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Entries in Helene Cooper (5)


Syria Analysis: The Narrow Intelligence of US Intelligence Services

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warns of the presence of Al Qa'eda in Syria

Like all of us, the CIA has been caught off-guard by the pace of events in Syria. The advance of insurgents in parts of the country might have been expected, but suddenly the battle was in Damascus. Then came Wednesday's surprise: the bomb that decimated the top ranks of the Assad regime.

So what does a responsible intelligence service do? It launches a public-relations campaign.

The CIA got in touch with its long-time if unofficial Press Secretary, David Ignatius of The Washington Post, and the Obama Administration also fed lines to Helene Cooper of The New York Times. The message? Ignatius declares, "President Obama is seeking a 'managed transition' in Syria with the twin goals of removing President Bashar al-Assad as soon as possible and doing so without the evaporation of the authority of the Syrian state."

Using Ignatius and Cooper's transcripts, what are the CIA's priorities in that managed transition?

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Afghanistan Feature: Obama to Announce Plans for Troop Withdrawal --- But How Many and How Fast? (Landler/Cooper)

President Obama plans to announce his decision on the scale and pace of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan in a speech on Wednesday evening, an administration official said Monday.

As he closes in on a decision, another official said, Mr. Obama is considering options that range from a Pentagon-backed proposal to pull out only 5,000 troops this year to an aggressive plan to withdraw within 12 months all 30,000 troops the United States deployed to Afghanistan as part of the surge in December 2009.

Under another option, a third official said, Mr. Obama would announce a final date for the withdrawal of all the surge forces sometime in 2012, but leave the timetable for incremental reductions up to commanders in the field — much as he did in drawing down troops after the surge in Iraq.

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Middle East: Obama Plans a Speech, But Little Prospect of Substance (Landler/Cooper)

Mr. Obama had considered laying out American parameters for a peace deal [between Israel and Palestine], several officials said — a move that [Secretary of State] Clinton favored, but one that would have put him at odds with his national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, and his top Middle East adviser, Dennis Ross.

But the unity accord between Hamas and Fatah, the party of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, effectively killed the plans to try to push through an American proposal, one administration official said. “It’s hard to imagine how we do that when Hamas hasn’t agreed” to recognize Israel’s right to exist and to forswear violence against Israel, the official said.

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Israel-Palestine Snapshot: Obama Administration Wonders, "What to Do, What to Do?" (Cooper)

A Republican invitation for Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to address Congress next month is highlighting the tensions between President Obama and Mr. Netanyahu and has kicked off a bizarre diplomatic race over who will be the first to lay out a new proposal to reopen the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

For three months, White House officials have been debating whether the time has come for Mr. Obama to make a major address on the region’s turmoil, including the upheaval in the Arab world, and whether he should use the occasion to propose a new plan for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

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Egypt Snapshot: The Discussions for Mubarak's Exit (Cooper/Landler)

Helene Cooper and Mark Landler write for The New York Times:

The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately and turn over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday.

Even though Mr. Mubarak has balked, so far, at leaving now, officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which Mr. Suleiman, backed by Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform.

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