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World Week Ahead: Panetta Visits Iraq; U.S. Cybersecurity Plan to Be Unveiled

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at Camp Victory in Iraq. Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has made an unannounced stop in Iraq, where he plans to meet with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday about security issues and clamping down on weapons entering the country from Iran.

One question is whether Iraqi officials will request — and U.S. officials agree to — an extension of U.S. forces in Iraq after the agreed-upon departure date of the end of this year. The White House has reportedly offered to allow up to 10,000 troops to stay in Iraq next year.

Panetta said he would encourage the Iraqis to decide whether they want to make the request for the extension. He also told reporters he would press Iraqi officials to do more to pursue Shiite militias using Iranian-supplied weapons to attack U.S. troops.

Panetta traveled to Iraq after visiting U.S. troops at a military base in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, where he said the Afghan ministries of defense and interior expressed “high confidence” that they could take over security in 2014 and “prevent the Taliban from ever coming back.” Read more of his comments to the troops.

MEDAL OF HONOR | On Tuesday, President Obama will award Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry the Medal of Honor for tossing a grenade away from his fellow soldiers while battling insurgents in Paktya, Afghanistan in May 2008. Petry will become the second living, active duty service member to receive the award for actions in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Read more about Petry’s actions that led to his nomination for the medal.

FRANCE | Wednesday is the deadline the French Socialist Party has set for presidential candidates to declare themselves. With Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former International Monetary Fund chief, embroiled in legal troubles, the presidential slate is open.

CYBERSECURITY | The Defense Department is planning Thursday to release the non-classified portion of its strategy to handle cyber attacks. The report is expected to equate computer network attacks with armed assaults on the country.

SOUTH SUDAN | Also Thursday, the U.N. General Assembly is expected to ratify membership of South Sudan. The Republic of South Sudan became the world’s 193rd nation on Saturday, separating from Sudan and the northern government of Khartoum. Worries about the nascent nation’s development needs for schools, hospitals and day-to-day services were set aside temporarily as Southern Sudanese celebrated their independence.

“We have waited 50 years for this day. … It is a dream that has come true,” South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said at Independence Day ceremonies, reported Tristan McConnell of GlobalPost from Juba, the new nation’s capital.

Other stories we’re monitoring:

SYRIA | A national dialogue in Syria aimed at moving the country toward a multiparty democracy continued for a second day Monday, but some opposition members are boycotting the talks saying they won’t participate until the government ends its crackdown on the protest movement. According to human rights groups, at least 1,300 Syrians have died since protests began four months ago.

In Damascus, pro-government activists tore into the U.S. Embassy compound, smashing windows, scrawling anti-U.S. graffiti on walls and raising the Syrian flag. They also damaged the French Embassy in the capital city.

The destruction was thought to be connected with recent visits by U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford and French Ambassador Eric Chevallier to observe protests in the western city of Hama.

EGYPT | Protesters in Egypt vowed Sunday to remain in Tahrir Square in Cairo until their demands, including justice for those who killed demonstrators before former president Hosni Mubarak resigned in February, are met.

In response, the Public Prosecution office published a list of trial dates and other legal measures it had taken against senior officials accused of killing demonstrators, according to Reuters.

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