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U.S. President Joe Biden arrives for the G20 leaders summit in Rome, Italy October 30, 2021.

Brendan Smialowski/Pool via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: Biden in Europe, Gulf states vs Lebanon, elections in Nicaragua, South Africa & Virginia

Biden's Euro trip. President Joe Biden is on a crucial Euro trip. It began in Rome at the G-20 Summit, where his idea for a global minimum tax rate was broadly endorsed by the group. Biden also visited Pope Francis at the Vatican — a get-together that produced decidedly less scary photos than when his predecessor held a papal visit — and met with France's President Emmanuel Macron to try to smooth over strained relations after the AUKUS debacle, which he now says had been "clumsy." The US president had another face-to-face with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, just a week after Ankara threatened to expel the US ambassador. But there's a domestic component at play too: Biden was hoping to have passed two infrastructure bills, which include money for climate change, before he attended the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, which kicked off on Sunday. Failure to close the deal on Capitol Hill would deal Biden's credibility a heavy blow just at the moment he wants to reinforce the US commitment to climate change reduction goals at this week's summit and to claim, yet again, that America is indeed back! But Democrats continue to wrangle over both what's in the bills and how to pay for them. Meanwhile, only a third of Americans now say that the US is headed in the right direction. Biden was hoping to have the wind at his back as he sailed into Europe. Instead, he is facing a strong political headwind.

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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.

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