Top News: Al-Qaeda Threatens Saudi Arabia Over Plan to Execute Prisoners

Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen threatened the Saudi government in a statement on social media over the government’s plan to carry out a mass execution of 50 prisoners, some of whom are al-Qaeda members. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) said it was aware of Saudi intentions to execute its members in Saudi prisons and pledged to carry out attacks in response . “We swear to God, our blood will be shed before the blood of our captives and their pure blood will not dry before we shed the blood of the soldiers of Al Saud,” the group said in a statement which was posted on Twitter and dated Tuesday. The Saudi monarchy has faced a rise in militant attacks in the past year, with the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) claiming responsibility for a string of mosque bombings and shootings. [NYT, 12/01/2015]



Sisi for climate change deal, but demands Western funding
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, representing African nations at a UN summit on climate change in Paris, said African countries are, compared to developed nations, less responsible for emissions of greenhouses gases that cause climate change. At the summit, Sisi called for more funding and “clearly defined commitments” from Western nations to provide African nations the ability to combat the effects of climate change. “All African nations are contributing less to the total harmful emissions and are the most affected by climate change,” Sisi told global leaders. He added, “Africa demands an international, just, and clear agreement that considers disparity of burdens between developed and developing countries.” He called for bolstering the ability of developing countries to cope with climate change, while urging annual funding of $100 million by 2020 to developing countries to fend off the phenomenon. He also cited a UN environmental report putting the financial gap in funding to Africa at $12 million a year by 2020–a gap that is expected to widen. He also called for the creation of an international accord to address the issues of climate change and place a legally binding agreement in place to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 12/1/2015]

Egypt, France worry about foreign fighters joining militants in the Middle East
Egypt’s President Sisi and France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve expressed on Tuesday their concerns over the phenomenon of foreign fighters joining militant groups in the Middle East. Sisi and Cazeneuve discussed several issues related to fighting terrorism and the importance of coordinated efforts. Presidential Spokesman Alaa Youssef said in a statement that Sisi expressed his condolences for the victims of the recent Paris attacks, praising the French security apparatus for showing professionalism and prompt reaction. The statement added that the French Interior Minister praised Egypt’s role in combating terrorism, whether on a domestic, regional, or international level. Both sides stressed the need to target the sources of funding for militant groups. Sisi was also informed of measures taken by French authorities regarding an assault on Monday in Paris on members of Egyptian media outlets. A video went viral online showing three men verbally and physically assaulting TV presenter Ahmed Moussa in Paris, a strong supporter of Sisi. The attackers on the clip spoke in what appears to be an Egyptian dialect. Cazeneuve said that the group was arrested and is currently under investigation. [Ahram Online, 12/1/2015]

Sinai expert detained upon arrival at Hurghada airport
National security forces detained investigative journalist, sociopolitical researcher, and Sinai expert Ismail Alexandrani upon his arrival at the Hurghada Airport early Sunday, his wife Khadeega Gaafar wrote on her Twitter account Monday. Alexandrani flew in from Berlin, where Gaafar alleges the Egyptian embassy had issued the warrant for his arrest on charges related to collaborating with international rights organizations. According to human rights lawyer, Gamal Eid, embassies are not authorized to issue arrest warrants, but do send reports on the activities of Egyptians abroad to local authorities that can result in disciplinary action. A source told Al-Ahram that prosecutors had issued a warrant for Alexandrani’s arrest, and that he was referred to State Security prosecutors for questioning, while security officials reportedly assured his friends he would be freed. At time of publishing, there was still no news on the results of the ongoing interrogation, which is said to have lasted 19 hours, or whether Alexandrani will face charges. Meanwhile, the family of Sherif al-Afify, a member of the Ultras Ahlawy group, has been missing for six days according to his family. Afify’s sister said security forces stormed their house in Nahia, Giza, Thursday afternoon and took the young man into custody. They remain unaware of his whereabouts. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 11/30/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Two French men stopped on way to ISIS in Libya
Two French nationals suspected of wanting to join Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) training camps in Libya before heading to Syria were arrested in Tunisia in mid-November, according to an official at the Paris prosecutor’s office. It is the first case made public of potential French ISIS recruits travelling to Libya instead of Syria, where hundreds of French citizens have already joined the ranks of the hardline group. According to the official, the two men, aged nineteen and twenty, were arrested near Tunisia’s southern border with Libya. They were handed over to French authorities on November 13, the day of the Paris attacks claimed by ISIS that killed 130 people. The official said the two men had said they wanted to train in Libya with the aim of fighting with ISIS in Syria. [Reuters, 11/30/2015]

Members of Libya’s rival parliaments unite in opposition to UN-brokered political agreement
A groundbreaking meeting was held last Thursday in Tunis between 27 members from the House of Representatives (HOR) and the General National Congress (GNC) in opposition to the UN-brokered Libya Dialogue and proposed Government of National Accord (GNA). The meeting is the first major and publicly announced meeting of members from the two opposing parliamentary bodies. The 27 members are almost all from eastern Libya and refer to themselves as representing the eastern region of Cyrenaica. The HOR and GNC members that met in Tunis do not represent the majority views in both their respective parliaments, as a majority in both the Tripoli and Tobruk parliaments have publicly announced their support for the UN-led Libya Dialogue and the proposed GNA. However, a minority of hardliners in both parliaments that include the leadership of both houses are reported to have prevented a vote on the UN-proposed GNA. [Libya Herald, 11/30/2015]

Tunisia’s president criticized over party crisis intervention
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi was criticized by opponents on Monday as having breached the constitution after trying to end a dispute in which 32 Nidaa Tounes lawmakers have threatened to resign over what they say is Essebsi’s son’s attempts to control his party. Beji Caid Essebsi appeared on state television late on Sunday to announce the creation of a committee to negotiate between the party’s two factions to find a consensus. Opponents accused him of violating the constitution by blurring lines between the state and his party. “The president has disrespected the constitution, it is prohibited to mix the state with party business,” said Issam Chebbi, leader of the Republican Party. “It’s clear he does not know how to distinguish between the two roles.” The People’s Party in statement asked him to appear in parliament to explain what it called breach of the constitution. [Reuters, 11/30/2015]

Tunisia to cut CO2 emissions by 41 percent in 2030
Tunisia will reduce its CO2 emissions by 41 percent by 2030, Prime Minister Habib Essid said Monday. A 13 percent share of this reduction will be a voluntary and non-conditioned contribution, while the remainder will be mobilized through financing, transfer of technology, and capacity-building in adaptation to climate change. In his speech to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, Essid recalled that Tunisia has been a leading country in the adoption of and commitment to all international agreements. [TAP, 11/30/2015]

Tunis shortens curfew imposed after bus bombing
The Tunisian government on Tuesday shortened a nighttime curfew imposed in the capital after a deadly bombing on a presidential guard bus last week. The curfew will now start at midnight instead of 9:00 pm, allowing some respite for Tunis shopkeepers and cafe owners who felt the pinch from the loss of business in a city of more than one million people that usually bustles at night. The curfew will continue to run until 5:00 am. Other measures imposed after the November 22 attack will remain in place, the Prime Minister’s office said. They include a 30-day nationwide state of emergency and a 15-day closure of the border with Libya, where investigators believe the bombing was planned. [AFP, TAP, 12/1/2015]


Assad accuses France of ‘supporting terrorism’; UK to vote Wednesday on Syria air strikes
Syrian President Bashar Assad was asked whether he could see a peace deal being signed in Prague, as Czech President Milos Zeman had suggested in September. “Naturally, if you ask Syrians they will tell you they don’t want a peace conference in France, for example, because France supports terrorism and war, not peace,” he said on the CT public station. In other news, Britain’s parliament is to hold a vote Wednesday on joining air strikes against Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in Syria, Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday. “I can announce that I will be recommending to cabinet tomorrow that we hold a debate and a vote in the House of Commons to extend the air strikes,” Cameron said. The Prime Minister added that Britain wanted to “answer the call from our allies and work with them because ISIL is a threat to our country and this is the right thing to do.” [AFP, 12/1/2015]

Syria denies using chemical weapons in civil war
Syria on Monday denied ever using chemical weapons in its civil war, telling the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) it was cooperating fully with the destruction of its toxic stockpile. Damascus’s rebuttal comes amid growing accusations it is not being transparent with the world’s chemical watchdog and UN efforts are stepped up to track down the perpetrators of deadly chlorine gas attacks in the country last year. “We wish here to state categorically that we have never used chlorine or any other toxic chemicals during any incidents or any other operations in the Syrian Arab Republic since the beginning of the crisis and up to this very day,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Moqdad told the OPCW at their annual meeting. [AFP, 12/1/2015]

Syria’s al-Qaeda branch releases captive Lebanese soldiers
Syria’s al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front on Tuesday released a group of Lebanese troops held captive for over a year as part of a swap that involved Lebanon setting free at least eleven prisoners wanted by the militants, including a former wife of ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The swap, brokered by Qatar, took place in the northeastern Lebanese town of Arsal, where the three soldiers and 13 policemen were captured during fighting in August 2014 between Lebanese security forces and militant Islamist groups. Nine other Lebanese soldiers were still being held by ISIS, said Lebanese army spokesman Col. Anis Khoury. [WSJ, AP, 12/1/2015]

Deal reached over last Syria rebel exit from Homs city
A deal has been reached for the evacuation of Syrian opposition fighters from the last district under their control in the central city of Homs, said provincial governor Talal Barazi on Tuesday. “We will implement the agreed deal in stages, with 200-300 armed men leaving in the first stage … starting on Saturday,” Barazi said. On Monday, Barazi said that negotiations are underway between the Syrian regime and rebels for the evacuation of opposition forces from the last area they hold in Homs city. Waer is the only part of the city, which is the capital of Homs province, which remains in the hands of the rebels after opposition forces were evacuated from the Old City in May 2014. [Al-Arabiya, 12/1/2015]

Putin meets with Obama to discuss Syria on sidelines of Paris climate conference
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that he and President Barack Obama have a shared understanding on how to move toward a political settlement in Syria, but added that incidents like the recent downing of a Russian warplane by a Turkish fighter jet stymie broader cooperation against extremism. Putin and Obama had a half-hour meeting on the sidelines of a climate summit near Paris, and the Russian leader told reporters they discussed efforts to compile a list of extremist groups and another one of members of legitimate political opposition. Putin said, “We have an understanding how we should proceed if we talk about a political settlement. We need to work on a new [Syrian] constitution, new elections and the control over their outcome.” [AP, 12/1/2015]

Turkey detains 11 ISIL members near Syrian border
Eleven foreign nationals suspected of planning to join ISIS have been captured by police in Turkey’s southern province of Kilis. More than 2,500 ISIS members have been captured across the country over the past three years, with 837 of them from non-Turkish origin, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Having added ISIS to the official list of terrorist organizations in 2013, Turkish security forces have since detained 2,627 suspected ISIS members in anti-terror operations. Some 632 among the 2,627 detained individuals were subsequently arrested and 120 tons of bomb-making material was seized. More than 100 of the arrested suspects were foreign nationals. [Hurriyet, 12/1/2015]

European court slams Turkey over Youtube case
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Turkey violated the European Convention on Human Rights by blocking access to YouTube. A group of three Turkish law teachers had taken the case to the court in 2010 after a Turkish criminal court ordered the blocking of access to YouTube for more than two years because some videos were available that were “insulting to the memory” of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk–the first president of the republic of Turkey. The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that the blocking order had affected the teachers’ right to receive and impart information and that there had been a “violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.” [AP, Reuters, 12/1/2015]

Turkey calls for opening of communication channels with Russia
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on Tuesday to open communication channels between Turkey and Russia to prevent incidents like the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkish jets along the Syrian border last week. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan did not meet at Monday’s summit in Paris, which Erdogan described as an opportunity to mend shattered ties between the two countries. “Our call to Russia again is to open military communication channels to prevent similar incidents happening. Let’s keep diplomatic channels open,” Davutoglu told a news conference before departing on an official visit to northern Cyprus. “We must sit down and talk at the table instead of making unfounded allegations,” he added. [Reuters, 12/1/2015]

Iraqi Kurdistan minister says no link between oil sales and ISIS
The Iraqi Kurdish minister for natural resources said on Tuesday reports that the regional government was helping smuggle oil from fields controlled by Islamic State militants were “wild imagination and unsubstantiated.” Kurdistan began bypassing Baghdad and exporting oil directly in 2014 following a dispute with the federal government about its share of the budget. It is currently exporting more than 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil. “We are dealing with Daesh [ISIS] on the front line. We have bombed their infrastructure. Not one drop of oil came in [from ISIS],” he said. The KRG said on Monday all crude oil that moved through its pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, as well as all cargoes loaded at that point, had been verified and there was no question as to their origin, in response to reports that it was enabling oil produced in Islamic State-held areas to be sold along with its own output. [NYT, 12/1/2015]

For more in-depth Syria news and analysis, please visit SyriaSource.


Dozens of Houthis killed in major offensive across border from Yemen
Dozens of Yemeni Houthi rebels were killed during an assault on the border with Saudi Arabia, residents and Saudi state television said on Tuesday, in what they described as a major push to try to capture territory inside the kingdom. Another Saudi border guard was also killed in the cross-border shelling from the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri said, “There was an attempt, as usual, to breach the border and sneak into Saudi territory, but the … armed forces as a whole were watching them and this attempt was thwarted.” The Houthi-run SABA news agency said that fighters had seized three Saudi military outposts near the city of Najran, destroying several armored vehicles, including two US-made Abrams tanks and three Bradley vehicles. Meanwhile, Houthi fighters killed another Saudi border guard, the eighth death from Yemeni firing into the kingdom in just three days. [Naharnet, Reuters, 12/1/2015]

UAE says ready to commit troops to fight ISIS
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has said it is ready to commit ground troops against jihadists in Syria and described Russian air strikes in the country as attacks on a common enemy. UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said, “[The UAE would] participate in any international effort demanding a ground intervention to fight terrorism.” Gargash added that regional countries must bear part of the burden in international efforts to defeat the ISIS. The UAE is a member of the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against ISIS but there have been growing calls for their anti-ISIS intervention to expand to a ground force. [AFP, 11/30/2015]

Saudi Arabia invites 65 Syrian opposition figures to Riyadh ahead of peace talks
Saudi Arabia has issued invitations to 65 Syrian opposition figures to attend a conference in Riyadh to try to unify their positions ahead of proposed Syrian peace talks. While no date has been set for the meeting, an unnamed source has said that it will reportedly be held next week. Ahmed Ramadan, a member of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) opposition group, confirmed the Saudi Foreign Ministry’s invitation to attend the conference in Riyadh. He said 20 members of the coalition based outside Syria had been invited, along with seven from the National Coordination Body, an internal opposition group. [NYT, 12/1/2015]


Russia says Turkey shot down Russian plane to defend oil supplies from ISIS
Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that Turkey downed a Russian warplane on November 24 in order to protect oil supplies from the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). “We have received additional data which confirm that Islamic State oil … enters the territory of Turkey,” he said. “We have every reason to think that the decision to shoot down our plane was dictated by the desire to protect the oil supply lines to Turkish territory.” Putin added that the decision to shoot down the plane was a “huge mistake.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan challenged Putin’s claim, saying, “If you allege something you should prove it.” Erdogan has previously said claims that Turkey buys oil from ISIS are slander. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on Russia to reestablish dialogue with Turkey, rather than make “baseless accusations.” Putin snubbed a request by Erdogan to meet on the sidelines of a UN climate conference near Paris on Monday. [Reuters, BBC, CNN, 11/30/2015]

Algerian parliament approves 2016 budget, energy price increases
Algeria’s parliament on Monday approved increases in prices of domestic gasoline, diesel, gas, and electricity as part of its 2016 budget. This marks the first increase in the subsidized prices of those products in over a decade. Under the new law, gasoline prices will go up by 6 dinars and diesel by 1 dinar. Value-added tax (VAT) on electricity and gas will increase from the current 7 percent to 17 percent. VAT will also be applied to 3G internet services. “The fuel price increase is inevitable,” said Finance Minister Abderrahmane Benkhalfa. The 2016 budget law also calls for a 9 percent cut in spending. The government has already announced delays to some infrastructure projects. Last week it said it would reform its subsidy system over the next few years. Algeria expects its energy earnings to fall 50 percent to $34 billion this year and to $26 billion in 2016. [Reuters, 11/30/2015]

Central Bank of Egypt unable to meet EGPC’s dollar requirements
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) is unable to provide the monthly requirement of $700 million to import petroleum materials and natural gas. An official from the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) said the state gas company requested $700 million per month from the CBE in the second quarter of the current fiscal year to import petroleum materials and natural gas. However, in October the CBE provided only $160 million, which placed pressure on the EGPC to provide the remaining dollar requirements to meet the market’s needs. The official said the CBE told the EGPC that it is unable to provide all the monthly dollar requirements due to pressure on foreign currency reserves and Egypt’s credit rating. Meanwhile, the Federation of Egyptian Banks (FEB) on Monday rejected the Egyptian Tax Authority’s effort to register a value-added tax (VAT). A source said that the FEB drafted a memorandum detailing the banks’ rejection of the VAT registration and submitted it to new CBE Governor Tarek Amer. [DNE, 11/30/2015]

Qatar launches $5.5 billion, five-year loan into syndication
The government of Qatar has invited banks to provide it with a $5.5 billion loan, as Doha becomes the latest Gulf government to seek funds as low energy prices pressure its finances. The five-year loan is smaller than the amount of up to $10 billion that bankers last month said the government aimed to borrow. The loan will temporarily reduce the government’s domestic borrowing and relieve upward pressure on local money market rates. The Qatari riyal fell sharply in the forward foreign exchange market last week as traders worried that Doha might have trouble agreeing with banks on the terms of the loan. Marketing of the loan deal will close in the third week of December. The transaction is being arranged by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Mizuho, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, and Qatar National Bank. [Reuters, 12/1/2015]

Tunisia seeks to create agency to manage the country’s debt
Tunisia’s Finance Ministry is seeking to create an agency to manage the country’s debt, Finance Minister Slim Chaker said Monday. Chaker said the state budget will see a rise in debt servicing in 2017 and 2018, but he noted that foreign debt servicing is expected to decrease by 2021. Chaker also said the government is working to reduce the cost of domestic and foreign debt and direct foreign debt to financing investment and development. Meanwhile, Chaker said Tunisia’s Finance Ministry has completed reforms related to the management of three public banks that required a recapitalization of MTD 650 million. He also said that state revenues from the sale of seized companies will be significant in 2016, but he did not provide further details about the value of the sales. [TAP, 11/30/2015]