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Good morning and welcome to The Rundown.

Were taking bets on the president's upcoming State of the Union address: How many words will be devoted to foreign policy? The return of al Qaeda? The war in Syria? Russias regression? Chinas predations? The winner receives an unautographed photo of Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair. Best, Your AEI Foreign and Defense Policy Studies team

Tweet of the Week


Daniel Blumenthal @DAlexBlumenthal Brilliant Realist Kissinger made fun of Nixon when the Prez hinted at an opening to China. Then claimed credit.

In the News
State of the Union
In Tuesdays State of the Union address, President Obama is expected to emphasize his economic agenda. How is a State of the Union address prepared? Join Marc Thiessen, former chief speechwriter to President George W. Bush, as he takes you behind the scenes with a panel of former White House speechwriters from the Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan administrations. Panelists will walk you through the writing and preparation process of the most-watched speech the president delivers each year. RSVP here, and be sure to livestream the event on Tuesday, January 28, from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. Follow @dpletka and @marcthiessen on Twitter as they live-tweet their reactions to President Obamas speech tomorrow night.

Syria
Negotiators at the Syrian peace talks have reached a deadlock after tackling contentious political issues, including the possibility of a transitional government. As bloodshed and nuclear menace mount in the Middle East, China and North Korea flex their military and nuclear muscles in Asia, and America retreats almost everywhere, how will history judge Barack Obama? Is he the wise Dwight D. Eisenhower who understood the limits of American power and used military might as an instrument of peace? Or is he the appeaser Neville Chamberlain, whose naivet accelerated Hitlers rise and led to World War II? Danielle Pletka's piece for FoxNews.com argues that neither analogy rings true. But there are others whose choices more closely mirror Obamas and they do not inspire optimism about where we are going. Read more here. Also read Pletkas latest piece on the AEIdeas blog on Syria and the cold indifference of Team Obama. She writes, Look at the peace process. Better still, look away. Youll only feel embarrassment at the Obama administrations pretense that it could provide a solution for a war that has spiraled into an almost insoluble human catastrophe. Our charge is to remember the names of the people that couldnt be bothered to help in Syria, not then, not now, not ever.

Iran
A top US Department of the Treasury official urged companies to hold off on doing business with the heavily sanctioned Islamic Republic of Iran despite the interim nuclear deal. Azerbaijans pre19th-century Iranian past, modern Azerbaijans embrace of secularism, and the countrys relative economic success as an independent country challenge Iran s legitimacy. ICYMI: Michael Rubin's latest Middle Eastern Outlook focuses on Tehrans meddling in Azerbaijan, concluding that although Iranian authorities have sought to undermine and destabilize Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani governments strategy has been both restrained and effective. Keep up on the latest news coming out of Iran on the Critical Threats Project's Irantracker.org, and sign up for the Iran News Round Up for daily updates delivered to your mailbox.

NSA
In an interview with a German television station, Edward Snowden said the NSA is not solely preoccupied with national security, but also engages in industrial spying to advance US commercial interests. In the wake of all the leaks by Edward Snowden of the NSAs collection programs and the resulting debate over those programs, one constantly hears from elected officials and the commentariat about the need to strike the right balance between privacy and security. More often than not, this is followed by a suggestion that since 9/11, our country has not struck this balance. Gary Schmitt writes for The Weekly Standard: Putting aside for the moment that no one has come up with evidence that the NSA, in spite of all the powerful capabilities it has at hand, has done anything untoward, the common refrain is that we are only a step away from the era of Big Brother. Snowden has become the Larry Flynt of the intelligence world a shameless espionage pornographer. Except for one big difference: Most respectable publications would never publish pornography. In his latest

for The Washington Post, Marc Thiessen writes: As damaging as Snowdens revelations have been, the real damage has come from how Obama has chosen to respond to them. In his speech Friday, Obama declared that the men and women of the NSA are not abusing authorities in order to listen to your private phone calls or read your e-mails. Their activities, Obama said, are lawful and important for national security yet he is changing the NSAs programs anyway to placate his critics. Now, for the first time in history, the United States will extend the same privacy protections enjoyed by U.S. citizens to all foreign people anywhere in the world including terrorists.

Russia
As the Sochi Olympics approach, some families of athletes are deciding not to attend because of concerns about security risks. In Russian President Vladimir Putins New Years address, he promised to keep up the fight against terrorists in Russias North Caucasus until their complete destruction. With the Sochi Winter Olympics less than a month away, however, it is becoming increasingly evident that Putin has bitten off more than he can chew. Read Katherine Earle's AEI.org editorial on Putins Olympic gamble, which is especially troubling because he has staked his reputation and Russias prestige on the Olympics going off without a hitch. Also, don't forget to welcome Leon Aron, author of "Russia's precarious Olympics," to Twitter, tweeting from @AronRTTT.

Best of Blogs
Here is the best of what AEI's foreign and defense policy scholars are reading this week: Frida Ghitis in CNN: Syria shows peril of Iran's growing power Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post: Obama's NSA smoke and mirrors Max Boot in Commentary magazine: Non-intervention has a price too Andrew Browne in The Wall Street Journal: The dangerous China Japan face-off Ariel Cohen in The National Interest: Russia's reputation at risk in Sochi Joseph A. Bosco in The Weekly Standard: Japan steps up Orji Uzor Kalu in The Wall Street Journal: Boko Haram's threat to the world

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