OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Obama and Putin meet face to face


The press pool report after the meeting where the leaders spoke might have provided a hint about the tenor of the meeting. The report said that “during the couple of minutes that it took all the photographers, TV crew and reporters to gather their equipment and head out the one door leading into the room, Messrs. Obama and Putin remained seated, their interpreters had stepped away, sitting side-by-side on the other side of the room — and they just stared straight ahead. No interacting or chit chatting.”

In Congress, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain, Kristol battle over Tanden nomination Biden's favorability rating rises while Trump's slips: Gallup The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Coast-to-coast fears about post-holiday COVID-19 spread MORE (R-Ariz.) and his allies have continued to hammer the Obama administration for not doing more in Syria, and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has called for Obama to arm the Syrian opposition. While Obama and Putin were meeting on Monday, McCain gave a speech in which he talked about operating outside of the U.N. Security Council if necessary in Syria, a move that would incense Russia. Moscow has already reportedly sent additional troops and warships into the region, to defend its naval base in Tartus, along the Syrian coast. 

Share and share alike: As Russia moves its forces into Syria, U.S. and British intelligence are doing their part to support rebel forces in the country. Western intelligence agents on the ground in Syria are providing rebel forces with intelligence on troop movements and communications within Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces. CIA operatives and their counterparts in MI6, the United Kingdom's foreign-intelligence wing, have passed satellite images of troop movements and captured communications between top Syrian military officials in Damascus to commanders in the field, according to reports in the U.K. press. That information has allowed rebel leaders to evacuate areas targeted by Assad's troops and possibly plan counterstrikes against offensives by government forces. The State Department had been providing non-lethal support to the Syrian rebels since May, including communication equipment and night-vision goggles. 

Nuke talks: While President Obama was seeking common ground on Syria in Mexico on Monday, U.S. negotiators were attempting the same thing with Iran in Moscow. The United States and other world powers sat down with Iranian diplomats to try and reach an agreement over Tehran's nuclear enrichment program. The Moscow meeting was the third this year Iran has meet with members of the P5+1 group — the five member nations on the United Nations Security Council plus Germany — regarding the nuclear program.

Negotiations were tense, according to press reports, with Iran refusing to limit enrichment to 20 percent. At that percentage, nuclear material can only be used as an energy source. But material enriched higher than 20 percent can be be weaponized. Tehran has long claimed its nuclear program was aimed at developing an new energy source for the country. The United States, Israel and their allies are concerned that Iran could easily shift gears from energy production to weapon development. 

Members of the House Armed Services Committee plan to hold hearings this week on the slate of possible options — including potential military action — available to the United States if the latest round of talks fail. The White House has been adamant that "all options are on the table" regarding the Iranian program. 

Transmitting missile defense: The Obama-Putin meeting also gave Republicans a chance to once again talk about President Obama's hot-mic comment, in which Obama said he would have "more flexibility" on missile defense after the election and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he would "transmit this information to Vladimir." Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), leader of the "Obama's secret deal" Republicans, sent out a statement Monday asking if Obama followed up his statements in March "as the President meets with Putin to transmit his thoughts." 

"Our missile defense systems at home and abroad are not open to compromise," Turner said. "I note that the President has thus far refused to respond to my questions about just what he's been offering Russia in his discussions the past three and a half years.”

Farm bill and sequestration: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won’t be the only senator with a sequestration-related amendment on the farm bill. Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayNational reading, math tests postponed to 2022 amid coronavirus surge Democratic anger rises over Trump obstacles to Biden transition DOJ investigation into Epstein deal ends without recommended action MORE (D-Wash.) also has an amendment on sequestration that a Murray staffer says has been hotlined by Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidFeinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee Bottom line MORE (D-Nev.) on the farm bill, along with the McCain amendment. While McCain’s sequestration amendment — which he has said he will tack onto every Senate bill on the floor going forward — calls for the Pentagon to issue a report on the effects of the defense side of sequestration, Murray’s asks the Office of Management and Budget to assess both the defense and non-defense halves of sequestration. The automatic cuts, set to take effect January 2013, would cut about $500 billion out of both sides over 10 years.


—White House pick for Iraq ambassador withdraws nomination

—Hill warns against targeting journos in leak investigation 

—Panetta reaches out to military leader in Egypt

—White House fires back on war cuts, sequestration 

—UN pulls observers out of Syria 

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