Top News:Anti-Houthi Forces Capture Yemen’s Largest Air Base

Fighters loyal to Yemen’s exiled President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi, backed by Gulf Arab support, seized the country’s largest military base from Houthi forces Monday after heavy combat in which dozens were killed or captured. The victory marks another significant gain for the Hadi loyalists after they drove the Houthis from the southern port of Aden in July following months on the defensive. The recapture of the al-Anad air base also opens up the road north to the city of Taiz, where Houthi militias have been locked in combat with local fighters siding with Hadi. A senior military official in the Hadi camp says that the army will march on to complete the “liberation” of the provinces of Lahj and Abyan. President Hadi said on Monday that his supporters would continue to use force until the entire country is liberated. [The Daily Star, 8/4/2015]



United States delivers tank turrets to Egypt for joint tank production
The United State handed Egypt five tank turrets last week to be used in US-Egyptian tank production inside a tank plant in Egypt, the US embassy in Cairo announced on Tuesday. US Embassy Senior Defense Official in Cairo Major General Charles Hooper said the delivery will provide Egypt’s armed forces with “additional means to fight extremism in the region,” in a statement provided by the embassy. “The delivery of the turrets will allow over 2,000 Egyptian citizens to work at the production plant, as well as provide the armed forces with additional means to fight extremism in the region,” he added. According to the statement, the United States is set to deliver fourteen more M1A1 turrets to Egypt this month, with further turret deliveries scheduled as production continues. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, 8/4/2015]

Australian Foreign Minister warns Egypt of ‘ramifications’ of trying Al Jazeera reporter
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop revealed that her country warned Egyptian authorities of “ramifications” if they continue with the prosecution of Al Jazeera English journalist Peter Greste, who was deported to Australia earlier this year while his trial over terrorism-related charges continues. In an interview for ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program, which aired on Tuesday, Bishop told Greste she spoke with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry last month to “set out quite plainly Australia’s position” and warn that the trial “would have ramifications for the relationship and for Egypt’s reputation more generally.” The Foreign Minister acknowledged that Australia had “little political leverage with Egypt,” and so it launched a concerted advocacy campaign involving high-level diplomatic contacts from the United States, the EU, and the UN. [Ahram Online, 8/4/2015]

New report highlights expansion of presidential powers
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights’ (EIPR) newest report says that a presidential decree issued in July, which allows the presidency to remove heads of independent governmental bodies, “disarms” those bodies of the independence necessary to function effectively. Law 89/2015 grants the President the right to dismiss heads and members of independent bodies and regulatory agencies under four different circumstances. However, EIPR has called into question the intentions and potential effects of the law, arguing that it leads to “further consolidations of the powers of the executive branch in general and the institution of the presidency in particular, to the detriment of separation of powers and efforts to combat corruption and promote good governance.” [DNE, 8/3/2015]

Egypt’s security at highest level ahead of New Suez Canal opening
The opening ceremony of the New Suez Canal, which will take place in less than seventy-two hours, will be secured by more than 10,000 police personnel assigned by the interior ministry, reported state news agency MENA on Monday. The Egyptian armed and police forces will also take a leading role in securing the Suez Canal opening, using heavily equipped forces from the different military divisions. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met Saturday with members of the National Defense Council, in a meeting that concluded the steps necessary for securing and preparing for the opening, according to a military statement Sunday. Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi ordered the preparation of the army’s elite forces to secure the event. Heavily armored units from the Third Field Army will also secure the Suez Canal axis and raise its alert level for bases and patrols. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, DNE, 8/4/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


ISIS threatens Haftar and House; NCCLHR blames Hafter for violence in Tripoli
The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) posted a video threatening the House of Representatives (House) and Armed Forces Commander Khalifa Haftar with unspecified retribution for their operations against the organization. In the course of the six-minute clip that included cutaways to ranks of seated fighters, an ISIS man with a clear Tunisian accent claims to issue the threat from Sirte. Meanwhile, the Tripoli-based National Council of Civil Liberties and Human Rights (NCCLHR) demanded an immediate end to military operations in Benghazi, blaming Operation Dignity led by General Khalifa Hafter almost entirely for the city’s misery and destruction. [Libya Herald, 8/3/2015]

Libyan accused in Benghazi attacks seeks dismissal of case
Ahmed Abu Khattala, a Libyan militant accused in the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, asked a judge to dismiss charges against him. Lawyers for Abu Khattala argued in court papers Monday that he should be returned to Libya and that his capture by US special forces last year was part of a “government conspiracy.” Abu Khattala was arrested in Libya last year and brought to Washington to face charges for the killings. In new court filings, his lawyers argue that the plan to arrest Abu Khattala and transport him to the United States violated his rights and broke domestic and international law. [AP, 8/3/2015]

HRW condemns alleged abuse of al-Saadi Qaddafi
Human Rights Watch says Libyan prison authorities should investigate the alleged abuse of al-Saadi Qaddafi, son of Muammar Qaddafi, and other inmates in a Tripoli prison. In a statement late Monday, the US-based group said a video showed guards beating al-Saadi Qaddafi on the soles of his feet during an interrogation at al-Hadba prison. Other prisoners were seen in the background crying out in pain from being beaten as well. Qaddafi’s son has been in pretrial detention since authorities in Niger extradited him to Libya in 2014. The spokesman for the UN mission to Libya Samir Ghatas expressed concern, adding that he would be contacting the authorities to shed light on the incident. [AP, Libya Herald, 8/4/2015]

Algeria plans to reopen border with Libya
Algeria plans to reopen its border with Libya in the next few days. The Ghadames-Debdeb and Ghat-Tin El Koum border crossings have been closed since May 2014. However, this did not stop illegal migrants from entering Libya or terrorist movements in either direction. According to the reports, the Algerian government took the decision to reopen the crossings a few days ago and began technical preparations to implement the action. Although Libyans will be allowed to enter Algerian territory, Algerians will not be allowed to travel to Libya. Algeria is still nervous about the number of its own citizens who have joined militant Islamists in Libya. [Libya Herald, 8/3/2015]


First US-trained Syrian rebel killed in fighting; Nusra Front captures five US-trained rebels
US officials said Monday that a member of the US-trained “Division 30” Syrian rebel force is believed to have been killed in clashes last Friday with the Nusra Front. The Pentagon declined to comment on what would be Division 30’s first battlefield casualty, citing “operational security reasons.” The Nusra Front captured at least five more US-trained Division 30 rebels in raids Monday night on the village of Qah in northwestern Syria. A monitoring group reported that the Nusra Front stormed a camp for internally displaced people in Qah where the rebel fighters had taken refuge. It also claimed that the Nusra Front is “hunting down” US-backed rebels in both Idlib province and neighboring Aleppo province. [Reuters, 8/3/2015]

Britain extends Iraq air strikes mission by one year
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Tuesday that Britain is extending its air strikes against Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) targets in Iraq by one year to March 2017. The Cyprus-based Tornado fighter jets carry out air strikes, reconnaissance, and surveillance missions over Iraq, but not Syria, as part of US-led operations. Secretary Fallon also stated that the air campaign against ISIS is making progress and that UK jets have pushed militants out of key towns. An Iraqi spokesman said Monday that more than 1,500 schools have been damaged or destroyed in Iraq’s Anbar province, and that “most of these schools were targeted directly by the criminal gangs of Daesh (ISIS).” Deputy Iraqi Prime Minister for Energy Affairs Bahaa al-Aaraji said Friday that the former government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wasted around $1 trillion of public funds and did not have a strategy for investment. [AFP, BBC, 8/4/2015]

Syria’s western-backed political opposition structure re-elects President
Syria’s western-backed National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces said in a statement that it re-elected Khaled Khoja for a second term as its President during a general assembly meeting, which concluded near Istanbul on Sunday. Khoja, unlike previous Coalition presidents, is not seen to be strongly aligned with either Saudi Arabia or Qatar, the Coalition’s biggest financial and political backers. [Reuters, 8/3/2015]

Two security personnel killed by mine in southeast Turkey
Turkish security sources said two Turkish soldiers and an armed guard were killed in a blast from a homemade mine planted by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants Tuesday in the southeastern province of Sirnak. The deaths bring the number of Turkish security forces killed by the PKK since July 20 to at least eighteen, marking the worst bloodshed since the PKK and the Turkish government agreed to a ceasefire in 2013. EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn told Turkish EU Minister Volkan Bozkir Tuesday that Ankara has “the right to react to any form of terrorism,” but urged that the response be “proportionate, targeted, and by no means endanger the democratic political dialogue” between Turkey and the Kurds. US and Turkish officials said Monday that they reached an understanding during their discussions last week that an ISIS-free safe zone in northern Syria will not clear the way for Kurdish fighters. [Reuters, 8/4/2015]


UN Envoy to Yemen says he is making progress in peace negotiations
The UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed believes his plan to end the months-long conflict in Yemen is increasingly gaining acceptance among the warring parties, a UN spokesman said Tuesday. On a recent visit to Cairo, Cheikh Ahmed met with the Secretary General of the General People’s Congress (GPC), which supports former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthi movement, and the Secretary General of the Arab League, which is involved in an air campaign against the Houthis. Cheikh Ahmed will travel next to Oman and Riyadh for further negotiations with the Houthis and the Saudi-led Arab forces. The conflict in Yemen has left over 2,000 civilians dead and has caused tens of thousands to flee to neighboring countries. The small nation of Djibouti recently filed for international assistance, as more than 10,000 refugees have overwhelmed its hospitals and shelters. [Reuters, 8/4/2015]

Anti-Houthi forces capture Yemen’s largest air base
Fighters loyal to Yemen’s exiled President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi, backed by Gulf Arab support, seized the country’s largest military base from Houthi forces Monday after heavy combat in which dozens were killed or captured. The victory marks another significant gain for the Hadi loyalists after they drove the Houthis from the southern port of Aden in July following months on the defensive. The recapture of the al-Anad air base also opens up the road north to the city of Taiz, where Houthi militias have been locked in combat with local fighters siding with Hadi. A senior military official in the Hadi camp says that the army will march on to complete the “liberation” of the provinces of Lahj and Abyan. President Hadi said on Monday that his supporters would continue to use force until the entire country is liberated. [The Daily Star, 8/4/2015]

GCC officials cautiously endorse Iran nuclear deal
In a statement released on Monday, the Gulf Arab states said that they welcomed the nuclear deal negotiated between Iran and world powers but said they would like further assurances that the United States would help them counter increasing Iranian assertiveness in the region. “He let us know that there is a going to be live oversight over Iran,” Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiya said of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s presentation in Doha. “This is reassuring to the region.” Al-Attiya added that the Gulf Arabs ultimately would like to see a ban on nuclear weapons in the entire Middle East and that the Iran deal could be the first step in a process to bring one about. Kerry assured the Gulf leaders that the deal promotes security in the region but cautioned that it ultimately may have no effect on Iran’s behavior. “Every state in the region hopes that there could be a change but we have to prepare for the possibility and eventuality that it won’t,” he said. [AP, 8/3/2015]


US Treasury sanctions Syrian government’s energy networks
The US Department of Treasury on Monday targeted eleven companies and individuals suspected of providing energy products to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for use in the country’s civil war. The Treasury said many of those targeted are front companies used by the Syrian government to evade US and EU sanctions. Any of the sanctioned individuals and entities risk seizure of assets under US jurisdiction and are barred from commercial dealings with the United States. [AP, Reuters, NYT, 8/3/2015]

Egypt to cut oil debt in August, repay rest by end of 2016
Egypt aims to reduce its debt to foreign oil companies to $2.9 billion from $3.5 billion by the end of 2016. Oil Minister Sherif Ismail said Egypt plans to repay the rest of the debt by the end of 2016, pushing back the deadline by about six months. Egypt’s oil ministry said in March that it aimed to repay fully its debts to energy companies by mid 2016, about a year later than previously indicated. The payments to oil and gas companies have been delayed by economic instability. Ismail added that Egypt will no longer receive oil grants from Gulf Arab allies. “Gulf oil grants are over. We are now talking about trade agreements where we pay for what we get either in the form of crude oil cargoes or in cash,” he said. Egypt is in energy talks with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, he said. [Reuters, 8/3/2015]

Tunisia foreign reserves drop marginally after militant attack
Tunisia’s foreign currency reserves have dropped only marginally since a June 26 militant attack in Sousse, according to central bank data. The figures suggest authorities are succeeding in preventing the decline in tourism earnings from threatening any balance of payments crisis, even though the country runs a substantial current account deficit. Net assets in foreign currency totalled 13.36 billion dinars ($6.78 billion) at the end of July, compared to 13.50 billion dinars in mid-June. The central bank did not say how it had prevented a significant fall in reserves during July, but Tunisia has been receiving foreign aid from governments and multilateral donors. Recently, the European Union adopted the first part of its annual assistance package for Tunisia, totaling EUR 116.8 million. The aid aims to strengthen Tunisia’s security sector and support socioeconomic and regional development. [Reuters, 8/4/2015]

PKK attacks Turkey’s halted Shah Deniz gas pipeline
Kurdish militants attacked Turkey’s Shah Deniz pipeline carrying natural gas from Azerbaijan early on Tuesday, but the blast did not affect supply as flow had already been halted for maintenance, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said. The blast came days after another attack by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) halted flows along a pipeline carrying crude oil to Turkey from Iraq. British Petroleum (BP) said on Monday it had suspended operations on the Shah Deniz platform in the Caspian Sea as well as the Shah Deniz facility inside the Sangachal terminal for planned maintenance from August 2. Shah Deniz, Azerbaijan’s biggest gas field, is being developed by partners including BP, Norway’s Statoil, Azeri state energy company SOCAR, and others. [Reuters, 8/4/2015]

Middle East refinery expansion plans hit snags
Middle Eastern countries are experiencing setbacks in plans to expand their oil refining capacity, hampering efforts to reduce reliance on imported oil products such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. In Saudi Arabia, a 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) refinery complex in the Red Sea port city of Jizan will not open in 2017 as planned due to disagreements with contractors. In the United Arab Emirates, a 200,000 bpd refinery in Fujairah will not be completed until the end of 2018. The refinery was scheduled to be opened in 2016. In Kuwait, plans to build the 615,000 bpd Al Zour refinery have stalled over political opposition and the plant is not scheduled to open until 2019 at the earliest. [WSJ, 8/3/2015]