National Security Goes Transatlantic

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and his British counterpart, Peter Ricketts, will soon be heading up a special joint U.S.-UK National Security Strategy Board. President Obama is set to announce the formation of the group, which is supposed to help the two countries share intel on longer-term issues like terrorism and Afghanistan, in London this week. He’ll arrive in the city tomorrow for talks with various leaders, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Obama’s six-day tour of Europe is meant to “reaffirm the importance of our relations with our European allies,” according to White House spokesman Jay Carney.

On Sunday, George Mitchell, until recently the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, offered his opinion on President Obama’s sweeping plans for the peace process. Much has been made of Obama’s statement that negotiations should be based on Israel’s 1967 borders. Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Mitchell said that statement was mostly business as usual. “The president didn't say that Israel has to go back to the '67 lines. He said with agreed swaps,” Mitchell clarified. He added, “The proposal was identical to a proposal made by the Israeli prime minister just prior to Mr. Netanyahu. Ehud Olmert was the prime minister until 2009.” Mitchell thinks that preventing the Palestinians from declaring their own state at the UN General Assembly meeting in September is a key priority for Washington.

U.S. special envoy for North Korea human rights Robert King and a representative from USAID, Jon Brause, will be going to Pyongyang after all. They will head to North Korea tomorrow to “conduct a field evaluation of food security needs” and meet with officials, according to the State Department’s acting deputy spokesman, Mark Toner. They’ll be traveling regionally as well as having sitdowns in Pyongyang. Toner said that the trip doesn’t mean Washington will provide the food aid that Pyongyang has requested, “but it’s the first step in evaluating the need.”

The administration meanwhile has loosened up its visa rules for Iranian students. “This gives young Iranians the opportunity to return home for family events, to participate in internships, to travel outside the United States -- and they won't need to get a new visa every time,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained. The move is part of Washington’s attempts to encourage political change in Iran. As Clinton framed it: “As long as the Iranian government continues to stifle your potential, we will stand with you.”

Budget negotiations will start up again tomorrow under Vice President Joe Biden’s leadership. It will be the third round of bipartisan congressional talks to try to work out a deal on spending cuts and raise the debt ceiling. According to Jay Carney, the discussion has “been constructive and productive so far, and we hope that continues to be the case.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned against trimming the fat by cutting the defense budget. Speaking to graduates at Notre Dame University yesterday, Gates stressed that adequately funding the U.S. military “cannot be taken for granted.,” adding “Our military credibility, commitment, and presence are required to sustain alliances, to protect trade routes and energy supplies, and to deter would-be adversaries.”