Top News: Constitutional Drafting Committee Election Law Approved

The constitutional drafting committee election law was today approved by the General National Congress (GNC) after days of debate.


New Egypt cabinet sworn in without a single Islamist
Egypt’s army-backed leaders swore in a new interim cabinet on Tuesday after a night of street violence, with not a single minister representing either of the main Islamist groups that have won five straight elections since 2011. Seven people were killed overnight and more than 260 wounded in running battles between supporters of toppled president Mohamed Morsi and the security forces. The armed forces chief who removed him, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was given the post of first deputy to interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi. [Aswat Masriya, 7/17/2013]

Muslim Brotherhood rejects presidency’s call for national reconciliation
The Muslim Brotherhood rejected on Tuesday a call by presidential media advisor Ahmed al-Muslimani to take part in national reconciliation meetings with all political forces. “Attempts by the presidency or the armed forces to communicate with us will fail. Our demands will not change. We insist that Mohamed Morsi be released and reinstated to his post,” he added. [Egypt Independent, 7/17/2013]

EU’s Ashton to meet political players including Muslim Brotherhood; US condemns deadly street clashes in Egypt
Foreign Policy Chief of the European Union Catherine Ashton arrived to Cairo on Tuesday for a two-day visit, during which she is expected to meet with interim President Adli Mansour and other senior officials, reported the state news agency, as well as two senior figures from the Muslim Brotherhood, a brotherhood spokesman said. Meanwhile, the United States denounced the violence in Egypt that left seven dead, as Secretary of State John Kerry met with Arab leaders in Jordan. [AFP/Ahram Online, SIS, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, 7/17/2013]

Economists project more UAE and Saudi investment in Egypt
Egyptian economists have predicted more investment from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, now that the political climate is ‘warm.’ They urged the government to remove all obstacles so that Arab companies can resolve their differences with the competent authorities. “We should openly work with all Arab countries, including Qatar,” said Gamal Bayoumi, secretary of the Union of Arab Investors. [Egypt Independent, 7/16/2013]


Constitutional drafting committee election law approved
The constitutional drafting committee election law was today approved by the General National Congress (GNC) after days of debate. Women were granted six seats out of sixty, Gharyani said, fewer than the fifteen they had demanded, and 124 out of 172 Congress members voted in favor of using the individual electoral system. The High Election Commission will now begin work on the implementation of the election law and begin accepting applications for the 60 member committee. “The most important criteria that candidates should meet is not to be a member of any military or security institution,” Gharyani said. [Libya Herald, 7/16/13]

Libyan oil port ‘stormed by armed protesters’
Armed protesters have stormed the eastern Libyan oil port of Zueitina demanding export operations be halted hours after workers temporarily suspended a strike and resumed production at oil fields that pump to the terminal. It was not immediately known what the protesters wanted, but an engineer working at the port recognized them as being part of a group of civilian demonstrators who shut down the terminal for several weeks earlier this year demanding jobs. Oil Minister Abdulbari al-Arusi said at a Sunday press conference that not all of the strikers’ demands can be met. [Reuters, 7/16/13]

Military police targeted with coordinated car bombs
Four vehicles associated with Tripoli’s military police were targeted with homemade explosive devices in a coordinated attack Tuesday morning. There were no casualties, but nearby cars were also damaged by the blasts. The new official government spokesman, Abdussalam Sabri Sharief, speaking at his first official press conference, said the act was an attempt to undermine the security of Libya and its citizens. [Libya Herald, 7/16/13]

Political isolation law questionnaires issued to GNC
Members of the General National Congress (GNC) will begin answering questions this week about their involvement with the old regime, as the political isolation law starts to be applied to them. Political isolation law questionnaires were distributed to GNC members Tuesday.
The questionnaire includes questions relating to employment under the former regime and to behavior that could have led to corruption in politics, economics, and administration. [Libya Herald, 7/17/13]


Syrians fleeing war at rate not seen since Rwandan genocide, says UN
The number of people fleeing the conflict in Syria has escalated to an average of 6,000 a day during 2013, a rate not seen since the genocide in Rwanda nearly two decades ago, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday. Guterres said two-thirds of the nearly 1.8 million refugees registered with the United Nations in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and elsewhere had left Syria since the beginning of the year. [Reuters, 7/16/2013]

Jihadists expelled from flashpoint Kurdish Syrian town
Kurdish fighters have expelled jihadists from the Syrian flashpoint frontier town of Ras al-Ain near Turkey, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday, adding that only the border crossing remains under the extremists’ control. Ras al-Ain is home to a majority Kurdish population and is of strategic importance given its location close to Turkey. Its fighters are trying to ensure neither the regime of President Bashar al-Assad nor the opposition takes control of its areas. [Daily Star/AFP, 7/17/2013]

Syria gunmen infiltrate unused Israeli army post on Golan
Gunmen from Syria infiltrated an unused army outpost in the Israeli-occupied area of the Golan Heights just beyond the ceasefire line, a military spokesperson said on Wednesday. The incident, which occurred overnight, saw an unspecified number of Syrian gunmen entering the position and firing towards an Israeli army patrol, which returned fire. The incident came a day after several mortar rounds hit the Israeli side of the Golan, causing several fires to break out along the ceasefire line as Syrian rebels battled regime forces near the Quneitra crossing. [NOW/AFP, 7/17/2013]

Syria regime punishes food hoarders, state TV says
The Syrian government approved on Tuesday a law imposing penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment for people caught hoarding food in the war-torn country, state television reported. The decision was passed amid an unprecedented financial and food crisis. Some traders in Syria are trying to take advantage of the civil war, hoarding food until they are able to sell them at higher prices. [NOW/AFP, 7/16/2013]


Tensions mount as opposition calls for government’s dissolution
A stark division between the government coalition, led by the Islamist Ennahda movement, and the secular opposition is taking place in the Tunisian political arena. Observers believe that the opposition’s calls to bring down the government and dissolve the NCA are nothing more than an exploitation of the Egyptian situation to force Ennahda to make concessions, and to politically confuse the movement as elections approach. [Al Monitor, 7/16/2013]

Judges’ associations urge amending judicial provisions of draft constitution
The presidents of the the country’s two leading judge’s associations met President Moncef Marzouki Tuesday to present their recommendations for the draft constitution. The representatives expressed disappointment in the provisions regarding the judiciary’s autonomy, regretting "the absence of a will to establish an independent judiciary,” and suggested dedicating a chapter to the Constitutional Court in the draft constitution.  [TAP, 7/16/2013]

After Morsi’s ouster in Egypt, Tunisia’s Islamists fear a similar fate
There’s one place that has watched the past two weeks of violence in Egypt with particular nervousness: Tunisia. With Egypt’s elected president now ousted and in military custody, along with several of his Muslim Brotherhood colleagues, Tunisia’s ruling party finds itself as the only Islamist government in the region. That’s an anxious spot to be, especially when there’s the possibility of fresh revolt or of militants seizing on Egypt’s military intervention as proof that democratic politics is futile. [TIME, 7/16/2013]


NDC state-building group dispute over state religion and source of legislation referred to conciliation committee
The National Dialogue Conference (NDC) state-building group failed to reach consensus on the future constitution’s state religion and source of legislation, referring the dispute to the conciliation committee. The dispute over state religion was whether the constitution will explicitly say that “Islam is the religion of the state,” or Islam is the religion of the people without an explicit mention to the state. Nine members voted for the former, while thirty-five members voted for the second statement, short of the 90 percent consensus necessary for the statement to pass. The debate also centered around whether shariah will be the source of all legislation or the main source for legislation. Eighty-four percent of the members voted for the second statement. [NDC, 7/17/2013]

Al-Qaeda confirms US drone killed Yemen branch deputy
Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch has confirmed that its second-in-command has been killed by a US drone strike. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula posted a video message Wednesday announcing the death of Said al-Shihri, but did not say when the alleged air strike took place. The Yemeni government had previously announced al-Shihri’s death several times, including twice in the past year. [VOA, Al Masdar, 7/17/2013]

Cabinet forms steering committee to develop Hodeida Industrial Zone
The cabinet formed a steering committee headed by the trade and industry minister to develop the Hodeida Industrial Zone. The project is supported by Islamic Development Bank (IDB), and received a grant worth $3.37 million from the Deauville partnership. [Saba, 7/16/2013]


Pro-Assad Syrian political figure assassinated in Lebanon
Mohammad Jemo, a Syrian Baath Party official and staunch supporter of President Bashar al-Assad, was killed early Wednesday after being shot over two dozen times at his house in south Lebanon, security sources said. Jemo was fatally shot at close range by an automatic assault rifle inside the sitting room on the ground floor of his three-story house in Sarafand, some fifteen kilometers from the southern coastal city of Sidon, the sources said. Security forces arrested at least two men, a Syrian, and a Lebanese, linked to the case. [Ya Libnan 7/17/2013, Lebanon Daily Star 7/17/2013]

Bouteflika returns to Algeria in a wheelchair
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika headed home from the French capital Tuesday, an airport source said, after a lengthy stint in a Paris hospital that has caused concern. Bouteflika, who boarded an Algerian presidential jet in a wheelchair at Le Bourget airport near Paris, was admitted to hospital at the end of April after suffering a mini-stroke. The president’s latest absence has prompted local media to increasingly question the implications for Algeria’s government, given Bouteflika’s central constitutional role in running the country. [Middle East Online 7/16/2013]

Morocco: Dance with the deep state
The north African nation of 32 million avoided the fate of other Arab states that are either undergoing cataclysmic upheaval or have tightened the screws of repression since a wave of political change swept across the region in 2011. But Morocco has embarked on a curious experiment that some suggest could provide a model for Middle East monarchies facing demands for change. Yet others argue just as convincingly that Morocco shows how impervious these nations are to substantial reform. [Financial Times 7/15/2013]

Photo: NTDTV