The Battlefield of the Future

In a final push before the looming UN meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with officials in Europe and the Middle East, is keeping in close contact with delegations in the region that are trying to put diplomatic pressure on the Israelis and Palestinians. Washington hopes the two sides can come to some sort of last-minute deal to stave off a Palestinian bid for statehood in New York. EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton and U.S. special envoys David Hale and Dennis Ross are on the ground doing the negotiating, while former UK prime minister Tony Blair is working with them to hammer out a draft text that will hopefully lay the foundation for a resumption of talks.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, heading to an ANZUS military alliance meeting that will take place today in San Francisco, told reporters that the US and Australia plan to add the cyber realm, or “the battlefield of the future,” to their joint defense treaty. As Panetta said, “We are all going to have to work very hard not only to defend against cyber attacks but to be aggressive with regards to cyber attacks as well.” So in the future a cyberattack on one of the countries could mean a response from both. The two parties will also talk about working together more on space and missile-defense projects.

Panetta had some harsh words for Pakistan: “Time and again we've urged the Pakistanis to exercise their influence over these kinds of attacks from the Haqqanis. He was referring to a rocket attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul on Tuesday and a truck bomb on Saturday, both suspected to have been the work of the Haqqani network. But Washington hasn’t made much progress on that front. So Panetta made it clear that the US is “going to do everything we can to defend our forces.”

Things are certainly still hot in Syria at the moment. Ambassador Robert Ford, along with other Western diplomats, joined Syrians mourning the death of Ghiath Matar, a rights campaigner. Shortly after Ford left the gathering, Bashar al-Assad’s forces fired tear gas at the mourners.

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary Jeffrey Feltman was in Tripoli yesterday, which the State Department admitted to keeping under wraps due to security considerations. He met with the Transitional National Council’s prime minister, Mahmud Jibril, and the organization’s chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, along with other Libyans. He also took a look at the U.S. embassy, which State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said was in “pretty poor condition.”

And Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is getting ready to make an appearance at an informal meeting of EU finance ministers on Friday. On CNBC, he called on European countries to step up: “They recognize that they have been behind the curve. They recognize that it will take more force behind their commitments.” But he’s confident that the EU will not let its “institutions be at risk in the eyes of the market.”