Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hold a news conference following their meeting in Istanbul on Saturday. (Sedat Suna/Pool Photo via AP)

THE KURDISH QUESTION IN SYRIA TALKS: Kurdish forces have played a major role in pushing back extremist groups such as the Islamic State in Syria. But remaining tensions with Turkey appear to be holding back progress on the tenuous negotiations to end the Syrian civil war. The divisions, like so many surrounding this conflict, are playing out on multiple levels: Russia and Turkey are in a standoff over Turkey having shot down a fighter jet that slipped into its airspace last year. Now the Russians are demanding that a key Kurdish group, the YPG, be included in talks – a condition that is likely to cause Turkey to walk out on them.
ACCUSATIONS OF IRANIAN RANSOM: The American prisoners are out of Iran, but a group of Republican lawmakerss want to know at what price. They are charging that a concurrent deal to settle an international tribunal claim Iran made against the United States to the tune of $1.7 billion is actually a ransom payment. The United States does have a long history of multi-track diplomacy that has yielded similar simultaneous arrangements in the past, including the release of prisoners from Cuba and the end of the Iran hostage crisis in 1981. Nonetheless, the GOP lawmakers are clamoring for an official inquiry.
NEW PROCESS FOR SECURITY CLEARANCES: As Washington was making preparations for the snowstorm Friday, the White House announced a major changeover happening in how security clearances will be processed. The Pentagon is taking over responsibility for storing information on millions of federal employees, and a new bureau will process the 600,000 or so background investigations the government reviews every year. The agencies are taking the reins from the Office of Personnel Management, which suffered a massive hacking in 2014. There isn’t an exact timeline for the changes yet, but they are supposed to start coming online this year, while the government reviews what went wrong at OPM. Reaction to the changeover on the Hill has been mixed, with some members saying the administration needs to step up its security procedures, while others argue that OPM never was intended to be an airtight fortress of security like the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies.

Karoun Demirjian covers defense and foreign policy and was previously a correspondent based in the Post's bureau in Moscow, Russia. Before that, she reported for the Las Vegas Sun as its Washington Correspondent, the Associated Press in Jerusalem, the Chicago Tribune, Congressional Quarterly, and worked at NPR.