Investigating Hezbollah

A UN tribunal in Lebanon has been trying to investigate the assassination of the country’s former prime minister, Rafiq Hariri. But tribunal staff members were attacked last week and Hezbollah has been calling for a boycott of the investigation (rumor is the UN is gearing up to indict some members of Hezbollah). Attempting to keep the tribunal above water, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice announced yesterday that Washington was giving $10 million to the investigation: “Efforts to discredit, hinder, or influence the tribunal’s work must not be tolerated.”

Yesterday, Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry explained that the U.S. embassy in Kabul would be growing. In a $511 million expansion, new buildings for offices and housing will be constructed, and the compound will eventually have 1,500 Afghan employees. Eikenberry said this is a tangible sign of Washington’s long-term commitment to the country.

The Democrats have been on President Obama’s case to clean house and change up his staff members. But administration officials say that things are moving ahead as planned before the election. Peter Rouse, Obama’s new chief of staff, is in the process of reviewing the situation now and will be finished before the end of the year. There may be some positions divided up, and it’s already common knowledge that a new secretary of defense and a new senior adviser will make their way to the White House before long—Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he is looking to retire soon, and current senior adviser David Axelrod is set to head back to Chicago at some point to oversee the 2012 reelection campaign. David Plouffe, one of Obama’s 2008 campaign strategists and currently an outside adviser to the president, should replace him.

In the wake of the printer-bomb plot, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said she is looking into new screening measures for flights carrying cargo. She chatted yesterday with some of the world’s top shipping companies about the measures.

And Hillary Clinton signed the Wellington Declaration today, bringing an end to U.S.-New Zealand estrangement. Twenty-five years ago, New Zealand said it was a nuclear-free zone and barred U.S. warships from visiting the country (Washington doesn’t reveal whether its ships carry nuclear weapons or not). The new agreement is meant to begin a strategic partnership in nuclear nonproliferation, counterterrorism, climate change and other issues.