Daily News Brief

June 8, 2009

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

- Lebanon's pro-Western March 14 coalition reportedly defeats Hezbollah in vote.
- North Korea sentences two U.S. journalists to twelve years hard labor.
- Pakistani tribesmen take up arms against Taliban in Upper Dir.
- Right-leaning parties make gains across Europe in EU parliamentary vote.

Top of the Agenda: Lebanon Election Results

Lebanon's ruling coalition, the country's Western-backed "March 14" bloc, retained its majority in a much-anticipated electoral showdown against an opposition bloc led by Hezbollah, which is widely seen as a proxy for Syrian and Iranian interests. The Lebanese paper Daily Star reports officials from the Hezbollah bloc have conceded defeat to news agencies, though only unofficial results have been released at this point. The vote, the article says, pivoted around Christian swing districts.

Al-Jazeera reports official results are not expected until later today but that all major parties appear to be accepting the accuracy of the reported unofficial polls.

The leader of the March 14 bloc, Saad Hariri, the son of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, must still work to form a government. Both Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement, an influential party led by former army chief Michel Aoun, have indicated that they would like to join a unity government with Hariri's supporters--though Hariri said before the election that he was not inclined to form a government with Hezbollah.

Reuters has a feature outlining the reaction of different Lebanese political leaders to the reported results.

Analysis:

An article in Foreign Policy argues that losing might actually serve Hezbollah's purposes.

Background:

This Backgrounder explains the structure of Lebanon's vote and profiles its major players.

CFR experts Mohamad Bazzi and Steven Cook discuss the importance of the Lebanese vote for the Obama administration's new plans for engagement in the Middle East.

PACIFIC RIM: North Korea Sentences Journalists

A North Korean court sentenced two American journalists (Yonhap) to twelve years of hard labor on charges of illegal entry and conducting a"grave crime" against North Korea, potentially further escalating tensions between the countries. President Obama said he was "deeply concerned" (BBC) about the verdict and a White House spokesperson said Washington would pursue "all possible channels" to secure the two journalists' release.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports this morning that the Obama administration is seeking a way to interdict North Korean ships thought to be carrying weapons or nuclear technology.

CHINA-JAPAN: China Daily reports China, Japan, and the United States are expected to hold the first in a series of new trilateral talks next month, focusing both on economics and North Korea, among other issues.

SOUTH & CENTRAL ASIA: Pakistan Fighting

Pakistani tribesman unaffiliated with the country's military took up arms (Dawn) against Taliban militants following a recent mosque bombing in Upper Dir province in the country's northwest that incensed the tribesmen.

The News reports the attacks could represent Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud losing support.

Meanwhile, the Daily Times reports thirteen political activists were murdered in a bloody day in Karachi.

CENTRAL ASIA: EurasiaNet reports separatist tensions are simmering on the Tajik-Kyrgyz border.

AFRICA: Gabon's President

Gabon's prime minister has issued a denial of weekend news reports that the country's longtime president, Omar Bongo, had died. The government of Spain, where Bongo was being treated for cancer, also said he is still alive (BBC).

GUINEA-BISSAU: The UN News Service reports a presidential candidate and a member of parliament in Guinea-Bissau have been killed, in separate incidents, just months after the country's president and chief of staff were both assassinated.

AMERICAS: Drug War Strategy

The Associated Press reports the Obama administration intends to dedicate more drug war funding to operations on the U.S.-Mexico border, trying to clamp down on cross-border weapons and cash flows. The administration added that it would work to find more effective ways to quell U.S. demand for narcotics.

CUBA: The Miami Herald reports that in a post-embargo world, Cuba could become an oil supplier to the United States.

EUROPE: Center-Right Victories in Europe

Center-right and far-right parties made gains (BBC) in Europe's parliamentary elections. Leftist parties suffered losses across Europe, but most pointedly in Britain (FT).

Der Spiegel reports voter apathy among moderates may have influenced the results.

RUSSIA: The Economist reports Russia's economic woes could wind up strengthening the Kremlin's power.

 

SUBSCRIBE:

For a free email subscription to the Daily News Brief and other CFR.org eNewsletters, please click here.