FROM Radwan Ziadeh
Conflict Intensifies in Syria Syria's national security chief today became the fourth official to die after Wednesday's rebel bombing of a high-level government meeting in the heart of Damascus. As many as 30,000 Syrians may have crossed into Lebanon in the past 48 hours. In Damascus, the bloodiest fighting yet is reported, as control of strategic neighborhoods appears to pass back and forth between rebels and government forces. Elsewhere, rebels claim to have seized border posts at crossings into Iraq and Turkey, while Syrian media claims the Army has taken them back. International efforts to end Syria's civil war have reached a standstill, and tens of thousands are fleeing the country as fighting escalates from Damascus to international borders. Will the Al-Assad dynasty come to an end? Will it resort to chemical weapons? What are the potential consequences for Middle East and US relations with Russia?
The Syrian Government and the Massacre at Houla Monitors for the United Nations have confirmed 108 victims , including 49 children and 34 women — many executed at close range — by Syrian soldiers last Friday. After this latest massacre in Houla , western nations have thrown Syrian diplomats out of their countries. The US today increased financial sanctions. But, there's no consensus on what to do next. Mitt Romney issued a statement saying it's time for the US to arm the rebels and criticizing President Obama for giving Syria's Assad regime time to murder more of its own people. The Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey said the US military is ready. We hear about a tattered peace plan and calls for arming Syria's rag-tag rebels.
Syria: Agonizing Questions with No Good Answers In the aftermath of Friday's massacre in Houla -- including at least 34 women and 49 children – Washington is divided over how to accomplish regime change in Syria. Mitt Romney says the US should arm Syrian rebels. President Obama is focused on diplomacy. There's also dispute within both parties of Congress. Who are the rebels? What would it take for them to defeat Assad's army? Would arming them lead to chaos or a proxy war between other countries? How long can the world stand by while a government slaughters its own people?
Getting answers on phone taps, Russia and leaking The Directors of the FBI and the NSA testified on Capitol Hill today there's no evidence for President Trump's claim he was wire-tapped by former President Obama. We'll hear about that and the investigation into Russian tampering with last year's presidential campaign.
House Republicans release their Obamacare replacement As two House committees take up "repeal and replacement" of "Obamacare," there may be life left in the Affordable Care Act after all. Even Republicans are divided, and proposed changes won't make good on President Trump's promise to provide "health insurance for everybody."
Political appointments and the reshaping of the judiciary President Trump has the chance for a long-term impact -- not just on the US Supreme Court, but on the entire federal court system. And his nominees are likely to get the support of a massive spending campaign by donors who don't have to reveal their names. Can President Trump "pack" the federal court system?
America's top diplomat faces challenges in Asia Whatever happened to America's "pivot to Asia?" That's just one of the questions left hanging since Rex Tillerson's first trip there as Secretary of State. Is the Trump Administration hoping to change Foreign Policy or maintain the status quo?