Diplomats and the Democracy Activists

General Martin Dempsey is officially the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dempsey was confirmed by the Senate and will take over for outgoing chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen. His vice chairman will be Admiral James Winnefeld. General Ray Odierno, who played a central role in Iraq and is currently the commander of the Joint Forces command, was also confirmed as Army chief of staff.

But wait, there’s more position shuffling to report. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s new deputy might just be Ashton Carter, currently the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. Carter, who also served in the Clinton administration, was nominated by President Obama to be the next deputy defense secretary.

U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman sat down with a group of Afghan and Pakistani officials yesterday. After the meeting, which focused on the conflict in Afghanistan, Grossman offered some commentary on the tense relationship with Pakistan. The Pakistani government has put restrictions on the ability of U.S. diplomats to travel freely within its borders, requiring the officials to get a certificate permitting travel before leaving Islamabad. Pakistan claims the move is for the diplomats’ safety. Grossman said that Washington is trying to “figure out how to meet those requirements” while finding a way to allow “diplomats to travel freely in Pakistan.”

Calls for action against Syria are getting louder, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat down yesterday with Syrian-American democracy activists. According to State Department spokesman Mark Toner, the secretary of state, “expressed her admiration for the courage of the brave Syrian people who continue to defy the government's brutality in order to express their universal rights.” The administration is currently considering employing more sanctions against the regime, and Admiral Mike Mullen stressed that Washington doesn’t intend to use military force to bring about a change with Syria: “I think politically and diplomatically we want to bring as much pressure as we possibly can to affect the change that so many countries are calling for.”

And North Korea’s vice foreign minister Kim Kye-gwan said after his meetings with U.S. officials, including special envoy on North Korea Stephen Bosworth, that he was “satisfied with talks this time.” This is the first time Washington and Pyongyang have had bilateral talks since 2009.