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Lebanon's newly formed Cabinet. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

After months of protests and unrest, a Hezbollah-backed prime minister and Cabinet are assuming leadership in Lebanon as they meet for the first time on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

The big picture: Prime Minister Hassan Diab is inheriting a plethora of problems he must address quickly if he hopes to financially stabilize Lebanon and win the trust of protesters. He must also quell the nerves of the Arab Gulf states — who are concerned about Hezbollah's growing influence in Beirut and hesitant to extend financial support as a result, per Reuters.

The state of play: Lebanon has essentially been without any leadership or structured government since former Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in October 2019.

  • Lebanon is in a state of economic crisis and is currently struggling with a public debt equal to 150% of its GDP, per Reuters.
  • Protesters have been in the streets rallying against political corruption and calling for sweeping reform since October.
  • Diab said his first trip as prime minister will be to other Arab countries, specifically the Gulf states.
  • The mostly peaceful protests became violent this past weekend for the first time, leaving 540 protesters and police wounded, per Al Jazeera.

What they're saying: "This [is a] government that does not aspire to cronyism and favors," Diab said, according to Al Jazeera. "None of the members of the government will be standing for the next elections. This government is made up of non-partisan people who are not affected by political wrangling."

The Cabinet: Diab is a 60-year-old former professor at the American University of Beirut, Al Jazeera notes.

  • Many of Diab's Cabinet members have limited or no experience relating to the new ministries they lead, per the New York Times.
  • Worth noting: Six of the new ministers are women, including those for defense, justice and labor — making Lebanon a "rarity" in the Middle East, the Times notes.

The bottom line: In order for Lebanon to financially stabilize, Diab will have to make tough decisions such as imposing capital control and cutting down civil services, which could further alienate him with protesters, per the Times.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 46 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Alabama's new congressional map rejected by federal judges

The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Federal judges on Monday night blocked Alabama's newly drawn congressional map and ordered the Republican-led State Legislature to create a new one that includes two districts, rather than the planned one.

Why it matters: "Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the panel of three judges wrote in their ruling.

Australian Open organizers reverse "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirt ban

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai during the 2020 Australian Open in Melbourne. Photo: Bai Xue/Xinhua via Getty Images

Australian Open organizers on Tuesday reversed a ban on t-shirts supporting Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai following widespread criticism.

Why it matters: Tennis Australia's announcement came less than 24 hours after the governing body defended the decision to ask fans last Friday to remove "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirts, citing ticket policy prohibiting political clothing, per the BBC.

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