President Obama and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, were reportedly caught in a candid moment expressing their exasperation with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu - with the French president referring to him as a "liar".
The remarks were part of what the American and French leaders believed to be a private chat after a news conference in Cannes last week, during the G20 economic conference. The pair were still wearing microphones, and some journalists who still had their headphones on for translation caught the remarks, which were first reported by the French photo agency Arret Sur Images.Continue »
As the U.N. Security Council takes up discussion Monday of the Palestinian bid for statehood, President Obama has some tough decisions to make about how to proceed with the peace process in the Middle East.
Mr. Obama's address to the U.N. General Assembly was supportive of Israel, and clear on the U.S. threat to veto the Palestinians' bid in the U.N. Security Council -- making it impossible for Palestine to become a state member of the U.N.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Mr. Obama for his speech, and foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman congratulated him. But President Obama proposed no specific plan, leaving it to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- in her role as U.S. representative to the Middle East Quartet of the U.S., Russia, the U.N. and the European Union -- to plot the next steps.Continue »
As the Obama administration ramped up its use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, in the fight against Islamic militants on foreign soil, questions of legality and the rules of modern warfare became inevitable. The Pentagon now has 7,000 drones -- up from less than 50 in 2001 -- and the long-term consequences and benefits are yet to be determined.
Several rounds of questions have been raised by U.N. Special Envoys, particularly the Special Envoy for Extrajudicial Killings, about whether noncombatants (a CIA employee, for example) are covered by the laws of war (the Geneva Conventions).
A report released Thursday by the Oxford Research Group, an independent London think-tank, concludes that all parties involved in drone attacks are legally obligated to search for and identify all persons killed in such strikes.
Other requirements, according to the scholars' examination of current international law, include establishing official graves and a registration service for the dead.Continue »
(CBS/AP) Afghanistan policy is entering a new phase with the July 31 troop withdrawal deadline approaching, a weakened Al Qaeda in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death and peace talks between U.S. officials and Taliban guerrillas.
Outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, however, said the talks with Taliban leaders happening in unnamed countries are "very preliminary."
"I would say these contacts are very preliminary at this point," Gates told CNN Sunday. "Real reconciliation talks are not likely to be able to make any substantive headway until at least this winter. I think that the Taliban have to feel themselves under military pressure, and begin to believe that they can't win before they're willing to have a serious conversation."Continue »
For President Obama, today's violence along Israel's borders - in which predominantly Palestinian protesters demonstrated on the anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel and were fired on by Israeli troops - comes at a highly sensitive and busy time.
He has scheduled a Mideast policy speech for this coming Thursday, apparently planning to tie together the killing of Osama bin Laden, the pro-democracy uprisings in many Arab countries, the continuing NATO effort to push Muammar Qaddafi out of Libya, and the obviously frustrating efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The Somali terror group Al Shabaab has issued a personal threat against Sarah Obama, President Obama's step-grandmother, who lives in Kenya, ABC News reports.
Kenyan officials have provided Mrs. Obama with additional security Thursday, even though security had already been increased following the United States' assassination of Osama bin Laden.
But there is no new or credible threat to President Obama's grandmother, an expert involved in security matters at the U.S. embassy in Kenya told CBS News.
Local police added security around only out of abundance of caution.
Although, the embassy is under constant threat, they know of nothing new regarding Mrs. Obama.
Al Shabaab, a group loosely linked to al Qaeda, has long been a faction in the Somali civil war and has been linked to piracy, beheadings, and terror links to Somali communities in the United States.
Of course, the Al Shabab threat may amount to little more than posturing. Al Qaeda and its affiliates have issued numerous threats in the wake of bin Laden's killing, most of them broad threats of reprisal against the West and assertions of the groups' continuing relevancy.
With 28,000 U.S. forces in South Korea, the Obama administration is hoping to avert a military confrontation between North and South Korea.North Korea's Ambassador was at the U.N. as were several South Korean diplomatic representatives to give the U.N. Security Council their views, and after a full day of negotiation, China blocked any condemnation of North Korea, leaving no diplomatic resolution to the crisis. Continue »
The reports, called National Intelligence Estimates, represent the consensus view of 16 domestic intelligence agencies without military input, the Times reports. Members of the House and Senate committees who read the reports described them to the Times.
The NIEs claim there is limited chance of success in Afghanistan unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating with seeming impunity from safe havens along their porous border, something the government in Islamabad has been dragging its feet on for years.Continue »
The Reuters report says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who's currently in jail in Great Britain (not for any WikiLeaks actions but for an alleged sexual molestation), has told some of his media contacts that he has a large number of U.S. government reports about inmates currently housed at Guantanamo Bay (or Gitmo, as the base is also known).
Those leaks, if released, could be unpleasant for President Barack Obama, who in addition to being frustrated with the amount of information being leaked by Assange and WikiLeaks, has had a difficult week politically as he defends his Bush-era tax cut compromise with Republicans.
One of Mr. Obama's campaign promises was to close Guantanamo Bay's prison and move the terrorism suspects it houses to other less controversial locations or to release the suspects outright. That hasn't happened.Continue »
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange continued his assault on U.S. government officials, calling for President Obama to resign if it is proven that he approved of spying on UN officials by U.S. diplomats.
Assange told El Pais, "The whole chain of command who was aware of this order, and approved it, must resign if the US is to be seen to be a credible nation that obeys the rule of law. The order is so serious it may well have been put to the president for approval."
Assange has also called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to resign her post.
The State Department directive sent in July 2009 asked diplomats to collect basic contact information about U.N. officials, including Internet passwords, credit card numbers and frequent flyer numbers.
WikiLeaks documents reveal that the CIA was behind the State Department's directive to gather information on U.N. officials.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that Secretary Clinton "is responsible, but she was not the author of that particular document, and the contents of that came from outside the Department of State."
"Our diplomats are just that, diplomats," Crowley maintained."They collect information that shapes our policies and actions."
The Department of Justice is considering bringing criminal charges against Assange.
Assange is thought to be hiding in the U.K. London police are expected to execute Interpol's arrest warrant to bring him in for questioning on sex crimes charges and possible extradition proceedings.
In the cat-and-mouse spy game, WikiLeaks' supporters a backup plan to disseminate data if anything untoward happens to Assange or the website. Thousands of encrypted files containing an uncensored version of the diplomatic cables have been sent around the world, and can be opened with a special "key."
last updated 5:30 p.m. ET
The latest U.S. documents released by the WikiLeaks organization include a number of eye-raising revelations including charges that the U.S. has stepped up efforts to spy on United Nations officials and other diplomats from other countries. They also shed light on North Korea's continued role as a world arms dealer, including smuggling missiles capable of carrying a nuclear payload to Iran.
Other red flags raised by U.S. diplomats include the security of Pakistan's nuclear program. which was described as vulnerable to smuggling and corruption.
U.S. Spying on United Nations Chief, Diplomats?
The U.K. Guardian reports Washington is running a secret intelligence campaign targeted at the leadership of the United Nations, including the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon and the permanent security council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK.
A classified directive which appears to blur the line between diplomacy and spying was issued to U.S. diplomats under Hillary Clinton's name in July 2009, the Guardian reports, demanding forensic technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks for official communications.
The New York Times also interprets the newly-released diplomatic documents as showing an expanded role of American diplomats in collecting intelligence overseas. Including orders to State Department personnel to gather the credit card and frequent-flier numbers, work schedules and other personal information of foreign dignitaries.Continue »
The 2010 midterm elections were not just big news for all Americans. The rest of the world took notice too. For some, it was yet another sad step down for President Barack Obama, who took office with near rock star-like popularity internationally. For others, it provided a moment to reflect internally on similar political changes driven by the economic downturn. Regardless, an informal survey of opinion articles and reader comments in the world's leading news publications indicates that the rest of the planet seems to agree with President Barack Obama's assessment of Republican gains in the 2010 midterm election. In other words, it was his fault.
An opinion piece in the German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zeitung, says Europeans might struggle to take the Republican and Tea Party election victories in context:
"Any autopsy of the Democrats' massive defeat on Tuesday shows that the right did not prevail simply due to their own strength. This was a collapse of the Obama coalition; the president has lost the support of America's middle class. In Western Europe Obama still enjoys almost messianic approval ratings of 80 percent. Nowhere else on earth regards Obama's program as more self-evident. Reforms such as health insurance for all, an active state and more environmental and climate protection are seen as catch-up Europeanization, a simple normalization. Millions of Americans, on the other hand, see this as an audacious if not revolutionary agenda to serve the interests of the state."
Ellsberg congratulated WikiLeaks and its partners for disseminating the grim details about the war, which highlight under-reported Iraqi deaths and myriad alleged human rights abuses.
Ellsberg said revelations made months ago by WikiLeaks relating to the ongoing war in Afghanistan didn't go far enough, and he urged journalist and author Bob Woodward to release the top secret documents and records he gained access to in researching his latest book, "Obama's Wars," to shed further light on the subject.
"WikiLeaks offers itself as the best vehicle for doing that," said Ellsberg, even suggesting that researchers working for Woodward could provide the top secret materials to Assange's organization.
Ellsberg said if the documents Woodward had access to were to be made public, it could "come close" to being a Pentagon Papers on the Afghan war.Continue »
Last year, President Barack Obama led a U.N. Security Council meeting on nuclear non-proliferation and obtained consensus on making nuclear weapons reduction his flagship issue. U.S. relations with the Muslim world were improving, and the president was treated with rock star status. Diplomats even talked about his potential somewhere in the future to lead the world body.
At U.N. headquarters next week, Mr. Obama will be back, and 192 nations will be watching for leadership. This time, the messages are more diffuse, and the pitfalls deep. The challenge for the president is to define a message that can carry the day.
This year, Mr. Obama is facing a tough economic road at home, with unemployment over 9%. Even as he addresses the U.N. goal of eradicating poverty, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2009 more Americans lived in poverty than ever before. And, with economic issues playing a leading role in the U.S. midterm elections, the U.S. Congress is challenging him to pressure China on currency and trade issues.
Three months before last year's U.N. speech, President Obama delivered a speech in Cairo, aimed at launching an initiative to improve U.S. relations with the Muslim world. This year, the controversy surrounding the Islamic Interfaith Center near New York's Ground Zero, and the threatened burning of the Quran by a Florida preacher caused strong sentiment against the U.S. in Muslim nations.
If, as Voltaire said, the perfect is the enemy of the good, President Obama's efforts to address every important issue may blur his priorities and lessen his impact.
Relentless waves of air strikes, suspected to have been carried out by unmanned U.S. drones, have pounded the region in the past three weeks, leaving dozens of alleged militants killed. They have been focused North Waziristan, where al Qaeda leaders are known to be hiding and planning attacks on the West and Western troops in Afghanistan.
"Within 72 hours, four to five drone attacks in tribal areas have interrupted badly al Qaeda and Pakistani militants," the Pakistani Taliban commander told CBS News' Sami Yousafzai in a telephone interview Tuesday.
The Taliban commander, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified by name, said the number of al Qaeda militants in the region was dwindling as a result of the increasing pressure.
While it may seem counter-intuitive for a Taliban commander to reveal apparent advances by the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus, it is important to note that the Islamic fighters in the region are divided into myriad tribal groups. Yousafzai's source is a commander in a group not friendly with the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud -- a prime target of many American missiles -- or his al Qaeda allies. Foreign fighters, many from Uzbekistan, are often recruited into the ranks of al Qaeda and allied with Mehsud's faction, but are viewed by many locals in the border region as outsiders and distrusted.
The Taliban commander also said, however, that the missile strikes -- the most recent of which slammed into a house early Monday in North Waziristan, killing 10 alleged militants -- are taking an increasing toll on the Taliban, in addition to al Qaeda operatives in the area.
"That is a headache and a big worry for the Taliban," he told Yousafzai.
Regardless of which militants feel the sting of U.S. missiles more acutely, the strikes represent hopeful news for the U.S.-led war against the Islamic radicals in the region where the Sept. 11 terror attacks were planned. Both the Taliban and al Qaeda launch periodic attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, while al Qaeda is also the sworn enemy of both nations' U.S.-backed governments and anyone found to be working with them.
Both Pakistani intelligence sources, and the Taliban commander who spoke to CBS on Tuesday, say better cooperation with Pakistanis on the ground is likely behind the wave of successful strikes.
The commander told Yousafzai locals seem to have ramped-up their "spying" on militants in the area, and are increasingly grassing on even the more native Taliban fighters who have long enjoyed some degree of support in the region.
He said the Taliban's "brutal punishment and beheading of spies" was apparently failing to halt the villagers' cooperation with government forces, who have increased their tip-offs to American intelligence operatives.
The commander went so far as to say the reprisal attacks could be "widening and complicating" the Taliban's fight in Waziristan.
A Pakistani intelligence official said in June that Pakistan had stepped up its cooperation with the U.S. since December 2009, reports CBS News' Farhan Bokhari. In the briefing, the intel official said the boosted cooperation was yielding dividends in the form of praise from Western allies, "because everyone is happier with Pakistan."
Intelligence sources tell Bokhari that the strikes over the past couple days have killed important "field commanders," though nobody has mentioned any of the most-wanted figures believed to be hiding out in the mountainous region.
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