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What We're Watching: Gulf states unleash on Lebanon

Gulf states lash out at Lebanon. Cash-strapped Lebanon is grappling with yet another crisis after Saudi Arabia expelled its ambassador, a move promptly followed by the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait in solidarity with Riyadh. The trigger? A Lebanese minister had previously criticized the Saudis' involvement in the ongoing war in Yemen, suggesting that the coalition led by Riyadh was the aggressor in a conflict with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Indeed, this latest episode reveals that Lebanon — which has long been plagued by sectarian tensions — yet again finds itself in the crosshairs of the Iran-Saudi rivalry. (Saudi Arabia ceased giving aid to Beirut since the-Iran backed Hezbollah movement has gained increasing influence in Lebanese political and social life.) But since billionaire tycoon Najib Mikati was appointed Lebanon's PM in September, the US and France have been lobbying the Saudis to soften their hardline approach to Lebanon, which the Gulf views as an Iranian client state, and reinstate aid to the crisis-ridden country, where three-quarters of the population now live below the poverty line. The latest episode shows that despite speculation of a détente between Tehran and Riyadh, deep animosity persists.

What We're Watching: Bangladesh religious violence, Ecuadorian drug emergency, Lebanese to vote, Russia ditches NATO

Religious tension rising in Bangladesh: Clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Bangladesh have surged over the past week, leaving at least four people dead. After an image was posted on Facebook showing the Quran at the feet of a statue at a Hindu temple, Muslims burned Hindu-owned homes and attacked their holy sites. Both sides have taken to the street in protest, with Hindus saying that they have been prevented from celebrating Durga Puja, the largest Hindu festival in the country. Such acts of sectarian violence are not uncommon in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim country where Hindus account for nine percent of the population. Indeed, as Eurasia Group's Kevin Allison recently warned, unverified social media content stoking inter-ethnic conflict is a massive problem throughout South Asia, where for many people Facebook is synonymous with the internet.

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Lebanon is on fire. Where's the fire brigade?

It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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