Lebanese PM Hariri expected in France, Islamic State loses control of last town in Iraq

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  • Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is expected to leave Saudi Arabia for France to meet French President Emmanuel Macron over the weekend, according to a member of parliament for Hariri’s Future Movement. L’Orient-Le Jour, a French-language Lebanese daily newspaper, said the invitation has “relaxed the atmosphere” (link in French) in the multi-confessional country.
    • Hariri – who also holds Saudi citizenship – shocked Lebanese and international observers alike when he unexpectedly announced his resignation in Riyadh on November 4, accusing Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of meddling in the region’s affairs. Many Lebanese and regional commentators, however, believe Hariri’s resignation was forced by the Saudis – his political patrons – because he didn’t take a tough enough stance against political opponent Hezbollah (see WikiTribune coverage on Lebanon). Saudi Arabia has denied forcing Hariri to resign or holding him against his will.
  • The Iraqi military claimed the town of Rawa from the Islamic State, saying that this was the last town controlled by the militia group. The Syrian government has also claimed victory over IS, however, Reuters reports that fighting continues in the Syrian town of Albu Kamal.


  • Robert Mugabe appeared in public for the first time since the Zimbabwean military moved against the 93-year-old president on Wednesday, effectively putting him under house arrest. With the situation in Harare unclear as a power struggle plays out in the ruling Zanu-PF, Mugabe emerged at a graduation ceremony. The independent Zimbabwean website, The Zimbabwean.co which is published outside the country, reported that Mugabe was negotiating terms for a handover in power and retirement in neighboring South Africa. Reuters reports that part of any deal may involve reinstating one-time Mugabe right hand man Emerson Mnangagwa — nicknamed “the Crocodile” for his tactics as a guerrilla — who was fired as vice president. Mugabe has been accused of trying to create a dynastic succession after 37 years in power to his wife Grace.
    A Reuters report from its correspondent in Harare quoted what it said was a senior source in the Zanu-PF as making clear Mugabe faced an ultimatum: “If he becomes stubborn, we will arrange for him to be fired on Sunday. When that is done, it’s impeachment on Tuesday.”
  • The U.S. suspended election support for democracy in Cambodia after its Supreme Court dissolved the opposition party, effectively paving the way for a one-party state led by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The European Union also said that Cambodia’s access to EU trade preferences was threatened saying the election in 2018 could not be legitimate without an opposition. Hun Sen has said he needs no legitimacy from foreigners.
  • Russia again vetoed UN Security Council action on Syria, this time blocking an extension on a U.S.-backed measure to investigate a chemical weapon attack that killed dozens in April. It was the 10th time Russia has quashed a resolution on Syria, its ally, since the war began in 2011. Bolivia also voted against the probe, which Russia described as unbalanced, while China and Egypt abstained. U.S. President Donald Trump had urged the measure’s renewal, tweeting that it was necessary to prevent the Assad regime from again committing “mass murder with chemical weapons.”

What we’re reading

  • The Battle of Stalingrad, now Volgograd, was one of the fiercest in WWII. It also was a turning point in the war effort for the Soviets, who managed to resist the Nazi advance, break the siege, and go on the offensive. The Reich never recovered. The New York Times Russian photojournalist Sergey Ponomarev explores how the battle is remembered in the rebuilt city, 75 years later and 100 years since the Bolshevik Revolution. – George Engels

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