In this occasional series, The Washington Post brings you up to speed on some of the biggest stories of the week. This week: Russia’s continued vulnerability in Syria.
The biggest story: Mysterious attacks on Russian military bases
A series of mysterious attacks against the main Russian military base in Syria — including one conducted by a swarm of armed miniature drones — has exposed Russia’s continued vulnerability in the country despite recent claims of victory by President Vladimir Putin.
In the most recent and unusual of the attacks, more than a dozen armed drones descended from an unknown location onto Russia’s Hmeimim air base in northwestern Latakia province. The attacks have spurred a flurry of questions over who may be responsible for what amounts to the biggest military challenge yet to Russia’s role in Syria — just as Moscow is seeking to wind its presence down.
Six other important stories
1. How old is too old to be a world leader?
That debate has been especially pronounced in the United States. Then-70-year-old Donald Trump and 69-year-old Hillary Clinton were the two oldest non-incumbents to ever seek the Oval Office, and now-President Trump's mental health is a frequent topic of speculation.
Adam Taylor takes a look at the global conversation about how old world leaders should be.
Sometimes, though, it's the young children of world leaders who get their powerful parents into trouble instead.
2. Netanyahu’s son brags about prostitutes, $20 billion deal for friend’s dad in strip-club rant
Israel's top-rated news broadcast aired a recording this week of Yair Netanyahu, the 26-year-old son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, engaging in an embarrassing tirade. “My dad arranged $20 billion for your dad, and you’re whining with me about 400 shekels,” he says in the recording, referring to money he borrowed from a friend at a strip club. Critics blasted the deal Netanyahu referred to as a sign of corruption.
The younger Netanyahu's drunken banter is another unflattering moment for the family, which has been criticized for being too cozy with ultra-rich donors and living a lavish lifestyle at taxpayers' expense. The Israeli prime minister is already at the center of criminal investigations, writes Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
3. Threat of North Korean weapons testing lingers over talks with the South
The new year has brought some much-needed hope to the Korean Peninsula, with Pyongyang and Seoul reopening a long-dormant hotline for communication, engaging in face-to-face talks and agreeing to let North Korean athletes attend next month's Winter Olympics. But many analysts are watching for signs that Pyongyang is preparing to continue weapons testing despite the apparent detente with South Korea, according to Adam Taylor.
4. Talk to the cardboard cutout: Thai prime minister won’t be taking any more questions
In a bizarre move highlighting the pressures journalists are facing worldwide, Thailand’s prime minister on Monday assigned a life-size cardboard mock-up of himself to respond to tough questions by journalists. “If you want to ask any questions on politics or conflict,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha reportedly said, “ask this guy.”
After installing the cut-out behind a microphone, Prayuth then walked away. Human Rights Watch, a New York-based nongovernmental organization, strongly criticized the incident Tuesday, saying that it was part of a “long list of his bizarre and bullying reactions to reporters.”
5. Chinese women reveal sexual harassment, but #MeToo movement struggles for air
China’s #MeToo moment still hasn’t arrived, suppressed by a patriarchal culture and a male-dominated one-party state that obsessively protects those in power.
“There is still a belief in China, deeply ingrained in traditional culture, that it is a virtue of women to be submissive to the wishes of others,” women’s rights activist Ye Haiyan told The Post's Simon Denyer and Amber Ziye Wang.