Israel’s government collapse. In a historic first, the Israeli parliament was dissolved Thursday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a majority coalition. Snap elections will be held Sept. 17. On the surface, the failure to build a coalition stemmed from a dispute between ultra-Orthodox parties and the secular nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, which is demanding legislation setting draft quotas for ultra-Orthodox seminary students currently exempt from mandatory military service. Extended political paralysis can cripple any country’s ability to act decisively in regional affairs, and Israel, like many countries in the Middle East, is perpetually struggling to find the right balance between its religious and national identities. But since the majority of Israelis identify with Netanyahu or with parties ideologically similar to his, the Israeli government will continue to defend its interests in the region and beyond – and a Jewish state above all else.

Pipeline disputes. The CEO of Austrian energy company OMV said in an interview with the Financial Times that he wanted to know whether the European Union was prepared to defend European firms against potential U.S. sanctions over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said last week that sanctions on companies involved in the project between Russia and Germany would be coming soon. Critics in Washington and Eastern European capitals have warned that the pipeline would make Europe more dependent on Russian gas supplies. They’ve also said the creation of more alternative supply routes gives Moscow more power to cut off shipments through Ukraine, which counts on transit fees for billions of dollars in revenue each year. Nord Stream 2 likely came up during German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’ meeting with new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday. Officially, Maas and his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, were in Kiev to express their support for Ukraine in its domestic reforms and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Russian warnings. Russia is concerned about the prospect of an armed confrontation between the United States and Iran, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with the Rossiyskaya Gazeta. On May 29, Ryabkov visited Tehran to discuss the Iran nuclear deal with his Iranian counterpart, Abbas Araghchi. According to Ryabkov, Iran’s move toward exiting the nuclear deal could lead to the deal’s collapse and a potential military confrontation. Ryabkov criticized U.S. steps to increase its military presence in the Gulf region but warned Iran against withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which he said would be another step toward destabilization.

More on Japan’s slow, steady expansion into the Indo-Pacific. It takes so long for a country to appreciably expand its naval presence that even the more mundane developments are worth checking in on. Such is the case for Japan. The U.S. Naval Institute has noted the Japanese navy’s plans to retrofit their Izumo-class helicopter carriers to be able to fly the F-35B and its completed delivery of 10 (of 14) Soryu-class diesel-electric submarines. Developments like this increase Japan’s forward denial capability. The institute also noted that improvement is needed in intracommand communication, budget and personnel distribution. The Defense Post mentioned Japan’s efforts to expand its security footprint in the Horn of Africa with the expansion of its Djibouti operations, though by how much remains unclear. Last week, the Izumo conducted a joint drill with an Indian frigate, while two Japanese destroyers joined warships from Australia, South Korea and the U.S. in another landmark naval drill. Earlier this week, meanwhile, Manila said it expects greater security assistance from Japan. On the civilian side, the Japanese government announced $1.2 billion in loans to Bangladesh for infrastructure projects, including a port and high-speed railway. Japan’s compulsion to expand its Indo-Pacific presence stems from its reliance on oil imports from the Middle East and the need to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

Security in the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia will host a summit for Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab League countries on Thursday. Qatari Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani is expected to attend; he will be the highest-ranking Qatari official to visit the kingdom since the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar in 2017. The summit will cover regional security issues and the rising tensions with Iran. Meanwhile, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton is currently on an official visit to the United Arab Emirates, where he reiterated his belief that Iran was almost certainly behind the recent attacks on UAE and Saudi oil tankers in the Gulf.

Honorable Mentions