Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post

Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post   



-OPINION by David Ignatius: The Painful Lessons of Iraq--But I owe readers an apology for being wrong on the overriding question of whether the war made sense. Invading Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein a decade ago was one of the biggest strategic errors in modern American history. We’ll never know whether the story might have been different if better planning had been done for “the day after,” or the Iraqi army hadn’t been disbanded, or several other “ifs.” But the abiding truth is that America shouldn’t have rolled the dice this way on a war of choice. As I think back to the crucible of 2003, two remarks made by Arab friends stand out particularly.


- Secret report raises alarms on intelligence blind spots because of AQ focus--A panel of White House advisers warned President Obama in a secret report that U.S. spy agencies were paying inadequate attention to China, the Middle East and other national security flash points because they had become too focused on military operations and drone strikes, U.S. officials said. Led by influential figures including new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and former senator David L. Boren (D-Okla.), the panel concluded in a report last year that the roles of the CIA, the National Security Agency and other spy services had been distorted by more than a decade of conflict, reports Greg Miller.


-Report of chemical-weapons use in Syria being investigated, Obama says--President Obama said Wednesday that the United States is still investigating whether chemical weapons were used in Syria and reiterated his pledge that their use by the government of President Bashar al-Assad would be a “game changer” for U.S. policy. “We have to make sure that we know exactly what happened, what was the nature of the incident, what we can document, what we can prove,” Obama said at a news conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama’s statements came after the Syrian government and the opposition repeated their accusations that the other side used chemical weapons in an attack on a village near Aleppo on Tuesday. By Karen DeYoung


- Obama meets with Palestinian leadership in Ramallah--RAMALLAH, West Bank — President Obama arrived here Thursday to a ceremonial welcome and a disenchanted Palestinian leadership, whom he will try to convince he is serious about pushing for new peace negotiations with Israel early in his second term. After a morning in Jerusalem, Obama flew by helicopter to this West Bank city, effectively the Palestinian political capital, for meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He was met with military honors and the U.S. national anthem before adjourning to Abbas’s office. By Scott Wilson


-WorldViews: South Korea under cyber attack: Is North Korea secretly awesome at hacking? North Korea, a country where private computer ownership is illegal and most civilians can only access a tiny, closed intranet through shoddy knock-off software, is not the sort of place where you might expect to find the scariest and most talented of hackers. But reports from both ABC News and the Associated Press on the sudden computer crashes at South Korean banks and TV broadcasters pointed to speculation that North Korea was behind the cyber shutdown.  By Max Fisher


- Cyprus bailout deadline set for Monday--BERLIN — Cyprus on Thursday received a stark ultimatum from the European Central Bank: The tiny island nation must find $7.5 billion to bolster its failing banks by Monday or see them collapse. The announcement that the European Central Bank would withdraw emergency funding from Cyprus’s teetering banks if no bailout is in place by Monday gave urgency to the country’s scramble to find cash. It came as European leaders warned in the strongest terms yet Thursday that if Cyprus’s banks fail, problems could quickly spread to the other 16 nations that share the euro currency. By Michael Birnbaum

Editorial Board:  Cyprus triggers another euro-zone crisis




- Visas for high-skilled workers could double under bipartisan Senate plan-- A Senate immigration plan would dramatically increase the number of high-skilled foreign workers allowed into the country and give permanent legal status to an unlimited number of students who earn graduate degrees from U.S. universities in science, technology, engineering or math, according to people familiar with the negotiations. The agreement would be a major victory for the tech industry, which has backed an intense lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill in recent months arguing that Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other companies are having trouble finding qualified workers because of visa limits. By Peter Wallsten


- Senate passes government funding measure; House to vote Thursday--A short-term funding measure to keep the government operating beyond the end of this month cleared the Senate on Wednesday and is awaiting final passage in the House on Thursday to avert a shutdown. The approval process has been unfolding remarkably smoothly compared with the previous efforts of a divided Congress that has gone to the brink repeatedly over spending issues. If the House passes the bill before members leave Friday for a two-week recess, funding will be assured almost a week before the resolution keeping the government operating expires on March 27. By Rosalind S. Helderman


-The Fix: The Ryan budget and the austerity argument within the GOP--For the third time in the last three years, the Republican-controlled House today will vote in favor of a budget proposed by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan that, by anyone’s calculation, prizes austerity.  Few — if any — House Republicans will vote against the Ryan budget (Four Republicans voted “no” in 2011; 10 voted “no” in 2012.) But, increasingly there is a debate within the GOP about whether pushing austerity and a relentless focus on the bottom line is the right policy and political path for the party. By Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan


-Post Politics: Even the leader of the free world has car trouble--The fact that one of the presidential limousines had to be replaced before President Obama arrived in Tel Aviv during his state visit to Israel has already spawned a round of conspiracy theories: Did the staff fill it with gasoline when it was diesel-powered, or with diesel when it was, in fact, gas-powered? The answer: neither. The limo got the right fuel, but it broke down anyway, and the U.S. Secret Service doesn’t know why. “This is why we bring multiple vehicles and a mechanic on all trips,” explained Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan in an e-mail. “Situations like this are planned for extensively by our advance teams so that the president’s itinerary is unaffected by these types of issues.” by Juliet Eilperin



- Big banks engaging in payday lending, report says--Some of the nation’s largest banks are providing short-term loans with interest rates of up to 300 percent, driving borrowers into a cycle of debt, according to a new report from the Center for Responsible Lending. The study, due out Thursday, gives an updated look at the perils of advance-deposit loans offered by Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp, Regions Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Guaranty Bank and Bank of Oklahoma. Banks bristle at comparisons to storefront payday lenders, but researchers say their products carry the same abusive high-interest rates and balloon payments. By Danielle Douglas


- Health-care law uncertainty grips D.C. area small businesses-- Nearly three years after the health-care law was passed, federal regulators have only recently begun to define its terms. Major pieces of the overhaul, such as state-run exchanges that will serve as marketplaces for qualified health insurance plans, have yet to take shape, and several rules remain unwritten. Consequently, the picture remains anything but clear for small-business owners, some of whom have been warned that their premiums may spike and that their current coverage may fall short. “There is tremendous confusion and fear among many of my competitors and other business owners in my network, particularly about what you have to cover and how you have to report,” said Hugh Joyce, owner of James River Air Conditioning in Richmond.  By J.D. Harrison


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