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Obama agenda: Focused on Syria

AP’s Julie Pace: “Nearly five years into his presidency, Barack Obama confronts a world far different from what he envisioned when he first took office. U.S. influence is declining in the Middle East as violence and instability rock Arab countries. An ambitious attempt to reset U.S. relations with Russia faltered and failed. Even in Obama-friendly Europe, there’s deep skepticism about Washington’s government surveillance programs. In some cases, the current climate has been driven by factors outside the White House’s control. But missteps by the president also are to blame, say foreign policy analysts, including some who worked for the Obama administration. Among them: miscalculating the fallout from the Arab Spring uprisings, publicly setting unrealistic expectations for improved ties with Russia and a reactive decision-making process that can leave the White House appearing to veer from crisis to crisis without a broader strategy.”

Taunting from Assad: “Failure awaits the United States as in all previous wars it has unleashed, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day,” Assad told the pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper in an interview published Monday, per The Hill. “Assad said reports that he had used chemical weapons last week in an attack on the outskirts of Damascus were ‘nonsense,’ because government forces had been close to the area where troops were said to have fired poison gas projectiles.”

UN statement on the incident: “The first vehicle of the Chemical Weapons Investigation Team was deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers in the buffer zone area,” the UN said in a statement. “As the car was no longer serviceable, the Team returned safely back to the Government check-point. The Team will return to the area after replacing the vehicle.”

And: International inspectors examining allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria were shot at on Monday, the United Nations said,” The Hill writes. “The inspection team was on its way to the Damascus suburb where more than 1,300 people were allegedly killed in poison gas attacks on Wednesday.”

Politico: “There’s never been more pressure for President Barack Obama do something about Syria. And there’s never been less consensus on what he could do, or should do. The situation crystallized Sunday, with his administration saying there is ‘very little doubt’ that Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people. Yet that admission hardly delivered consensus on what the U.S. response should be.”

The Hill: “U.S. intelligence officials bugged the United Nations headquarters in New York, according to a report from a German publication. Operatives from the National Security Agency were able to decode the UN’s encrypted e-mail system and hack into the organization's closed video teleconferencing system to track communications by UN members, the report by Der Spiegel said.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she has no plans to step down from the court despite her age and just three years left of the Obama presidency, the New York Times reports.

“ObamaCare has become big business for an elite network of Washington lobbyists and consultants who helped shape the law from the inside,” The Hill writes. “More than 30 former administration officials, lawmakers and congressional staffers who worked on the healthcare law have set up shop on K Street since 2010.”

National Journal has an Obamacare guide.