Top News:  Benomar Warns of Yemen’s Fragility; Southerners Mark October 14 Revolution

UN Special Advisor to Yemen Jamal Benomar warned of implications of such violence for the country’s situation on Tuesday, telling reporters on the sidelines of a UN Security Council meeting that the transition process is in danger of collapse.

Benomar said that “the only way to save the transition process is the full implementation of the peace and partnership agreement,” and that the UN would “not hesitate to condemn any violations” of the agreement. Benomar’s calls for unity came as citizens of Aden commemorated the October 14 revolution against British control and some separatist leaders called for southern independence.




Prime minister says parliamentary district law to be issued in three weeks
Egypt’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said late Monday that a law redrawing the country’s parliamentary districts will be issued within the next two to three weeks. Mahlab said the law is currently being revised, aiming to redraw Egypt’s districts to comply with the requirements of the new constitution. Article 102 of the new constitution stipulates that legislators must ensure that they represent both geography and population. Efforts aimed at holding Egypt’s parliamentary elections later this year have gained momentum in recent days, but Justice Minister Mahfouz Saber indicated it could take longer. As a member of the legislative reform committee, Saber released a public statement after an October 9 meeting with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi saying that the electoral districting cannot be finalized because “the new [district borders] cannot be completed without taking the addition of three new governorates into account,” suggesting a wider public dialogue would be required. [Ahram Online, 10/14/2014]

Kerry says US to send Egypt Apache helicopters in November
The United States will send Apache helicopters to Egypt in November, said US Secretary of State John Kerry Monday at a meeting Monday with President Sisi in the presence of Foreign Minister Sameh Shokry. Kerry also said that a group of investors would visit Egypt the same month to study available investment opportunities, as Kerry made clear US intentions to assist Egypt in its economic growth. Kerry broached human rights during the meeting as well. “The Secretary also emphasized the importance of a vibrant civil society and giving all Egyptians space to make their voices heard,” a State Department official said. The pair met following the daylong Gaza Reconstruction Conference held in Cairo on Sunday to discuss the outcome of the day’s events and bilateral and regional cooperation. Kerry said on Sunday that Egypt’s role, as “an intellectual and cultural capital of the Muslim world,” is highly important in “in publicly renouncing the ideology of hatred and violence that [ISIS] spreads. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 10/13/2014]

Rights group says 127 students arrested in past three days
Egyptian universities started the new academic year on Saturday amid a tense atmosphere marked by condemnation and calls for protests. Heightened security measures have seen at least 127 students arrested in the past three days, according to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression. At least seventy-eight students were arrested from their homes across the country between Saturday and early Sunday. Raids on the homes of Al-Azhar University students continued on Monday, with more arrests made. Egyptian police backed by armored vehicles stormed the campuses of Cairo and Al-Azhar Universities on Sunday, where students smashed newly installed metal detectors and broke through the electronic campus gates. Police fired tear gas to disperse the protests. Egypt’s higher education minister said all students who protested at universities on Sunday would be expelled by that evening. On Monday, Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim ordered security forces onto Al-Azhar University’s campus. Protests, however, have continued as students in university campuses across Egypt rallied on Monday condemning the arrest and suspension of fellow students. [AP, Mada Masr, DNE, Ahram Online, 10/14/2014]

Egypt’s GDP growth rate up to 3.7 percent in fourth quarter
In a sign that confidence is returning to the Egyptian economy, the country’s GDP growth rate is up to 3.7 percent from the previous 2.5 percent. Despite the positive note, full-year growth rate remains unchanged. The IMF is expected to asses Egypt’s economy in November. Egypt hopes that this assessment could strengthen the country’s economic outlook ahead of an economic summit in February 2015. [Reuters, 10/13/2014]


Ban Ki-moon makes surprise visit to Libya, urges dialogue
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon flew to Tripoli on Saturday to urge the warring factions in Libya to make peace, stressing that “all problems in Libya can be solved through dialogue.” Ban met House of Representatives lawmakers, as well as Misrata members of the House who have boycotted the sessions. In an indication of the challenge to negotiate a resolution, a Misrata militia commander denounced those taking part in the UN-sponsored talks in Ghadames as criminals, according to a video circulated on social media. Meanwhile, Libya’s new foreign minister, Mohamed al-Dairi, is due to hold talks in Paris today with US Secretary of State John Kerry. [Reuters, 10/11/2014]

Overstretched border police struggle to secure border
Hampered by a lack of manpower and equipment, worsened by a breakdown in state authority following the 2011 uprising, Libya’s border guards at the 700-mile desert border with Egypt struggle to contain spreading anarchy. The Libyan interior ministry force in charge of the Musaid crossing into Egypt has 120 men on the payroll, but only thirty or so show up regularly for work. Only two weeks ago, fifteen members of the militant Islamic State group crossed in from Egypt to set up a cell in Libya. The two countries agreed on Wednesday to step up efforts against insurgents. [Reuters, 10/12/2014]

Tripoli administration claims control of more ministries
More government departments appear to be coming under the control of the National Salvation Government, further isolating the Tobruk-based House of Representatives and the government of Abdullah al-Thinni. According to the head of the transport ministry’s media office, Ramadan Zamit, who was appointed by the Tripoli-based government, is now in charge of the ministry. The political rivalry is increasingly playing out on public sector websites, with shifting allegiances reflected in the listing of ministers appointed by the Tripoli government. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 10/14/2014]

Islamic State reportedly to launch TV station in Sirte
Islamic State is reportedly set to launch a satellite TV station called Tawheed, broadcasting propaganda from Sirte. Mustafa Zand, a leader of a group with strong ties to the former regime, has claimed two other television channels are under the direction of the Islamic State. Speaking on an Egyptian program, Zand alleged that the jihadist group already controlled stations in Sabratha, Derna, and Sirte. Sabratha and Sirte are viewed as increasingly Islamist strongholds, though extremist groups there have not publicly declared their allegiance to Islamic State. [Libya Herald, 10/13/2014]


Regime security chiefs fired after protests by Assad loyalists
Two high ranking security officials have been fired in what residents and a rights group say is a response to protests by government loyalists angered by the death of forty-one children in a bombing in Homs city. Official concessions to popular demands are rare in Syria. But many loyalists are starting to feel abandoned by the government for whom they have sacrificed much to defend. Head of Security Committee Major General Ahmad Jamil and head of Military Intelligence Abdulkarim Saloum were removed from their posts this week without official explanation. Analysts forecast further removals in the coming days, perhaps including the governor of Homs and the high profile head of media, Luna al-Shibl. [Reuters, AFP, 10/14/2014]

Turkey denies it agreed to let United States use air base to strike ISIS
Turkey on Monday formally denied news reports that it had agreed to open a major air base to US and other coalition combat aircraft fighting ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq. Reporters accompanying Defense Secretary Hagel quoted senior officials as saying that Turkey had agreed to use of Incirlik Air Base. National Security Adviser Susan Rice strengthened the impression Sunday: “They have said that their facilities inside of Turkey can be used by coalition forces, American and otherwise, to engage in activities inside of Iraq and Syria.” But Turkey’s foreign minister said, “Turkey has made no decision on whether to open its Incirlik air base to the US-led coalition in the fight.” At the heart of the discord is a substantive dispute. Turkey views the US-led bombing campaign against ISIS targets as a tactical step that lacks a long-term strategy, while the Obama administration has refused to consider Turkey’s demands for steps to oust Assad. [McClatchy, 10/14/2014]

Opposition fails to elect new prime minister
Syria’s main opposition bloc failed to agree on a prime minister during a weekend summit in Istanbul, the latest setback for a coalition long beset by internal divisions. A member of the National Coalition said the biggest dispute centered on a split between the favored candidates of vital funders Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Out of thirteen hopefuls the two frontrunners were former agriculture minister Walid al-Zohbi—seen as being close to Riyadh—and Ahmad Tohme, the provisional head of the coalition who is reportedly backed by Doha. “Qatar made clear that its financial support to the coalition would end if Tohme was not re-elected,” a participant told reporters. Tohme, who is close to Syria’s influential Muslim Brotherhood, headed the coalition for ten months before being relieved of his duties at the bloc’s previous general assembly. [AFP, 10/14/2014]


Tunisia contributes to international effort to rebuild Gaza
Minister of Foreign Affairs Mongi Hamdi on Sunday affirmed his country’s commitment to the  reconstruction of the Gaza strip during an international donor conference held in Cairo over the weekend. The minister announced the creation of a donor account to facilitate reconstruction funds and said that Tunisia stands ready to lend its expertise to local, regional, and international partners in this effort. While the international community has so far pledged 5.4 billion dollars in reconstruction aid, the Palestinian government puts the cost of reconstruction at 4 billion dollars over three years. [TAP, 10/13/2014]

Amnesty International publishes human rights petition for political candidates
Amnesty International on Monday sent a petition to all legislative candidates urging them to protect and defend the human rights of all Tunisians ahead of parliamentary elections later this month.The Executive Director for Amnesty International Lofti Azzouz noted that the document, which was circulated to all political parties, is meant to generate accountability and promote the greater respect for human rights priorities across all political parties throughout the elections. The Amnesty International petition comes on the heels of a similar report released by Human Rights Watch urging candidates to include the protection of human rights in their electoral agendas and programs. [Tunisia Live, 10/13/2014]

Participants in the National Dialogue adopt legislative election charter
A Charter for legislative elections was announced Monday at a meeting of partners in the National Dialogue. Participants noted that the charter aims to ensure a climate of healthy competition and mutual respect between candidates during the electoral process. The charter also urged all candidates to comply with Independent Authority for Elections (ISIE) decisions and for coordination across local and international election observers. [All Africa,10/14/2014]


Hadi appoints new prime minister, Houthis approve choice
President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi appointed Khaled Bahah, Yemen’s envoy to the United Nations, to the position of prime minister on Monday. The move came after Hadi’s first appointment to the post, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, was rejected by the Houthi group last week. Bahah’s name was one of three put forward by the Houthis following Mubarak’s rejection, and his appointment may ease tensions in the capital. He hails from Hadramout province. A member of the Houthi political bureau said, “We believe [Bahah] is the right person. His appointment will help the country overcome the difficulties it is going through.” A technocrat, Bahah served at various positions in the government, including ambassador to Canada and oil minister, before his appointment as Yemen’s UN envoy. Some believe the Houthis may withdraw from Sana’a per the September 21 peace and partnership agreement, with many of their fighters poised to join the army and security forces. [Reuters, 10/13/2014]

Houthis seize al-Hudaydah; explosion in Hadramout kills two
Houthi forces seized the city of al-Hudaydah on Tuesday according to security officials, taking control of the Red Sea city’s sea and airports and meeting little resistance. Witnesses said that the Houthis had set up checkpoints on main roads and at the entrances to the city, and that one security guard was killed when militants seized a courthouse. The seizure of al-Hudaydah, located 226 miles west of Sana’a, comes after a security official claimed last week that the Houthis were looking to extend their territorial control to the Bab al-Mendab strait. Over 3.4 million barrels of gas pass through the strait every day. Additionally, security officials still believe the Houthis hope to gain control over oil pipelines in Marib province. Meanwhile, an explosion at a military checkpoint near the city of Shibam in Hadramout province killed two soldiers and injured four others on Saturday. A local official said that al-Qaeda was believed to be responsible for the attack, which took place on a public street. [AFP, 10/14/2014]

Benomar warns of Yemen’s fragility; southerners mark October 14 revolution
UN Special Advisor to Yemen Jamal Benomar warned of implications of such violence for the country’s situation on Tuesday, telling reporters on the sidelines of a UN Security Council meeting that the transition process is in danger of collapse. Benomar said that “the only way to save the transition process is the full implementation of the peace and partnership agreement,” and that the UN would “not hesitate to condemn any violations” of the agreement. Benomar’s calls for unity came as citizens of Aden commemorated the October 14 revolution against British control and some separatist leaders called for southern independence. [Al Masdar, 10/14/2014]


Iraq asks for US ground troops as ISIS militants pivot to assault Baghdad
Iraqi officials have issued a desperate plea to the US government to bring ground troops back to the embattled country, as heavily armed Islamic State in Iraq and al-sham (ISIS or Islamic State) militants came within striking distance of Baghdad. Reports over the weekend indicated that militants have advanced as far as Abu Ghraib on the outskirts of Baghdad and a senior governor claimed up to 10,000 fighters from the jihadist group were now poised to assault the capital. Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has repeatedly refused to countenance the return of foreign troops, while the White House itself has so far stuck to a selective air campaign. [The Telegraph, 10/11/2014]

Fifty-eight killed in suicide attacks across Iraq, ISIS claims responsibility
A triple suicide bombing Sunday killed at least fifty-eight people in Iraq as a roadside bomb killed the police chief of the western Anbar province. The Islamic State in Iraq and al-sham (ISIS or Islamic State) claimed the attack, saying three foreign jihadists carried it out. The militant group also claimed responsibility for the Anbar attack that killed Brigadier General Ahmed al-Dulaimi and a series of car bombs that killed at least forty-five people in Shia-majority areas in Baghdad. Militants capitalized on gains over the weekend, overrunning a military training camp in Anbar province on Monday, and launching a series of deadly bombings that killed at least thirty people in Baghdad. [ABC News, CBS News, 10/12/14]

British parliament backs symbolic motion to recognize Palestinian state
British lawmakers voted Monday in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state, a symbolic move intended to increase pressure for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Prime Minister David Cameron and other government leaders abstained but the motion had support from both government and opposition lawmakers. Leaders from both sides indicated that the move could help kick-start the peace process following a summer war in Gaza that claimed the lives of more than 2,100 Palestinians, the majority civilians, and more than seventy Israelis, most of them soldiers. [The Washington Post, 10/14/2014]