- Guatemala plans to move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.
Russia’s election commission barred Alexei Navalny from running for president, which is very convenient for Vladimir Putin.
The New York Times published an account of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s October/November trip to Saudi Arabia, during which he announced his resignation. According to the Times, Hariri was forced to resign by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as part of an ill-conceived scheme to push Hezbollah out of Lebanon’s government:
The Saudi moves that started on Nov. 4 came in rapid-fire succession. In the space of little more than a day, the Saudis extracted Mr. Hariri’s resignation; accused Iran and Lebanon of an act of war after Yemeni rebels fired a missile at Riyadh; and rounded up the princes and businessmen on opaque corruption charges. A week later, they ordered Saudi citizens to evacuate Lebanon.
The burst of contentious actions sent war tremors across the region.
With anxieties running high, Lebanese officials worked to head off what they feared was a long-range plan by Saudi Arabia to destabilize Lebanon’s volatile Palestinian refugee camps. There were even concerns in Beirut that Saudi Arabia or its Lebanese allies were seeking to form an anti-Hezbollah militia in the camps or elsewhere, two senior Lebanese officials and several Western diplomats said. No such plots came to fruition, and the Saudi official said none were even considered.
Western and Arab officials say they are still puzzling over what the Saudis hoped to accomplish with all this intrigue. Several do not rule out the possibility that they aimed to foment internal unrest in Lebanon, or even war.
- Reuters describes the state of Christians in Iraq this Christmas:
Before the militant onslaught, Qaraqosh was the largest Christian settlement in Iraq, with a population of more than 50,000. But today, only a few hundred families have returned. Entire congregations have moved overseas, such as the Syriac Orthodox congregation of the Church of Mart Shmony.
On Saturday afternoon, Father Butros Kappa, the head of Qaraqosh’s Church of the Immaculate was trying hard to summon any sense of hope to deliver his congregation during Christmas Mass.
“We’ll have a Christmas Mass like in previous years, but this year, ours will be a joy soaked in tears, because all of our people have left Iraq,” said Father Kappa.
Holding Mass in the singed and upturned ruins of his church was therefore important, he said, “to remind everyone that despite the tragedies that have befallen us, we’re still here.”
An ISIS suicide bomber attacked Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security in Kabul, killing five civilians and wounding two.
Scott Manley explains the SpaceX rocket trail over southern California that had people calling 911: