The Return of WikiLeaks
The EU has agreed to expand its sanctions on Syria to President Bashar al Assad and nine senior government officials, as well as tightening its sanctions on Iran. Washington imposed sanctions on Assad last week, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today reiterated calls for the Syrian leader to cease his violent crackdown on protestors. The secretary of state put the number dead at nearly 1,000. “Stop the killings, the beatings, the arrests, release all political prisoners and detainees. Begin to respond to the demands that are upon you for a process of credible and inclusive democratic change,” Clinton said. And White House spokesman Jay Carney, traveling with President Obama in Europe, said that the administration “welcomes the decision of the European Union to expand its sanctions on Iran,” vowing to continue “to hold Iran accountable” for its “proliferation activities.”
The U.S. delegation charged with investigating the food crisis in North Korea landed in that country today. Special envoy for North Korean human rights Robert King and USAID official Jon Brause are leading the team to investigate Pyongyang's need, while the head of the North Korean regime, Kim Jong-il, continues his trip to China. This is King’s first visit to North Korea. It’s a big step, being as though is predecessor was never allowed to set foot there.
Reports on U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman’s visit to Islamabad last week are indicating that he was pretty firm with the government there. Meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari, army chief General Parvez Kayani and ISI head Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha along with other officials, Grossman pressed Pakistan to step up its fight against extremism, including going after senior al-Qaeda targets. The Pakistani officials reportedly continued to object to U.S. drone use but seemed open to joint operations against extremists. Alongside Grossman’s visit, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn released a slew of new WikiLeaks cables, including some that outline U.S. military involvement in the tribal areas and Pakistani requests for U.S. drone coverage. Needless to say, Pakistan’s military said, “No U.S. troops are involved in any military operations in FATA.”
According to the White House’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jacob Lew, the VP Joe Biden–led budget talks are not even close to being wrapped up. “We have a lot of work ahead of us and quite a few weeks of discussions” before the group can reach an agreement on budget cuts and a debt-ceiling increase, Lew said.And as the talks are progressing slowly, other parts of the government are worried about being on the chopping block. Now that Osama bin Laden has been killed, intelligence agencies in particular are fretting about cuts. DNI James Clapper told Congress back in February that he’d be trimming budgets down as post-9/11 growth levels out.