Lebanese government collapses after Hezbollah withdraw support; Qatar and Saudi Arabia work on compromise between Lebanese factions; US will defer to Japan on plans to relocate American air base; record floods devastate Queensland; Joe Biden visits Iraq; violence in Tunisia worsens and curfew set in Tunis; and more
Top of the Agenda: Lebanese Government Collapses
The Lebanese government toppled after Islamic militant group Hezbollah (NYT) and its allies followed through with threats to abandon the national cabinet. The decision marked the culmination of recent political hostilities associated with expected indictments from the UN-backed tribunal (CNN) investigating the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. The findings are widely expected to indict members of Hezbollah, and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has refused to impede the court's rulings. Following the government's collapse, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman asked Hariri to stay on as caretaker prime minister.
In statements to the press, U.S. President Barack Obama reaffirmed U.S. support for Hariri (CNN) saying Hezbollah's actions "demonstrate their own fear and determination to block the government's ability to conduct its business and advance the aspirations of all of the Lebanese people." Hezbollah's opponents claim that it takes its instructions from Iran and Syria (Guardian).
Experts say the dissolution thrusts the country into its worst crisis since the internal political violence of 2008. However, some efforts at reconciliation are underway including a proposal by Qatar (WSJ) to work with Saudi Arabia in mediating a compromise between Lebanese factions.
Pending UN indictments could link Hezbollah and Syria to the death of Rafik Hariri. Lebanon expert Michael Young says all sides, including Saudi Arabia and the United States, are scrambling to deal with the impact of the findings.
This New York Times op-ed argues that Hezbollah "will stop at nothing--including civil war" to protect its own interests.
In Foreign Affairs, Bilal Y. Saab argues the investigation into Hariri's assassination has highlighted the detrimental role that Hezbollah plays in Lebanese politics, and placed Lebanon at the center of a regional power struggle that the United States cannot afford to ignore.
This CFR Backgrounder presents a cogent profile of the Lebanese militant group.
PACIFIC RIM: Gates Defers to Japan over Okinawa
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the United States would defer to Japan on plans to relocate an American air base on the island of Okinawa (NYT). The comments reflect a more conciliatory tone as Washington seeks to bolster its security alliance with the island nation.
Japan's new national defense policy makes only modest changes to its overall capabilities but signals new concerns about threats from China, says CFR's Sheila Smith.
Australia: Record floods linked to La Niña weather patterns continue to wreak havoc on the state of Queensland (FT)--three-quarters of the territory has been declared a natural disaster zone. Experts say the economy could suffer a decline of as much as 1 percent.