll demonstrates that Congress's approval rating has risen to 19 percent. That's the highest it has been in a year---and it may be because lawmakers lacked the appetite for U.S. intervention in Syria.

The Military Times polled 817 active-duty troops and found that 75 percent of them opposed airstrikes against military targets in Syria and 81 percent said it was not in the national interest of the United States to be involved in the conflict.

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Geneva for negotiations on a "plan to secure and dispose of Syria's chemical weapons," says the Times. CNN's Jim Sciutto, who is traveling with Kerry, has this report.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview with Russian TV that he agrees with Russia's plan, and that Syria's chemical weapons stockpile will be placed under international control. The BBC has more.

The Post informs us that securing this stockpile in the midst of Syria's civil war will be extremely time-consuming and risky. Bruce Riedel of Brookings also covers the many challenges of this plan.

Jonathan Masters, Deputy Editor of the Council on Foreign Relations web site, sat down with Lawfare's own John Bellinger to discuss the Obama administration's legal basis for intervention in Syria, among other things.

Max Fisher of the Post lays out the speech President Obama would have given on Syria if he were being entirely truthful. The Times editorial board argues that the call for diplomacy in Obama's speech is worth being cautiously optimistic about.

In an opening speech to the General Assembly, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon admitted that the United Nations' "collective failure to prevent atrocity crimes in Syria over the past two and a half years will remain a heavy burden on the standing of the United Nations and its member states."

In other big news, more Edward Snowden leaked documents reveal that the NSA shares raw intelligence with Israel---without filtering out information about U.S. citizens. The Guardian has the details, as does the Post.

The Times editorial board comments on the NSA documents declassified on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, ahead of possible peace negotiations, Pakistani authorities will release a senior Afghan Taliban leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, who is thought to be more moderate in his views and who supports the talks. The Post has the story. The Pakistani Taliban and the Pakistani army also exchanged prisoners as a sign of goodwill in South Waziristan yesterday, according to the Associated Press. The Hill also briefs us.

In the Times, Azam Ahmed talks about the extreme difficulty Afghan forces face in securing Sangin, a Taliban stronghold in Helmand province.

Omar Hammami, a Somali American who was a member of Al Shabaab before a recent falling out, has reportedly been killed. Here are Reuters and the AP with the news.

For some light reading, check out this essay by Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at Brookings, on the recent Iranian election and the path forward for its new president.

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