Fingers Point to Syria After a Killing
At first, it seemed identical to the other small bombs that have plagued Beirut since the approval over three weeks ago of a United Nations tribunal to investigate the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, a killing that many consider the work of Syria. But soon it became clear that last week's car bomb wasn't a random attack on Lebanon's anti-Syrian communities, but rather the targeted assassination of Parliament member Walid Eido, 65, his son, and two bodyguards. Six passersby were also killed and a dozen wounded.
Besides intimidating the political coalition of Sunni, Christians, and Druze (communities targeted by repeated attacks), which opposed Syria's 30-year control of Lebanon, Eido's murder thrusts the ruling coalition into crisis. Elected in 2005 with a narrow majority, the pro-western government of Fouad Siniora has seen resignationsstemming from threats and intimidationand a string of murders of key lawmakers whittle its majority down to a mere three seats.
A political power struggle with pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud and the Hezbollah-led opposition means Siniora can't hold new elections to replace the dead or resigned lawmakers. And as its legislative majority shrinks, the government grows weaker. Lahoud's term expires later this year, and pro-opposition Parliament Speaker Nabi Berri refuses to convene the body to discuss elections until its demands for veto power over policy are met.
The struggle couldn't come at a worse time, as the Lebanese Army continues a manpower and morale-sapping siege against Palestinian radicals in the north. As summer comes, it's clear something has to give in what many Lebanese consider a slow-moving coup.
A Double Play Against Terrorism
In the shadowy war on terrorism, it can be hard sometimes to ID the bad guys. That was the case with arrests made in Indonesia, where officials heralded the arrest of Abu Dujana, 37, who was at first described as heading the Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiya. Then officials said that he actually is the JI military commander and that another figure also nabbed on the island of Java, a man by the name of Zarkasih, 45, was actually the terrorist group's overall leader. If correct, this would be a double blow against JI, an affiliate of al Qaeda that is blamed for a number of terrorist assaultsincluding 2002 and 2005 bombings on the resort island of Balithat together killed more than 240 people, many of them western tourists. Indonesian authorities boasted that the captures will put an end to the mainstream JI organization. But the history of such terrorist groups has been that new leaders often rise from the ranks.
The Next Move Is Up to North Korea
Some $25 million in suspected illicit North Korean funds was at last transferred out of a Macao bank last week, according to authorities there. But will Pyongyangas it promisednow comply with a February 13 agreement to admit nuclear inspectors and freeze the operation of its Yongbyon plutonium reactor? Bush administration officials and those from other countries in the six-party nuclear disarmament talks expect so, and the North has said it would fulfill the accord once it had the money in hand.
But this is no ordinary disputeand no ordinary country. And so late last week, the North warned that it might bolster its "self-defense deterrent"a euphemism for nuclear weapons. Estimates now suggest that it could have cooked up enough plutonium for as many as 12 bombs. Japan's foreign minister is worried that North Korea might now issue more demands. If so, critics of the administration approach can be counted on to intensify their opposition. In any case, one of the moments when North Korean intentions will be tested appears to be at hand.
Haven't We Been Here Before?
There was a bit of political déjà vu in Israel last week as two veteran figures achieved posts they earlier had tried and failed to win. Elder statesman, former prime minister, and Nobel peace laureate Shimon Peres, 83, was elected by the Knesset to the largely ceremonial post of president, capping his lifetime at the center of Israel politics. And former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, 65, made a comeback as Labor Party leader and defense minister in the current centrist government.
Populous China's Name Shortage
The problem: too many people and not enough different names. As a result, China may soon try to reduce name confusion in a country where most of the 1.3 billion people share just 100 family surnames. For instance, 93 million Chinese have the surname Wang, the most common, and 92 million have the surname Li. A newborn can take the surname of either the father or mother, but now officials are considering also permitting a combined surname, such as Wangli or Liwang.
With Thomas Omestad, Mitchell Prothero and Associated Press
This story appears in the June 25, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.