Beirut Bombing Amid Sectarian Tensions August 16, 2013
Top of the Agenda
Top of the Agenda: Beirut Bombing Amid Sectarian Tensions
A car bomb exploded in the southern Beirut stronghold of Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group, killing twenty-four (Reuters) in the latest attack in the city's suburbs in the past several months. The government said it was investigating whether the blast was a suicide attack (DailyStar), after an unknown Sunni group called Aysha Umm-al Mouemeneen claimed responsibility for the explosion, which struck near a facility used by Hezbollah. The incident increased concerns that the conflict in Syria has spilled into Lebanon, where there have been outbreaks of fighting along sectarian lines (al-Jazeera).
"The frequently voiced fear that the Syrian crisis could engulf the region is unlikely to be realized in one earth-shattering event. Instead it will leak across borders, a contact corrosion that, once established, will likely prove impossible to eradicate," writes Aryn Baker for TIME.
"Relationships between neighboring Sunni and Shiite villages in the Bekaa Valley have deteriorated gravely over political and personal grievances. The area, which sits on the Syrian border, is a notoriously lawless place where disputes are settled not by government, but by gun," writes Mitchell Prothero for McClatchy.
"The Assad regime depends on its patrons in Iran and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in neighboring Lebanon. The regime has focused on holding the strip of territory from Damascus to the Alawite homeland of Latakia in the northwest, relying on perhaps 100,000 regime troops and Alawite militiamen, plus Hezbollah fighters. This 'Assad-istan' is, practically speaking, an extension of the Hezbollah-controlled Bekaa Valley," writes David Ignatius for the Washington Post.
Biden to Visit Japan
U.S. vice president Joseph Biden will likely visit Japan (KyodoNews) in the fall for a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss developments in the Asia-Pacific region, including China and North Korea.
CHINA: Japanese officials said that Chinese coastguard ships entered disputed waters (AFP) around the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands on Friday, a day after China chided Japanese lawmakers for visiting a controversial war shrine.
Amid simmering tensions over the disputed Kashmir region, the Pakistani foreign office said that Indian and Pakistani prime ministers will likely meet next month (Dawn) in New York in a bid to calm relations, saying that all communication channels between the two countries were open.
INDIA: An Indian Navy submarine exploded and sank (NYT) in Mumbai with eighteen crew members aboard. Officials said it was unlikely that survivors would be found.
Egypt Braces for Protests
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood asked supporters of deposed president Mohammed Morsi to stage a nationwide protest (al-Jazeera) against the military's violent crackdown on demonstrators. The Health Ministry said that at least 578 people and 46 police officers were killed on Wednesday.
South Africa's governing ANC will not attend commemorations marking the death of thirty-four striking miners (BBC) shot by police at Marikana mine a year ago, saying they have been "hijacked" for political reasons.
Czech president Milos Zeman will call an early election for late October (Reuters), if parliament votes to dissolve itself next week in a bid to end a political stalemate. The vote will mark the second election in three years after the center-right coalition collapsed due to spying and corruption allegations.
RUSSIA: Ukrainian companies are accusing Russian customs officials of discriminating against their exports (FT). Kiev has voiced concern that the alleged practices are aimed at discouraging Ukraine from signing free trade agreements this fall with the EU.
Horacio Cartes, whose election in April returned the Colorado party to power, was sworn in (MercoPress) as president of Paraguay on Thursday. The power shift comes after former president Fernando Lugo was impeached on incompetence charges and removed in 2012.
MEXICO: The United States requested the extradition (LATimes) of Rafael Caro Quintero, the Mexican drug lord who was convicted of killing a U.S. anti-narcotics agent in 1985 but was freed last week.