Top News: As Syria rebels face rout, allies, Saudi, Turkey may send troops

With rebel forces facing the prospect of a crushing defeat by Syria’s Russian-backed regime, their allies Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Turkey may send in limited numbers of ground troops, analysts say. Riyadh on Thursday left open the possibility of deploying soldiers, saying it would “contribute positively” if the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) decides on ground action. Andreas Krieg of the Department of Defense Studies at King’s College London said the “moderate” opposition is in danger of being routed if Aleppo falls to the regime. Russia meanwhile has accused Turkey of “preparations for an armed invasion” of Syria. Iran’s chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards said on Saturday, Saudi Arabia would not dare send ground troops to war-torn Syria. Major General Ali Jafari, commander of the Guards, said such a move would amount to suicide for Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Syria will resist any ground incursion into its territory and send the aggressors home “in coffins,” its Syria’s foreign minister said on Saturday, stating any foreign army soldiers who enter Syria without government consent would amount to an aggression that must be resisted whether they were Saudis or Turks. Additionally, Chechen forces have been helping Russia with intelligence on the ground regarding ISIS. [AFP, 2/8/2016]



Egypt’s Foreign Minister in three-day visit to US for international, regional talks
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry began a three-day trip to Washington on Sunday, where he is set to meet with his American counterpart, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Shoukry’s visit targets bolstering bilateral ties and will include important meetings, Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid added in a statement. In addition to his meeting with Kerry, Shoukry is set to meet with National Security Advisor Susan Rice, as well as Congress members and the heads of intelligence and military service committees. He will also hold interviews with NPR radio, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, and plans to host seminars at several research centers. “This visit comes after the election of parliament which marked the final step in Egypt’s political roadmap … giving a new impetus and boost to Egyptian-US relations,” Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 2/7/2016]

Egypt’s parliament votes for investigation into top auditor corruption claims
Egypt’s MPs voted on Sunday, with a 54 percent majority, in favor of allowing an ad hoc parliamentary committee to begin investigating the veracity of top auditor Hisham Geneina’s corruption claims. The decision was made despite a media gag order imposed by the country’s Prosecutor General Nabil Sadek. MPs said the prosecution’s investigation should not stand in the way of parliament also investigating the issue. Despite objections from parliamentary speaker Ali Abdel-Al, MPs launched scathing attacks against Sadek’s decision to impose a media gag order on the investigation of corruption allegations issued by Geneina. MPs of Egypt’s new parliament also opened fire on the top auditor, accusing him of acting on behalf of the ousted regime of Muslim Brotherhood, which they said is doing its best to “mislead the public and discredit the rule of President Sisi.” MP Adel al-Sherif said, “Parliamentary deputies are the ones who are more keen than the judicial authority to express the will of the people and that the prosecutor’s order in the Geneina case should not prevent legislators from exercising their supervisory powers.” His words received quick backlash from Abdel-Al who ordered that “they be removed from the session’s minutes.” [Ahram Online, MENA, 2/7/2016]

Slain Italian student in Egypt suffered ‘inhuman’ violence
A second autopsy performed late Saturday in Rome on the body of Italian student Giulio Regeni found slain in Egypt reveals that the doctoral student suffered “inhuman, animal-like” violence, Italy’s Interior Minister said Sunday. The autopsy concluded that Regeni died after a cervical vertebra was broken, but authorities await the full autopsy results. According to Italian media, the findings led to the conclusion that Regeni’s neck was twisted or struck, breaking a vertebra and leaving him unable to breathe. It said he also suffered other fractures. Rome prosecutors have opened a murder investigation into Regeni’s death. “We want the real perpetrators to be discovered and punished according to the law,” Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Monday. News reports in Italy have said Italian authorities strongly suspect Egyptian security forces interrogated, tortured, and killed him in an attempt to gain information his contact in the Egyptian labor movement. Regeni had written articles under a pseudonym for an Italian newspaper on the movement. In an interview with an Italian newspaper, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry vehemently denied those allegations. A spokesman for the Egyptian Interior Ministry also dismissed allegations that security forces could have been responsible for Regeni’s killing. Friends and political activists gathered at the Italian embassy in Cairo on Saturday laying flowers and lighting candles in memory of Regeni. [AP, Reuters, The Guardian, 2/8/2016]

Sinai State announces beheading of two Egyptians for cooperating with security
The Islamic State’s Egypt affiliate, Sinai State, announced the beheading of two people in North Sinai for alleged cooperation with security forces. Graphic pictures of the victims, 28-year-old Wael al-Shaaer and 27-year-old Salama Suleiman, were published in Dabiq, the online magazine of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). The images show the two men lying on the floor with their hands tied, as Sinai State militants prepare to behead them. News circulated about Shaaer’s disappearance on January 31, when family members published his picture on social media, claiming he was kidnapped on arrival in Rafah. The source said he was visiting his sick father in Rafah when he was kidnapped. “Shaaer used to cooperate with security bodies, but he only used to run errands for them,” one of his old classmates claimed, adding that there have been several kidnappings targeting residents of North Sinai for cooperating with security forces. [Mada Masr, 2/7/2016]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Airstrikes kill four in Libya’s Derna
Libyan parliamentarian Hamid al-Bandag says an airstrike hit a medical technology college in a populated area of the eastern city of Derna, killing at least four people including a woman and her child. The strike damaged a medical facility, a mosque, and nearby homes, local television reported. No actor has claimed responsibility. Airstrikes by unidentified jets often target suspected Islamist militant targets, including fighters loyal to Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) who have been present in Derna. The Libyan Air Force in Benghazi has denied carrying out the operation, leading to suggestions that foreign aircraft were responsible. The civilian deaths are likely to reinforce public opposition to any foreign air raids in Libya, even against ISIS forces. [Reuters, AP, AFP, Libya Herald, 2/7/2016]

Heavy clashes in southeast Libya, 30 killed
Two days of clashes near Kufra in southeastern Libya between a local armed faction and Sudanese fighters have left more than 30 people dead, a local mayor said on Friday. The commander of the Libyan Subul Assalam faction, Abdurrahman Hashim, said the Sudanese fighters were rebels from Sudan’s Darfur region who had moved into the area around the town of Kufra following the uprising that toppled Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. He said the Libyan group was retaliating for armed robberies and attempted attacks on Kufra in Libya’s desert southeast, which shares a border with northwestern Sudan. Kufra Mayor Miftah Bou Khalil said Subul Assalam fighters attacked an oasis 150 km northwest of Kufra on Friday, killing ten Sudanese fighters and capturing four. He said at least 20 Sudanese fighters were killed in an attack on a checkpoint 200 km north of Kufra and further clashes to the south of the town on Thursday. [Reuters, 2/5/2016]

Tunisia unveils Libya border fence
Tunisia has completed a 200 km barrier intended to deter Islamist militants along its frontier with Libya, and will soon install electronic monitoring systems, Defense Minister Farhat Hachani said on Saturday. Troops have raised an earth wall and dug trenches 2 km (1.2 miles) from the Libyan border, stretching from the main border crossing Ras Jedir on the coast to Dehiba, the southern border crossing. The second part of the barrier is currently under construction and is expected to total approximately 500 km in length upon completion. Horchani said the project came about with financial assistance from Germany and the United States, and German and US military trainers will soon train Tunisian forces to improve electronic surveillance with cameras and radar. [Reuters, AP, Libya Herald, TAP, 2/6/2016]

EU provides EUR 10 million to support public media in Tunisia
The European Union has allocated EUR 10 million in support for public media in Tunisia as part of a technical support program to the audiovisual sector, according to Head of the EU Delegation to Tunisia Laura Baeza. Interim President of Tunisian state television Rached Younes stressed the need to improve the quality of services to the public and strengthen the credibility of information to form a new relationship with the audience based on trust and transparency. [TAP, ANSAmed, 2/5/2016]

Algerian lawmakers pass constitutional reforms
On Sunday Algerian lawmakers passed constitutional reforms proposed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, including reinstating a two-term limit for the presidency and boosting parliamentary powers. The FLN along with other pro-government parties hold a majority in both chambers of the parliament and 499 out of 517 lawmakers present voted in favor, with 16 abstaining. Several opposition parties boycotted the vote. Approval of the reforms should prompt the naming of a new government cabinet by Bouteflika. According to the reforms, the president must now consult with the majority in parliament when choosing a prime minister, and create an independent election monitoring body. [Reuters, AP, 2/7/2016]


Syrian rebels lose ground as Kurds begin diplomatic talks with Russia
Syrian rebels have withdrawn from three villages threatened by Russian strikes in the northern province of Aleppo that borders Turkey, allowing Kurdish fighters to overrun them, a monitor said Monday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the rebels abandoned the villages of Aqlamiyah, Deir Jamal, and Mareanar on Sunday at the insistence of residents who feared their homes would be bombed. That enabled the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to move in to seize the three villages, in another setback for the rebels only days after they lost three nearby towns to the Kurds. Syrian troops also recaptured a new village north of Aleppo within a few kilometers of the Turkish border as part of a major Russian-backed offensive in the area. State-run news agency SANA said army troops took control of the village of Kfeen in the northern countryside of Aleppo “after wiping out the last group of terrorists there.” Syrian Kurdish separatists have announced plans to open “representation” offices in several capitals, starting next week with Damascus regime ally Moscow, an official said on Saturday. “The autonomous Syrian Kurdish region will open an office in Moscow on February 10 and is preparing to open another in Berlin, with Washington, Paris and Arab countries coming later,” said Deputy Head of the Hasaka Committee for External Relations Amina Oussi. [AFP, 2/8/2016]

UN probe accuses Damascus of ‘extermination’ of detainees
Detainees held by the Syrian government are dying on a massive scale amounting to a state policy of “extermination” of the civilian population, a crime against humanity, UN investigators said on Monday. UN investigators accused Damascus of “extermination” in its jails and detention centers, saying prisoners were executed, tortured to death, or held in such horrific conditions that they perished. The UN commission of inquiry called on the UN Security Council to impose “targeted sanctions” on Syrian officials in the civilian and military hierarchy responsible for or complicit in deaths, torture and disappearances in custody, but stopped short of naming them. In their report, the independent experts said they had also documented mass executions and torture of prisoners by two jihadi groups, Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, constituting war crimes. The report, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Deaths in Detention,” covers March 10, 2011 to November 30, 2015. [AFP, Reuters, 2/8/2016]

De Mistura wants to see willingness to reach Syria peace deal
UN Syria Envoy Staffan de Mistura said Friday he was looking for confirmation that key international players were willing to push ahead with peace talks after he suspended the latest attempt at negotiations in Geneva. In an interview with the Italian daily La Republica, de Mistura said he would meet next week in Munich with the countries that are part of an international group seeking a solution, in particular the US, Russia, and Iran. “We will looking for confirmation at the defense conference in Munich on February 12,” he told the paper. Facing Western criticism over the halt to Syria peace talks, Russia said Friday it plans to present new ideas on how to restart peace efforts at a meeting of nearly 20 key nations on February 11. Russia on Friday curtly rejected Western accusations that it had sabotaged Syria peace talks in Geneva, and said it had some “new ideas” on how to move the stalled negotiations forward. [AFP, 2/8/2016]

Turkey, Germany to carry joint diplomatic efforts to end Aleppo onslaught
German Chancellor Angela Merkel traveled to Ankara Monday for talks on how to reduce the influx of migrants into Europe. Speaking in a joint press conference with the chancellor, Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu said that it is unreasonable for the world to expect Turkey to shoulder the refugee burden on its own, while he thanked Merkel for her efforts regarding the matter. He noted that at least 30,000 refugees fleeing the Russian-backed airstrikes on Aleppo are waiting at the Turkish border, stating this new inflow could reach 1 million. Merkel expressed that she is “not just appalled but horrified” by the suffering caused by Russian bombing in Syria and noted that Turkey and Germany are on the same page regarding humanitarian assistance for refugees. The leaders announced that an agreement had been reached on a set of measures to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis, including a joint diplomatic initiative aiming to halt attacks against Syria’s largest city. [AP, Bloomberg, Today’s Zaman, 2/8/2016]

Erdogan to United States: Choose either Turkey or the PYD as your partner
Turkey’s president lashed out at the United States a week after President Barack Obama’s envoy visited a northern Syrian town that is under the control of Syrian Kurdish forces. The statement came after envoy Brett McGurk’s visit to Kobani, where the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), aided by US-led airstrikes, drove back ISIS a year ago. Turkey considers the PYD a terrorist group because of its affiliation with Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In comments published Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Washington should choose between Turkey and the PYD as its partner. Erdogan said, “How can we trust you? Is it me that is your partner or is it the terrorists in Kobani?” While speaking at a joint press conference with his Senegalese counterpart during a brief stopover in the West African country on Friday, Erdogan also dismissed a Russian statement that Turkey was preparing for an incursion in Syria, saying he is “laughing” at the claim. [AP, Today’s Zaman, 2/7/2016]

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


Iran-backed militia warns against sending Arab forces to Syria, Iraq
Kataib Hezbollah, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shia militias, warned that Arab forces sent to Syria or Iraq would “open the gates of hell,” referring to Sunni Arab countries that have said they might join such an operation. Kataib Hezbollah, whose leader Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes heads the Baghdad-sanctioned coalition of mainly Shia militias battling ISIS alongside Iraq’s regular forces, has sent fighters to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad’s troops in that country’s five-year-old civil war. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) said on Sunday it was ready to supply ground troops to help support and train an international military coalition against ISIS in Syria, provided such efforts were led by the United States. Saudi Arabia, one of several Sunni Gulf Arab states, including the UAE and Bahrain, said last week it was ready to participate in any ground operations in Syria if the US-led coalition decided to start such operations. [Reuters, 2/7/2016]

Iraq’s water minister says only tiny danger of Mosul dam collapse
In an interview with al-Sumaria TV, Iraq’s water minister Muhsin al-Shammari downplayed warnings that Mosul dam will collapse, estimating only a “one in a thousand” chance of failure. Shammari said that the solution would be to either build a new dam or install a deep concrete support wall 150 to 200 meters deep. In the meantime, workers are removing five to six tons of concrete a day at a cost of $6 million a day and an Italian company has been awarded a contract to make urgent repairs to the dam which has suffered from structural flaws since its construction in the 1980s. The US military has warned that a collapse of the 2.2 mile-long hydroelectric dam located near ISIS-held territory in the country’s north would be catastrophic. [Reuters, 2/6/2016]

Iraq says planned Baghdad wall will not change demographics
Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, said that the security wall being built around Baghdad is “not politically motivated” or aimed at “achieving demographic change.” Saad al-Hadithi spoke after an earlier statement from Abadi’s office seemed to dismiss the idea of a wall. The plan for the wall was originally drafted by the Interior Ministry as an effort to curb near-daily attacks carried out by ISIS and cut down on checkpoints inside the city that hinder traffic. The Interior Ministry’s spokesman Brigadier General Saad Maan said that the “wall” would be comprised of checkpoints around the city, cutting off routes that ISIS uses to smuggle car bombs in. [AP, 2/7/2016]

Iraq to deploy 4,500 to Makhmour front for planned Mosul offensive
Iraq’s defense ministry is aiming to deploy 4,500 soldiers to the Makhmour front in preparation for the long-anticipated offensive against ISIS in Mosul. Iraq’s Defense Minister Khaled al-Obaidi, who visited Makhmour on Saturday, reportedly discussed the deployment of troops with Kurdish military officials. Shakhawan Abdullah, a Kurdish lawmaker and head of the Iraqi parliamentary security committee told Rudaw that “the deployment comes with Kurdistan’s consent and coordination, and it is also temporary” and he added that the military base and the control of the front will be given back to Peshmerga forces after the Mosul operation. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi met with members of the Parliamentary Security and Defense Committee, during which they discussed the importance of maintaining the momentum of victories over ISIS, the liberation of Mosul, and the cooperation and coordination between all armed forces involved in the fight against ISIS. [Rudaw, 2/8/2016]

Three British troops injured in covert operation in Iraq
Three members of Britain’s Special Forces were injured in fighting with ISIS gunmen in Iraq, the Mirror reported on Saturday without giving any details about its sources. The injured men were reportedly from the SAS and SBS units and were taking part in a 25-strong allied Special Forces patrol in northern Iraq when they came under fire by 30 ISIS fighters in armored Humvees stolen from the Iraqi army. The report said the ISIS fighters involved in the incident were all killed as the Special Forces fought back with assault weapons and called in an airstrike. [Reuters, 2/6/2016]

Airstrikes force ISIS to halve fighters’ pay, but UN says militants still pledge allegiance
ISIS has been forced to cut its fighters’ pay by up to 50 percent because US-led airstrikes have had a substantial impact on the money it makes from oil, according to Daniel Glaser, assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the US Treasury Department. Speaking at a conference in London, Glaser pointed out that the strikes had hit the group’s ability to extract, refine, and transport oil from territory it controlled in Iraq and Syria. The US estimated that ISIS made some $500 million a year from oil, along with hundreds of millions more from taxation and extortion to go with the hundreds of millions it had seized from banks when it captured Iraqi towns and cities. Despite the losses, 34 militant groups from around the world had reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS as of mid-December. That number will only grow in 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report Friday. [Reuters, 2/8/2016]


Yemen Foreign Minister calls for US support in fight against Houthis and Al-Qaeda
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalek al-Mikhlafi on Monday called on the United States to support the country’s government in its efforts to combat terrorism and extremism. In a meeting with the US ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller, Mikhlafi underscored the Houthis’ refusal of UN resolutions and international will. He emphasized the government’s efforts for a resolution to the crisis and commitment to the Gulf initiatives, national dialogue, and the UN Security Council resolutions. He also said the Houthis do not want peace and are working to implement a regional agenda that will jeopardize the security and stability of the country and the region. [Al Masdar, 2/8/2016]

Saudi intercepts scud missile from Yemen
Saudi air defenses on Monday intercepted a Scud missile fired at Khamis Mushait city where a major airbase is located, the coalition fighting in Yemen said. The intercept occurred “this morning at about three o’clock,” Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition said. “They are still targeting the cities,” he said. Roughly 60 miles from the Yemeni border, the King Khalid Air Base, near the city of Khamis Mushait, is at the forefront of Saudi-led air operations against Houthi militias and troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. [AFP, 2/8/2016]

Al-Qaeda tightens its grip on south Yemen coast
Al-Qaeda overran a police headquarters in a south Yemen provincial capital Saturday, strengthening their grip on the coast road overlooking the Gulf of Aden, security sources said. Militants, who hold parts of the lawless south of the war-torn country, seized the headquarters in Zinjibar unopposed by pro-government forces who fled the capital of Abyan province. Militants have controlled other government buildings in Zinjibar for weeks and also have a large presence in the nearby town of Jaar. Security sources also said that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has named Tawfiq Belaidi, brother of Jalal Belaidi who was killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike Thursday, as the “emir [ruler] of Zinjibar.” [AFP, 2/6/2016]

UAE says ready to support anti-ISIS coalition with troops
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) said on Sunday it was ready to send ground troops to Syria as part of an international coalition to fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (known as ISIS or ISIL). Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said at a media briefing in Abu Dhabi, “We have been frustrated at the slow pace . . . of confronting Daesh,” he added, referring to ISIS by its Arabic acronym. “We are not talking about thousands of troops but we are talking about troops on the ground that will lead the way … that will support … and I think our position remains the same and we will have to see how this progresses,” he said. Gargash added “US leadership on this” would be a prerequisite for the UAE. In response to the UAE and other Gulf states, one of Iraq’s most powerful Iranian-backed Shia militias Kata’ib Hezbollah warned that Arab forces sent to Syria or Iraq would “open the gates of hell”.[Reuters, 2/7/2016]

Saudi King Salman calls for others not to interfere in kingdom
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Sunday called on other countries not to interfere in the kingdom’s internal affairs in what appeared to be a rebuke to Riyadh’s main foe Iran, which it accuses of attempting to stir unrest. “It is our right to defend ourselves, without interfering in the affairs of others. We call on others to not interfere in our affairs,” Salman said in a speech opening the annual Janadriya cultural festival in Riyadh, state news agency SPA reported. “We cooperate with our Arab and Muslim brothers in all areas in defending our lands, ensuring their independence, and guarding their government systems as sanctioned by their peoples,” he added. [Reuters, 2/7/2016]

Saudi Arabia places 27 on trial for spying for Iran
Twenty-seven people, mostly Saudis, are to appear before the Criminal Court in Riyadh on Sunday for spying for Iran. The accused were arrested in 2013 in Riyadh, Makkah, Madinah, and the Eastern Province. The Saudi national security department of the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution has already completed the list of charges against the accused. The bureau had sufficient evidence on the involvement of the accused. The list of charges includes gathering data on a number of vital installations in Saudi Arabia. [Saudi Gazette, 2/8/2016]


Saudi power projects will need $133 billion investment over 10 years
Saudi Arabia will need to invest $133.3 billion in electricity projects over the next ten years to cope with rising power demand, its Electricity and Water Minister Abdullah al-Hussayen said Sunday. Hussayen said the country expects peak electricity to hit 90,000 megawatts (MW) in 2022. Installed capacity is currently around 70,000 MW. “The expansion plan in the sector … requires the execution of electricity projects for the next ten years whose costs will exceed 500 billion riyals and in which the private sector is expected to take part,” al-Hussayen said. He added that contracts to build an electricity grid to connect Saudi Arabia and Egypt will be signed before mid-2016. The project aims to allow power trading between the two countries and will operate at full capacity before mid-2019, according to al-Hussayen. [Reuters, 2/7/2016]

Egypt to set 2016-17 budget at devalued exchange rate
Egypt is drafting its 2016-2017 budget on the basis of an exchange rate of 8.25 Egyptian pounds to the dollar compared to 7.75 pounds this fiscal, two government sources said Monday, indicating that the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) is preparing to devalue the pound. The assumed exchange rate in early drafts of the next budget suggests that the CBE could be planning to abandon the current rate of 7.7301 before the end of June. The CBE has defended the pound against growing pressure to devalue, but with foreign exchange reserves scarcely enough to finance more than three months’ worth of imports, economists say it cannot hold out forever. The bank has taken a series of steps in recent months to ease the dollar shortage, including raising a cap on foreign exchange deposits at banks for essential goods and introducing measures to dampen the demand for dollars by reducing imports. [Reuters, 2/8/2016]

Libya’s western NOC warns of illicit sales from east
The National Oil Corporation (NOC) in western Libya has warned traders against loading “illicit” cargoes of oil at Hariga port in the eastern part of the country, as the company’s eastern counterpart acknowledged the signing of ten contracts to export crude from the terminal. Around seven companies signed oil-purchase contracts with people who say they represent the government based in eastern Libya and “have no authority to sell Libyan oil,” the Tripoli-based NOC said in a statement. It identified Loyd Capital and Netoil as among buyers attempting to load crude at Hariga. “The only authority legally empowered to sell Libyan crude oil is the National Oil Corporation, with its seat in Tripoli,” the western NOC said. It added that it has advised ship owners to “verify whether charterers’ contracts are legitimate, or run the risk of having their ships impounded.” Meanwhile, the eastern NOC is seeking to hire a UK law firm to sue the NOC in Tripoli, Chairman of the Eastern NOC Nagi al-Magrabi said Friday. [Bloomberg, 2/7/2016]

Libyan public sector wages 31 percent over budget in 2015
Salaries paid by the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) in 2015 to state sector employees are rumored to have exceeded the planned budget by a third, amounting to LD21 billion, prominent businessman Husni Bey said, citing a senior CBL official. The CBL budgeted LD15 billion, although the House of Representatives and General National Congress each had their own budget for public salaries. Those paid included teachers, police, doctors and hospital workers, ministry officials, and others working for both the eastern or western governments. They also included the Libyan National Army and members of some brigades. [Libya Herald, 2/7/2016]

Oman to borrow $5-10 billion from abroad
Oman plans to borrow between $5 billion and $10 billion from abroad to help finance a budget deficit caused by low oil prices, Central Bank Executive President Hamood Sangour al-Zadjali said on Monday. He said the government may issue eurobonds by the middle of 2016, but did not comment further on the timing of the foreign borrowing. He also said the government plans to issue 600 million rials ($1.56 billion) of domestic bonds this year, or about 100 million rials every two months. [Reuters, 2/8/2016]

Jordan says promised trade perks will help employ Syrian refugees
Jordanian Planning Minister Imad Fakhoury said his country has been promised easier trade terms by the international community, which could potentially generate large-scale investment and “hundreds of thousands of job opportunities. Fakhoury told reporters Sunday that creating jobs for Jordanians is a priority, but that the trade commitments could also put 200,000 Syrian refugees to work. Fakhoury says that in addition to trade perks, Jordan will also receive billions of dollars in grants and easy loans in coming years. [AP, 2/7/2016]