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Morning Brief- 12/3/12

Today's Top Story


US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has warned the Syrian government that any use of chemical weapons would bring direct US intervention, after reports over the weekend indicated movement of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles. Though intelligence from within Syria remains murky, one US official said, “the activity we are seeing suggests some potential chemical weapon preparation.” Both Clinton and President Obama called the use of chemical weapons a “red line” for the US, though their comments left the details of a possible American intervention vague. In a statement, the Syrian government said it would never use chemical weapons against its citizens “under any circumstances.” However, the Assad regime has previously warned that it would retaliate over international borders if foreign forces intervene in the country. Syria is believed to have several hundred surface-to-surface missiles capable of delivering chemical agents into both Turkey and Israel. The threat of escalation has driven Turkey to seek the installment of Patriot missile batteries along its border with Syria. NYT, CNN, Reuters, WaPo

The United States


Two Pakistani-born naturalized US citizens, brothers Raees Alam Qazi and Sheheryar Alam Qazi, appeared in federal court in Fort Lauderdale on Friday, accused of plotting to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in the US. A brief indictment did not specify whether the two men had already obtained explosives or other weapons. Federal authorities said that the arrests were not part of a sting operation, adding that Raees Qazi had been in contact with individuals overseas, though it is unclear whether there is any link to organized terror. One official said that any threat posed by the brothers was “not imminent.” Authorities did not comment on any possible targets or other operational aspects of the plot. The two men are being held without bail, with a detention hearing scheduled for December 7th. WaPo, CNN, HuffPost



In a sixth day of a pre-trial hearing, two military counselors testified that Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking nearly 750,000 sensitive documents to Wikileaks, was a legitimate threat to his own safety during his incarceration in the Marine Corps brig at Quantico, VA. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Jordan and Marine Master Sgt. Craig Blenis, both of whom sat on the board that recommended Manning’s status as a maximum security self-harm risk, said that Manning was “uncommunicative” during his detention at Quantico. During cross-examination, Jordan referenced a noose fashioned by Manning during his initial detention on an Army base in Kuwait. Blenis also defended the decision to strip Manning of his clothing, claiming that Manning had threatened to hang himself with the elastic of his underwear. Blenis said, “If someone tells me they’re going to shoot themselves in the face, I’m not going to give them a gun.” Chicago Tribune, ABC, HuffPost



The fourth of five defendants accused of trying to blow up an Ohio bridge has been sentenced to six years in prison. Anthony Hayne and four other men were arrested in a sting operation after they planted what they believed to be two tool boxes of C4 explosives at the foot of a highway bridge between Cleveland and Akron. An FBI informant, who met the men at an Occupy Cleveland rally in 2011, provided the inert explosives to the suspects. The accused, all self-described anarchists, said their actions were driven by anger at corporations and the government. The defense had said the men were entrapped, arguing that the informant guided them to the bomb plot. Hayne is the fourth to be sentenced, with a fifth suspect undergoing a psychiatric review. WaPo, Reuters

Conflict Zones


A reported nine Taliban suicide bombers attacked a joint US-Afghan air base in Jalalabad early Sunday morning. All nine died in the assault, as did three members of the Afghan security forces and two Afghan medical students. Three ISAF troops were reported wounded, and an ISAF spokesman claimed that the attackers did not breach the perimeter of the base. Reports indicate that the attackers may have been wearing coalition uniforms. The attack is the most recent in a string of brazen assaults on ISAF and Afghan bases, including a suicide attack inside Kabul's "green zone" last week. WaPo, NYT, CNN

World News


Japan and South Korea have put their militaries on alert ahead of a planned rocket test by North Korea later this month. Pyongyang has announced that it will fire the rocket sometime between December 10th and 22nd, with a South Korean source reporting that the first stage of the rocket has been placed in position at the launch site. The announcement of the proposed launch has drawn international condemnation, with the US and South Korea accusing the North Korean government of trying to disguise what is actually a long-range ballistic missile test. Pyongyang claims the launch is part of its space program. Russia has urged North Korea to heed UN resolutions, while China urged restraint from all sides. Al Jazeera, Reuters, Telegraph



Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court suspended its session on Sunday after Islamist protestors blocked the judges from entering the court. The court was widely expected to dismiss the legitimacy of the constitutional assembly, and therefore dismiss the legitimacy of the draft constitution proposed by the assembly on Thursday. In response to the move by the Islamists, Egyptian judges called for a strike and threatened not to supervise the popular constitutional referendum scheduled for December 15th, which would cast doubt on the results of the voting. Judges and opposition leaders have called for protests on Tuesday, including a march to the presidential palace in Cairo. WaPo, HuffPost



The Colombian military has killed at least 20 rebels in dawn bombing raids on at least three FARC camps. The attacks mark the biggest assault by government forces since peace talks began in October, and come after Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos announced that the FARC has until November 13th of next year to disarm and join the political process. Negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC have been productive so far, with talks scheduled to resume on Wednesday. BBC, Al Jazeera

Top Op-Eds:

Complexity of Syria:

Thomas L. Friedman explores the complex desires of Syria’s diverse population, noting, “I am struck at how so many different people want so many different things for Syria.”


Morsi's History:

Morsi’s political biography suggests that he is not a compromiser,” writes Eric Trager of The New Republic as he examines the politics of the Egyptian president.


The Importance of Pakistan:

“The real wild card is Islamabad,” claims James Traub for Foreign Policy, discussing the prospect of future negotiations between the US and the Taliban.

Editor's Pick:

The Perfect Terrorist? David Coleman Headley