Last week an Obama administration official bragged that the White House’s Syria policy is working out just as planned. Special envoy for Syria Michael Ratney said that the “Russians wouldn’t have to help [Bashar al-]Assad if we didn’t weaken him.”
The House Select Committee on Benghazi will be making public next week new documents that demonstrate Sidney Blumenthal was seeking business in Libya as he was advising then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on U.S. policy in the country. According to a letter from Chairman Trey Gowdy to Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, at least once Clinton sought to aid Blumenthal's business interests in Libya.
China’s Communist government is rolling out a plan to assign everyone in the country “citizenship scores.” According to the ACLU, “China appears to be leveraging all the tools of the information age—electronic purchasing data, social networks, algorithmic sorting—to construct the ultimate tool of social control. It is, as one commentator put it, ‘authoritarianism, gamified.’ ” In the system, everyone is measured by a score ranging from 350 to 950, and that score is linked to a national ID card.
On September 29, the State Department added British citizen Sally Jones to its list of foreign terrorists. Jones is a 46-year-old punk rocker who converted to Islam and moved from Kent to Raqqa to join the Islamic State in 2013. She is also newly widowed, having lost her 21-year-old husband, ISIS hacker Junaid Hussain, in an American airstrike targeting him a few weeks ago. “Mr. and Mrs. Terror,” as Hussain and Jones came to be known, were active on social media to extend the Islamic State’s reach in the West.
There are times when economics is secondary to other policy considerations—not irrelevant, but secondary. Last week, when 12 nations on the Pacific Rim finally agreed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership after years of negotiations, was one such time. This gives President Obama a much-needed victory—if he can persuade enough of his Democratic colleagues to join a majority of Republicans in approving the deal when Congress gets to have its say in up or down votes early next year.
Today, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that Russia has violated Turkish airspace for a second time. On Saturday, a Russian plane crossed into Turkish airspace near the Syrian border, and in response the Turks scrambled two F-16s. In a subsequent incident, Ankara said that a MiG-29—flown either by Russia or its client Syria—locked its radar on to two more Turkish F-16s Sunday as they patrolled the border.
President Barack Obama talked about Hillary Clinton's recent disagreements with his Syria policy by saying "there's a difference between running for president and being president."
"Hillary Clinton is not half-baked in terms of her approach to these problems--she was obviously my secretary of state," said Obama. "But I also think that there's a difference between running for president and being president."
By any objective measure, Russia has made a strategic decision to challenge America for dominance in the Middle East. Despite depressed global oil prices and economic sanctions intended to curb his Ukraine adventurism, Vladimir Putin is pursuing an undisguised effort to expand Moscow’s military power, political heft, and economic influence in a region long under Washington’s sway. Barack Obama has made no effective response, and none seems in prospect. The recent Obama-Putin meeting at the United Nations did not change that underlying reality.