FPI Overnight Brief: May 9, 2011

Libya

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi destroyed three huge fuel tanks in the besieged city of Misurata, aggravating an already dire humanitarian crisis there, the rebel leadership said Saturday. – Los Angeles Times
 
Food and fuel supplies are running low in the besieged western Libyan city of Misurata, where government shelling and rocket strikes on the port have slowed humanitarian deliveries, a rebel official here said Sunday. – Los Angeles Times
 
Col. Moammar Gadhafi has turned to Libya's tribal leaders in a new effort to erode a Western-backed insurgency, but the initiative, including the promise of an amnesty, is having no immediate impact on the stalemated conflict. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
A Libyan opposition leader said Friday that rebels plan to use money pledged for humanitarian and reconstruction needs to buy weapons from the Italian government, a claim an Italian official denied. – Washington Post
 
Eman Obeidy, the Libyan woman who entered the international spotlight after claiming Moammar Kadafi's militiamen gang raped her in March, apparently fled to Tunisia this week. – Babylon and Beyond
 
Libya's rebel government said May 7 that Italy has agreed to supply it with weapons to fight against Moammar Gadhafi, but government sources in Rome said only "self-defense material" would be sent. - AFP

Syria

Now, with the Syrian security forces escalating a brutal and bloody effort to suppress an almost nationwide uprising, it may be too late for Assad to salvage what little remains of his reputation as the thwarted reformist waiting only for a chance to liberalize his country. – Washington Post
 
The Syrian regime tightened its grip on protest hot spots around the country Sunday, dispatching tanks into the town of Tafas in the south and continuing to shoot and detain citizens in other locations, part of a relentless crackdown aimed at suppressing a seven-week-old revolt. – Washington Post
 
Syrian troops and tanks swept into the northern coastal town of Baniyas on Saturday to suppress anti-government demonstrations, tightening the squeeze on a persistent yet largely leaderless opposition movement that has refused to stop staging protests despite a deadly military crackdown. – Washington Post
 
Syrians took to the streets in cities across the country in defiance of the government's lethal bid to clamp down on antiregime protests, with demonstrators appearing to gain support from tribal members and some army troops. – Wall Street Journal
 
Syria's leading activists are going deep into hiding following a relentless and brutal crackdown by the regime, at a time when protest leaders were expected to be emerging into public view, as they did at this stage in Tunisia and Egypt. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
European Union ambassadors agreed Friday that the bloc should extend sanctions against 13 Syrian officials, not including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, EU officials said. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
The White House on Friday called for a stronger international approach for dealing with Syria, unless the violent government crackdowns see a "significant change," White House press secreaty Jay Carney said in a news release. – National Journal
 
Syrian activists said a 12-year-old was killed Sunday during anti-government protests in the western city of Homs. – Babylon and Beyond
 
Josh Rogin reports: The difference between the situations in Syria and Libya is that the Syrian government might still come around and pursue a reform agenda, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday. – The Cable

Middle East

Bahrain’s king set on Sunday a fast-track timetable to end martial-law-style rule in a bid to display confidence that authorities have smothered an uprising for reforms even as rights groups denounced the hard-line measures. – Washington Post
 
Michael Bronner and John Farmer write: Matar took to heart the American example of democracy and due process — and challenged the United States to live up to its rhetoric in courageous exchanges with two secretaries of state. Washington should do more to meet the challenge his case represents, finding a bolder balance in pursuing our national interests and affronts to human rights. – Washington Post

Egypt

The Obama administration has decided to provide about $1 billion in debt relief for Egypt, a senior official said Saturday, in the boldest U.S. effort yet to shore up a key Middle East ally as it attempts a democratic transition. – Washington Post
 
Christians blamed Saturday's deadly sectarian clashes at two churches near Cairo on Egypt's ultraconservative Salafis, a radical Islamist ideology whose growing influence is worrying both secularists and the country's Christian minority. – Wall Street Journal
 
Egypt's new government has embarked on adventurous diplomacy to replace the legacy of former President Hosni Mubarak with a bolder Middle East presence less compliant with the U.S. and Israel. – Los Angeles Times
 
Egypt's government has warned it will use an "iron hand" to ensure national security after clashes between Muslims and Christians in Cairo killed 10 people and injured scores – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
 
Officials at Cairo's airport said the son of a wanted Islamist and nephew of the killer of President Anwar Sadat has returned to Egypt for the first time in two decades. The officials said Saturday that Khaled el-Islambouli came with his wife, two children and three siblings after getting travel documents from the Egyptian Embassy in Turkey. – Associated Press
 
Interview: Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas signed an agreement this past week in Cairo that was seen as a first step toward unifying rival governments in Gaza and the West Bank. U.S. and Israeli officials are wary that the reconciliation, brokered by Egypt, could undermine any peace efforts, since both countries consider Hamas a terrorist organization. Prior to the ceremony, Washington Post senior associate editor Lally Weymouth interviewed Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby on the accord and other changes since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. Excerpts follow. – Washington Post
 
Paul Marshall writes: Judging the likely trajectory of post-Mubarak Egypt requires assessing the depth of public support for Islamism, and usually this has meant assessing the strength and intentions of the Muslim Brotherhood. While the Brotherhood remains central, however, the country is also facing a frequently violent upsurge of Salafist versions of Islam. – The Weekly Standard

Yemen

The U.S. launched a drone strike in Yemen on Thursday aimed at killing Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born radical cleric suspected of orchestrating terrorist attacks in the U.S, but he evaded the missile, Yemeni and U.S. officials said. – Wall Street Journal

Iran

Israel’s former intelligence chief has said that a strike on Iran’s nuclear installations would be “a stupid idea,” adding that military action might not achieve all of its goals and could lead to a long war. – New York Times
 
Apparently bowing to unprecedented pressure from Iran’s clerical establishment, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomed an intelligence minister he had ousted in April back into his cabinet meeting on Sunday. – Washington Post
 
The unprecedented power struggle between the two most powerful leaders in Iran deepened Friday, spilling out into Tehran’s public prayers where the mullah leading the service indirectly criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while the crowd chanted “Death to opponents of the supreme leader!” – New York Times

Iraq

An incarcerated top al-Qaeda operative here was able to wrestle a gun away from an Iraqi prison guard Saturday on his way to a late-night interrogation, free fellow inmates and lead a melee that left six Iraqi counterterrorism officers and 11 inmates dead, police said. – Washington Post

North Africa

Tunisia's interim government imposed a curfew late Saturday after riot police fired tear gas and scuffled with hundreds of anti-government protesters. – Babylon and Beyond

Morocco

The chief suspect in the bombing last week of a popular tourist cafe in Marrakesh, Morocco, had disguised himself as a guitar-carrying “hippie” before he planted the two bombs, killing at least 17 people, an official said Friday. - Reuters

Turkey

In the vexed debate over whether Turkey is shifting its axis to the east, a new study suggests that if it is, then that may be more about old-fashioned nationalism than rising Islamism. – WSJ’s Emerging Europe

Israel

President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority beseeched a group of visiting American Jews on Sunday to urge Congress not to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in aid as a result of his recent unity agreement with Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza. – New York Times
 
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said his movement will make decisions about how to wage its struggle with Israel, including if and when to use violence, in consensus with more moderate Palestinian factions. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Josh Rogin reports: 29 U.S. senators have asked President Barack Obama Friday to cut off aid to the Palestinian government if it joins with Hamas, in a previously unreported letter obtained by The Cable. – The Cable

Afghanistan

For more than 30 hours over the weekend, the Taliban immobilized the southern city of Kandahar, unleashing multiple attacks with small arms and suicide bombers near the city’s downtown, pinning down people in their homes, forcing shops to close and halting most traffic. – New York Times
 
Osama bin Laden’s death in a U.S. commando raid could shock Taliban militants, who once sheltered the al Qaeda leader, into peace talks with the Afghan government, according to Afghanistan’s ambassador in Washington. – Washington Times
 
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his allies in Washington are hoping that Osama bin Laden's demise will prod the Taliban into joining peace negotiations. But the aftermath of the raid in Pakistan that killed the Al Qaeda leader could just as easily embolden the Afghan insurgent group in its long struggle against the West. – Los Angeles Times
 
The killing of Osama bin Laden may weaken Al Qaeda’s influence on the Afghan Taliban, the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said Sunday. – Associated Press
 
Analysis: From the Taliban’s hidden mud compounds to NATO’s headquarters in Brussels and the Pentagon, combatants in a decade-long war are asking versions of the same question: How does Osama bin Laden’s death change the struggle over who will control Afghanistan? – New York Times
 
Editorial: In the end the coup of killing Osama bin Laden will not relieve the United States of the hard, costly and painful mission it has been pursuing in South Asia. That means building a stable Afghan government that can defend itself and supporting the consolidation of secular civilian rule in Pakistan. The administration must reap the tactical benefits of the al-Qaeda leader’s death, push for whatever diplomatic advantages can be gained — but not lose sight of the larger objectives. – Washington Post
 
Max Boot writes: If we give more time to Gen. David Petraeus and his successor, Gen. John Allen, they can strengthen Afghanistan enough—mainly by building up the indigenous security forces—to prevent a Taliban takeover or a ruinous civil war even after U.S. forces finally start drawing down. That, in turn, can help us to stabilize Pakistan: an outcome worth fighting for. – Wall Street Journal
 
Leslie Gelb writes: Afghanistan is no longer a war about vital American security interests. It is about the failure of America's political elites to face two plain facts: The al Qaeda terrorist threat is no longer centered in that ancient battleground, and the battle against the Taliban is mainly for Afghans themselves. – Wall Street Journal

Pakistan

Pakistani media aired the name of a man they said is the Central Intelligence Agency's station chief, prompting questions about whether the Pakistani government tried to out a CIA operative in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden. – Wall Street Journal
 
President Obama’s national security adviser demanded Sunday that Pakistan permit American investigators to interview Osama bin Laden’s three widows, escalating tension in a relationship now fraught over how Bin Laden could have been hiding in Pakistan for six years before he was killed by Navy Seal commandos last week. – New York Times
 
Pakistani officials say the Obama administration has demanded the identities of some of their top intelligence operatives as the United States tries to determine whether any of them had contact with Osama bin Laden or his agents in the years before the raid that led to his death early Monday morning in Pakistan. – New York Times
 
Pakistan’s recently ousted foreign minister called Saturday for the resignation of President Asif Ali Zardari and his prime minister, saying that a U.S. commando raid on the compound of Osama bin Laden represented a failure of government. – Washington Post
 
Pakistan's spy agency is facing unprecedented public condemnation for its failure to catch Osama bin Laden or anticipate the U.S. raid that killed him, putting its influential and powerful chief, Lt. Gen. Shuja Ahmad Pasha, under pressure to take responsibility for the lapses amid calls for his resignation. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
It could be years, if ever, before the world learns whether Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) helped hide Osama bin Laden. But detailed allegations of ISI involvement in terrorism will soon be made public in a federal courtroom in Chicago, where prosecutors late last month charged a suspected ISI major with helping to plot the deaths of six Americans in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. – Washington Post
 
Missiles believed to have been fired by an American drone killed at least eight suspected militants and wounded four in Pakistan’s tribal regions on Friday, according to a Pakistani security official and a resident in the area of the strike. Later, seven more bodies were recovered, bringing the death toll to 15, the resident said. – New York Times
 
The dilemma over the compound where U.S. Navy SEALs shot bin Laden dead is whether to demolish it to prevent the site becoming a shrine to a man widely admired in Pakistan, or to turn it into a tourist attraction akin to Hitler's bunker. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
In a nation that is home to an alphabet soup of militant organizations subscribing to the late al-Qaeda leader’s violent ideology, retaliatory bombs did not explode. The cities did not fill with banned organizations’ foot soldiers vowing revenge. A top religious party drummed up a few hundred demonstrators Friday afternoon, but their stated agenda — to protest the bin Laden killing — barely seemed to register, and instead they fell back on familiar anti-government, anti-American slogans. – Washington Post
 
The White House has launched an aggressive effort to defuse widespread American anger at Pakistan, with National Security Adviser Tom Donilon warning Sunday against any break in American ties with the strategically important country where Osama bin Laden was hiding for at least the last six years. – National Journal
 
When hiding out in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden was aided by a "support network" the extent of which the U.S. is still trying to understand, President Obama said Sunday. – The Hill
 
Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, denied Sunday that any members of Pakistan's leadership knew terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was living not far from the capital city of Islamabad. – The Hill
 
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said Sunday that he still had his suspicions about just how much the government of Pakistan knew about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden before the terrorist leader was killed by U.S. troops. – The Hill
 
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday that it 'a lot of people in Pakistan' had to know where Osama bin Laden was, but that Pakistan is too important an ally in battling terrorism to cut off U.S. aid. – The Hill
 
As Pakistan’s top Washington lobbyist, it’s Mark Siegel’s job to convince U.S. officials not to take out their anger on the country despite the fact that Osama bin Laden spent at least five years living in relative comfort outside Islamabad. It’s not an easy sell. - Politico
 
Josh Rogin reports: U.S. officials had been frustrated by Pakistan's refusal to cooperate in the mission to apprehend Osama bin Laden for over 10 years, according to government documents released Thursday by the National Security Archive. – The Cable
 
Steve Hayes and Tom Joscelyn write: Document exploitation teams are analyzing the surprising amount of information taken from bin Laden’s compound during the raid. Among their chief objectives: determining what role, if any, top Pakistani government officials played in harboring the fugitive Osama bin Laden over the last decade of his life. – The Weekly Standard

China

Chinese and American officials are polishing off scripts for a ritual that is set to unfold in Washington on Monday and Tuesday. During a meeting known as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, they will smile across conference tables and talk about cooperating on a range of issues: trade, currency, North Korea. – New York Times
 
U.S. officials will press China to allow the value of its currency, the yuan, rise more quickly, amid signs that Beijing may be deciding to move at a faster clip in part to fight inflation. – Wall Street Journal
 
Oil companies usually focus on barrels, but Chinese petroleum giant Sinopec is struggling to get a grip on bottles — or, to be more precise, 1,176 bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild and expensive Chinese liquor. – Washington Post

Japan

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident exposed flaws in the Japanese government's measures to guard the country's reactors against earthquakes and tsunamis. U.S. officials in recent years also have worried that Japanese officials haven't taken enough precautions to protect the facilities from terrorist attacks, according to diplomatic documents released over the weekend on the WikiLeaks website. – Wall Street Journal
 
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan called Friday for a nuclear power plant located near an earthquake fault-line southwest of Tokyo to suspend its operations, reflecting a newly cautious stance on nuclear energy and raising concerns about electricity shortages as the summer approaches. – Wall Street Journal
 
The operator of a controversial nuclear plant has refused to follow the government's demand for an immediate shutdown, saying the company's board needs more time to consider the matter. – Wall Street Journal
 
Japan remains committed to nuclear power despite the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, Prime Minister Naoto Kan indicated Sunday, as workers moved closer to repairing the crippled plant by opening the doors of a damaged reactor building. – New York Times

Korean Peninsula

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak will replace five ministers in his cabinet, including Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun in a response to defeats for his ruling party in recent by-elections for parliamentary seats, the presidential office said Friday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Taiwan

It’s noteworthy nevertheless that Taiwan, despite doing better than its neighbors, has slid in the Freedom House rankings during each of Ma Ying-jeou’s three-years as president, falling from 32nd in 2008 to its current position at 48. Due to the relative infancy of media freedom in Taiwan, the roots of which extend to the late 1980s, and the close attention paid to the lack of those rights in China, many of the events the report calls attention to have led to widespread concern around Taiwan. – WSJ’s China Real Time Report
 
Taiwan has deployed a new supersonic missile on its warships in the latest response to China's rapid naval expansion, a lawmaker said May 8. - AFP

Southeast Asia

A meeting of Southeast Asian leaders ended here on Sunday with two significant issues unresolved, which led some analysts to question the leaders’ ability to confront entrenched problems. – New York Times
 
Indonesia is hoping to raise its global profile by helping members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which are meeting in Jakarta this weekend, address some their biggest problems, said Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Singapore's People's Action Party remained in power in Saturday's general election, maintaining the political structure that has led the city-state since independence despite the toughest fight the opposition has ever mustered. – Wall Street Journal
 
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Sunday that his People’s Action Party would re-examine its style of government after it was returned to power with its lowest percentage of the popular vote and its biggest loss of parliamentary seats since Singapore’s independence in 1965. – New York Times

Russia

But lately the tandem has begun to hiccup and backfire. It is impossible to say whether trust has broken down between the two men, one of whom will increase his power in next spring’s presidential election. But a universe of officials, businessmen and political hangers-on — uncertain whether to show loyalty to one man, the other or both — has “spent the whole last month on the verge of a nervous breakdown,” the economist Vladislav L. Inozemtsev wrote last week in the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. – New York Times
 
The Russian authorities announced Sunday that eight insurgents were killed in a large counterterrorism operation in the southern region of Dagestan. – New York Times
 
Police in a Moscow suburb have arrested about 25 people taking part in a demonstration against building a highway through an old-growth forest. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

United Kingdom

U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on Sunday shrugged off suggestions that he step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats in the wake of his party's humiliating losses in local elections and voters' rejection of the party's plan to reform the U.K.'s electoral system. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Philip Terzian writes: The significance of this week's vote, in the short term, is that Labour, which had dominated Scottish politics since the Thatcher era, has been devastated: Most of its leadership in Scotland lost their seats, the total Labour vote was significantly reduced, and Labour's new leader, Ed Miliband, has suffered a stinging rebuke. Social Democratic voters seem to have transferred, en masse, to the SNP while Scottish Conservatives, who have no seats in Whitehall, did manage to stave off further losses. – The Weekly Standard Blog

Belarus

Polish-Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut has had his request to be released on bail rejected by officials in the western Belarusian city of Hrodna, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara took oath of office on Friday as authorities of the Western African country try to turn the page on the months-long civil conflict that followed a contested election. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
A new mass grave containing 29 bodies has been found in a restive suburb of Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, according to a resident who said the victims were killed in the aftermath of a political standoff that plunged the country into violence. – Associated Press

United States of America

President Barack Obama capped a week of somber and sometimes celebratory events following the successful strike against Osama bin Laden with a rally for U.S. troops, where he held up the al Qaeda leader's slaying as evidence that his Afghanistan war strategy is working. – Wall Street Journal
 
Jon Huntsman marked his return from China to the United States with a sweeping address calling young Americans to serve their country — even if it's by working for the president of a different political party. – Politico

Canada

Mr. Harper campaigned largely on his economic track record. Now with a comfortable majority, he is expected to push for spending cuts aimed at reducing Canada's swollen budget deficit; clarify rules on foreign ownership of Canadian companies; and push through stronger economic and security ties with the U.S. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Mexico

People are marching over the high mountain into the capital behind a sign that reads “Stop the War!” The war they are talking about is tearing Mexico apart. At the front of the March for Peace is the chain-smoking, left-leaning, well-to-do, mystical Catholic poet Javier Sicilia, steering a movement of ordinary Mexicans who believe President Felipe Calderon’s military-led, U.S.-backed war against organized crime is failing – Washington Post
 
Public dismay over Mexico's drug violence mixed with election-season jockeying have put President Felipe Calderon on the defensive amid finger-pointing over the carnage. – Los Angeles Times
 
Mexican President Felipe Calderon is touting 2011 as the year of tourism, and the Mexico Tourism Board is spending millions of dollars plastering Southland billboards with images of the Great Pyramid of Cholula and underwater trees. But the nation's deadly drug wars have led the U.S. government to widen its travel warnings in the last few weeks, throwing a wrench into Mexico's effort to attract foreign visitors. – Los Angeles Times
 
Federal police have captured a suspected drug gang leader in a central Mexican state where relentless violence prompted hundreds of citizens to set off in a days-long protest march that arrived in the capital Sunday. – Associated Press

The War

The U.S. government released five video clips of Osama bin Laden that were seized by Navy SEALs during the raid on his compound, providing the first photographic evidence of what officials described as the al Qaeda leader's "active command-and-control center" in Pakistan. – Wall Street Journal
 
U.S. intelligence analysts, poring over computer files and documents seized from Osama bin Laden's Pakistani hideout, have started piecing together al Qaeda's terror playbook, including new details about how the network sought to exploit security loopholes to sneak militants into the U.S. and Western countries. – Wall Street Journal
 
Al Qaeda vowed to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden with retaliation against the U.S. "soon," in a warning that the terrorist network posted this week on militant websites. – Los Angeles Times
 
A week after the death of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda still has not publicly anointed a successor, and the most likely heir apparent could prove to be a divisive figure within the terrorist network. – Washington Post
 
Former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday that White House staffers may be undermining intelligence efforts in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden by talking too much about what the American forces found in the terrorist leader’s Pakistan compound. – Washington Times

When U.S. intelligence officials learned of this exchange, they knew they had reached a key moment in their decade-long search for al-Qaeda’s founder. The call led them to the unusual, high-walled compound in Abbottabad, a city 35 miles north of Pakistan’s capital. – Washington Post
 
The world’s most wanted terrorist lived his last five years imprisoned behind the barbed wire and high walls of his home in Abbottabad, Pakistan, his days consumed by dark arts and domesticity. – New York Times
 
Former Vice President Dick Cheney said that he would reinstate the practice of waterboarding if he were president. – The Hill
 
Fred and Kimberly Kagan write: It may be that, in the end, America simply cannot be secure if terrorist groups with international ambitions have uncontested control over sanctuaries and resources. But the U.S. government has never yet focused its attention fully on these challenges, let alone focused resources on them. It is past time to do so. Those sincerely concerned with America’s security should be demanding that kind of commitment and should reject utterly the notion that bin Laden’s death will allow us to declare “mission accomplished” and withdraw from the Middle East, and the world. – The Weekly Standard
 
Reuel Marc Gerecht writes: Although some American liberals and conservatives would now like to declare the global war on Islamic terrorism over, a little bit of patience is in order. We don’t get to declare the war over. Only Muslims do. And among them, we still don’t have the necessary quorum. For far too many, jihadism still has a certain redemptive appeal. – The Weekly Standard

Missile Defense

The first of a new generation of missile warning satellites has lifted off on it way to geosynchronous orbit. – Aviation Week
 
Russia and the United States must work hard to bridge major differences over the divisive issue of a European anti-missile shield, Russian news agencies quoted the nation’s top general as saying on Friday. - Reuters

Obama Administration

President Obama faced sharply divided counsel and, to his mind, barely better-than-even odds of success when he ordered the commando raid last week that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the president said in an interview broadcast Sunday. – Washington Post
 
The heaping bipartisan praise suggests Panetta has reached “untouchable” status — for the moment — in official Washington, a status generally reserved for celebrities and war heroes. And his enhanced stature couldn’t come at a better time for either him or the White House because he has been tapped to replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates, with the transition expected to take place this summer. - Politico
 
Interview [with Paul Wolfowitz]: "When you have freedom sweeping the Arab world, and you have people willing to risk their lives not as suicide bombers to kill innocent people, but to save lives and to gain freedom, the United States, first of all, should recognize generally speaking which side of that issue we're on…There are all kinds of ways it can end badly, but that would seem to me to be even more reason to be deeply engaged—to find people who want it to end the right way and to support those people, rather than holding back." – Wall Street Journal
 
FPI Director William Kristol writes: Will the president draw the conclusion that the cause of justice and our national interest—and, one might add, his own political interests—is well served when he leaves behind his progressive prejudices, and embraces unapologetic and energetic American leadership? Or will he decide that this was just a one-off event, and return to progressively leading from behind, both at home and abroad? We hope for the former, and fear the likelihood of the latter. – The Weekly Standard

Defense

Lawmakers overseeing defense spending are moving to block or modify deep cuts proposed by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, setting up a key vote this week that could help determine the success of the administration’s attempt to shrink the Pentagon’s budget. – Washington Post

The CIA's stunning success, after its disastrous judgments before the 2003 invasion of Iraq and other high-profile failures, follows drastic increases in funding, staff, new high-tech systems and tools, and the reorganization of the entire U.S. intelligence community since 9/11. – Los Angeles Times

A company of U.S. Marines recently conducted a remarkable three-week patrol through southern Afghanistan, replacing hundreds of pounds of spare batteries in their packs with roll-up solar panels the size of placemats to power their battle gear. – Wall Street Journal
 
The U.S. Air Force, which on May 3 grounded its F-22 Raptors, has now identified which other aircraft might be affected by defective oxygen generators. – Defense News
 
U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin engineers have created a new type of tool that will allow maintenance crews to perform critical repairs on the U.S. Marines' F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) without removing the aircraft's jet engine. – Defense News
 
Northrop Grumman is planning to publicly unveil its secret Firebird aircraft later this month at the Pentagon’s Empire Challenge, an exercise designed to demonstrate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies that can be fielded quickly. – Associated Press
 
Despite growing controversy about the cost and relevance of aircraft carriers, navies around the world are adding new ones to their inventories at a pace unseen since World War II. – Associated Press
 
Tom Donnelly writes: The big difference between 1980 and 2011 is that President Obama is blessed with an infinitely more capable set of military tools. Today’s force stands at the end of a 30-year trail of investment in recruiting, retaining, and training the best people and providing them with world-class equipment…The irony, of course, is that Barack Obama—the commander in chief who owes his newfound martial reputation to a military built and maintained by his predecessors of both parties—is leading the charge to cut defense spending. – The Weekly Standard
 
Mackenzie Eaglen writes: Fiscal responsibility and national security are not mutually exclusive. No budget should escape scrutiny in these tough economic times. But in calling for the Pentagon to kick in an additional $400 billion through spending cuts, President Barack Obama has put the budgetary cart before the horse. - Politico

Michael Bronner and John Farmer write: Matar took to heart the American example of democracy and due process — and challenged the United States to live up to its rhetoric in courageous exchanges with two secretaries of state. Washington should do more to meet the challenge his case represents, finding a bolder balance in pursuing our national interests and affronts to human rights. – Washington Post

Max Boot writes: If we give more time to Gen. David Petraeus and his successor, Gen. John Allen, they can strengthen Afghanistan enough—mainly by building up the indigenous security forces—to prevent a Taliban takeover or a ruinous civil war even after U.S. forces finally start drawing down. That, in turn, can help us to stabilize Pakistan: an outcome worth fighting for. – Wall Street Journal

Fred and Kimberly Kagan write: It may be that, in the end, America simply cannot be secure if terrorist groups with international ambitions have uncontested control over sanctuaries and resources. But the U.S. government has never yet focused its attention fully on these challenges, let alone focused resources on them. It is past time to do so. Those sincerely concerned with America’s security should be demanding that kind of commitment and should reject utterly the notion that bin Laden’s death will allow us to declare “mission accomplished” and withdraw from the Middle East, and the world. – The Weekly Standard

Reuel Marc Gerecht writes: Although some American liberals and conservatives would now like to declare the global war on Islamic terrorism over, a little bit of patience is in order. We don’t get to declare the war over. Only Muslims do. And among them, we still don’t have the necessary quorum. For far too many, jihadism still has a certain redemptive appeal. – The Weekly Standard

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