Obama says US intelligence should have "connected dots" on Christmas day terror attempt; China criticises UN sanctions of Iran; Yemen arrests three terror plotters; Russian bombing; and more
Top of the Agenda: Obama Criticizes Intelligence Failures
U.S. President Barack Obama said U.S. intelligence agencies could have thwarted (WashPost) the Christmas Day airline bombing attempt, and he demanded rapid improvements in intelligence and security efforts. Obama said the failure was not in collecting intelligence but in failing "to connect those dots." Obama cited steps that have been taken, such as expanding the U.S. "no-fly" list, enhanced screening for anyone flying to the United States from an expanded list of "countries of interest," additional screening and security on all domestic or U.S.-bound international flights, and an automatic check of terrorism suspects to determine whether they have valid U.S. visas. He said he would announce further steps and that the review of the terrorist watch-listing system would be made public in the next few days.
Obama said evidence shows (WSJ) that U.S. intelligence agencies knew before Christmas that Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula wanted to strike U.S. assets in the region and planned to hit the United States itself. Obama said he would hold accountable "our intelligence, homeland security and law-enforcement systems, and the people in them. He requested "specific recommendations for corrective actions" from the agency reviews that can be implemented immediately.
Obama also announced (NYT) that his administration has suspended transfers of Yemeni prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay to Yemen.
In the LA Times, Richard Fontaine and Andrew Exum say terrorism is "just one of the threats the deteriorating situation in Yemen poses to U.S. interests" and that Yemen hasn't planned for its young, poverty-ridden population's post-oil future.
On Slate.com, Daniel Byman says the Yemeni government opposes al-Qaeda jihadists, except when it's using them for its own ends.
In a CFR interview, Carnegie Endowment's Christopher Boucek says that if left unchecked, the rise of Yemen's al-Qaeda affiliates could lead to al-Qaeda's further entrenchment in Yemen.
A New York Times Magazine article looks at the Obama administration's war on terrorism.
This CFR Backgrounder explains al-Qaeda's origins and reach.
The BBC profiles al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
PACIFIC RIM: China on Iran Sanctions
China says (BBC) it's not the right time for more UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, after Iran missed the United States' end-of-year deadline to respond to offers of talks.
Japan: Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama announced (Kyodo News) that Deputy Prime Minister Naoto Kan will succeed Hirohisa Fujii as Japan's finance minister. Fujii said he would step down for health reasons.