Top News: Fifty-Three Bodies Found In Baghdad, As Security Situation Continues To Deteriorate

Iraqi security forces found fifty-three corpses, blindfolded and handcuffed, in a town south of Baghdad early on Wednesday, local officials said. It is unclear whether the men were Shia or Sunni. Politically, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said on Wednesday that the Kurdish-controlled city of Arbil is becoming an operations base for the Islamic State militants and Baathists, further eroding the relationship between the Iraqi and Kurdish governments. 


Egypt declares state of emergency on Gaza border
Dozens of airstrikes in the past week have been sent into Gaza killing at least twenty in what Israel has described as a possibly prolonged attack on Palestinian militants in response to Hamas rockets. According to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said during a phone call that Egypt would try to exert pressure to end Israeli attacks on Gaza and expressed his commitment to the safety of Palestinians. Egypt also declared an emergency state on the border with Gaza on Wednesday, a security source said. Egyptian authorities kept the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip closed for the sixth consecutive day as a host of Palestinian news websites, media outlets, and Egyptian solidarity groups called on the authorities in Cairo to allow the reopening of the border crossing in light of the crisis. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, 7/9/2014]

Government moves to contain anger toward price increases and control markets
Anger and fears of inflation in response to price increases in Egypt continued to escalate as Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab tried to assure the Egyptian people that the state has the ability to control prices. Experts said that any increase in inflation will negatively affect the living standards of the poor and called on the government to control prices in response to public unrest. Mahlab tasked the government Tuesday with intensifying traffic and security campaigns to control traffic violations and prevent passenger exploitation in light of a new transportation tariff. The government has introduced a 10-15 percent increase to transport tariffs after fuel prices were hiked as part of the subsidy system reform. [DNE, 7/8/2014]

UAE willing to invest in oil sector, says petroleum minister
In a surprise visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday, the ministers of petroleum, finance, and investment held meetings with UAE officials to discuss new mechanisms through which Gulf countries could support the Egyptian economy. Minister of Petroleum Sherif Ismail noted that the UAE has expressed its willingness to invest in the petroleum sector and is currently choosing between projects that can be started soon. He also added that there are ongoing discussions regarding the possibilities for the Arab Petroleum Pipelines Company (SUMED) to construct new pipelines and depots. [DNE, 7/8/2014]

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis distributes anti-military flyers in North Sinai
Militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis distributed flyers on Tuesday inciting against Egypt’s armed forces and calling for support throughout several villages south of Sheikh Zuweid in North Sinai. The flyers urged villagers to cooperate with the group. “If you are not with us, do not be against us,” the flyers read. They said they seek the establishment of sharia and and an Islamist nation where virtue is practiced and vice is prevented. The flyers also called for the removal of borders between Islamic countries and praying at Al-Aqsa Mosque. [Egypt Independent, 7/9/2014]


Former general battling Islamist militias faces dwindling support
Just a few weeks since he launched his unauthorized campaign to rid Libya of Islamist militants, retired general Khalifa Haftar is already losing support. Initially, many Libyans applauded his push to drive extremists out of Benghazi, as he was considered a bold figure willing to push back against gunmen in the absence of an assertive government. However, Haftar’s offensive has given way to a deadly stalemate, leaving at least 200 people dead and forcing entire neighborhoods to evacuate. Haftar’s calls to rid the country of Islamists, including his indictment of non-militant Islamists, are raising concerns that he harbors bigger political ambitions, making some citizens increasingly wary of the campaign. [Washington Post, 7/8/2014]

Libya’s El Sharara oilfield restart another breakthrough for Tripoli
According to the National Oil Corporation, the 340,000 barrels per day (bpd) El Sharara oilfield has resumed operations after protesters ended a four-month strike there, marking another major step toward the country’s resumption of oil production in the country. Last week, eastern rebels also handed over to the government the Ras Lanuf and Es Sider oil ports, which together accounted for 500,000 bpd, ending an almost year-long occupation. Experts say, however, it will take time to restart production as fields and pipelines will require maintenance after standing idle so long. [Reuters, 7/9/2014]

GECOL asks municipal council for help to cut electricity use
The General Electricity Company of Libya (GECOL) has called for closer coordination with the country’s newly elected municipal councils on both security and electricity use. At a meeting held in Tripoli, the company asked representatives from several municipal councils to provide security for local electrical facilities. It also asked for their help in reducing consumption to prevent further power cuts, which have continued to plague the country despite promises that there would be no cuts during Ramadan. It is unclear how municipal councils would ration electricity use. [Libya Herald, 7/8/2014]

Twelve migrants dead in latest boat tragedy off Libyan coast
The Libyan coast guard has recovered the bodies of twelve migrants found on a boat off the coast of Tripoli, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced. They included three Syrians, three Eritreans, and six Africans of unidentified nationality. A search and rescue operation is underway to find other passengers that may have been traveling in the vessel. A UNHCR spokesperson commended the rescue operations but encouraged governments to resist punitive or deterrent measures toward migrants. UNHCR said it has registered nearly 37,000 asylum-seekers and refugees in the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, with Syrians making up the largest group, followed by Eritreans, Somalis, and Iraqis. [ANSAmed, VOA, 7/8/2014]


Regime forces encircle Aleppo as rebels ready for showdown
Elite government forces backed by Hezbollah converged Tuesday on Aleppo city as rebels bolstered their own fighters in readiness for a major showdown. Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was likely that pro-regime forces were preparing to lay siege to the northern, rebel-held parts of Aleppo, controlled by the regime’s opponents since July 2012. [AFP, AP, 7/8/2014]

Rebels kill fourteen, including seven women, in Hama village
At least fourteen people were killed by rebels in the village of Khatab in central Hama province overnight, said state media and an NGO Wednesday. Syrian state television said rebels carried out a “massacre” that included women and children, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said seven men and seven women had been “executed” by rebel fighters. [AFP, 7/9/2014]

One thousand Idlib rebels defect to ISIS
A rebel brigade defected to ISIS this week, a sign that the extremist group continues to build strength after seizing vast territories in western Iraq and eastern Syria, anti-government activists said Tuesday. The 1,000-strong Dawud Brigade, which had been based in Sarmin, in Idlib province, arrived Sunday in the ISIS stronghold Raqqa. The defecting rebels moved in a convoy of more than 100 vehicles, including ten tanks that had been seized from the Syrian army. In order to cross the lines of pro-Western rebels fighting against ISIS, the defecting rebels said they were heading to Aleppo to confront government forces. [McClatchy, 7/8/2014]

New poll says ISIS appeals only to four percent of Syrians
Only 4 percent of Syrians believe the militant jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) represent their interests, according to research conducted by a British polling group published on Wednesday. The survey, conducted by Opinion Research Business (ORB) with 1,014 adults in face-to-face interviews, found that about one in three Syrians believe President Bashar al-Assad and his government best represent Syrians’ interests. The ORB research covered twelve of Syria’s fourteen provinces, in areas controlled by both the government and various opposition groups, including in Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold. [Reuters, 7/8/2014]


Human Rights Watch calls for Tunisia to reinstate judges fired arbitrarily
Human Rights Watch (HRW) today called for the Tunisian government to reinstate judges summarily dismissed by the previous justice minister on May 28, 2012. An administrative court has ruled on thirty of the seventy-five cases since December 2013, ordering their reinstatement, but the government has not acted. The justice minister who fired the judges, Noureddine Bhiri, cited a fight against corruption. Many of the judges individually appealed to Tunisia’s administrative court, which has ruled consistently in the cases that the executive branch acted improperly and exceeded its authority by dismissing the judges summarily. [HRW, 7/9/2014]

Aging Tunisia ex-PM to run for president
Beji Caid Essebsi, the eighty-seven year-old ex-premier and leading opponent of the Islamists, said on Tuesday he will stand in Tunisia’s presidential poll later this year, if he’s “still alive.” The octogenarian has been nominated as the candidate of Nidaa Tounes, Tunisia’s main secular party, which he heads. A veteran of Tunisian politics, Essebsi was minister of the interior, defense, and foreign affairs under the country’s founding president Habib Bourguiba, and then parliamentary speaker under Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. Essebsi also called for a one-month extension of the voter registration period, which is due to end July 22. [AFP, TAP, 7/8/2014]

Over 108,000 newly registered voters as of July 7
Over 108,000 electors registered in twenty-seven constituencies as of July 7. These numbers are up from 70,000 registered as of July 4. I Watch, an organization that promotes transparency, has declared July 13 a national day of voter registration, hoping to increase voter registration and participation in the upcoming legislative and presidential elections, which are due to begin October 26 and November 23 respectively. [TAP, AFP, 7/8/2014]


President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi visits Saudi Arabia
President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for an impromptu visit that lasted a few hours. He was received by Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. After meeting with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, President Hadi announced that the king had ordered urgent aid and assistance to Yemen to help it overcome its economic challenges. They also discussed the latest developments in Yemen, particularly Houthi rebel activity in the country. [Al Masdar (Arabic), Saba (Arabic), 7/9/2014]

UN Security Council condemns Houthi rebel activity in Yemen
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) condemned Houthi rebel activity in Yemen on Wednesday, following their attack on Amran and its violent attacks on government buildings and residential neighborhoods. The UNSC is planning to issue an official statement in this regard after its emergency meeting in the coming hours. This news came after Houthi rebels seized Amran after battles in which about 100 were killed and 150 were wounded on Tuesday alone, following more than 100 deaths in previous days. [Reuters, 7/8/2014, Saba (Arabic), 7/9/2014]

Yemen’s prospects for membership in the Gulf Cooperation Council
Robert Sharp writes that there has been much debate about the inclusion of Yemen as either an associate or full the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member. However, there are several reasons why the GCC is stalling in letting Yemen join and there are some reasonable concerns with Yemen’s membership suitability, including the possibility that Yemen’s problems will spill over into the GCC if unchecked. Sharp writes that Yemen joining the GCC is the best way for the GCC to insulate itself from the impact of a possible Yemeni failure and equip itself to benefit from the possibility that Yemen succeeds. [International Policy Digest, 7/9/2014]

Yemen’s oil exports decline significantly
An official report by Yemen’s Central Bank revealed that the government’s share of oil exports has declined to 3.6 million barrels since January to May 2014. The report also revealed that oil exports did not exceed 700,000 barrels in May 2014, the equivalent of 73 million dollars. The significant decline in oil exports in May 2014 was due to an oil shipment delay worth $1.3 million. According to the report, oil export revenue in the period between January and May 2014 did not exceed $671 million, $446 million less than last year’s revenue. The value of oil imports since May was $135 million. [Sahafa (Arabic), 7/9/2014]


Fifty-three bodies found in Baghdad, as the security situation continues to deteriorate
Iraqi security forces found fifty-three corpses, blindfolded and handcuffed, in a town south of Baghdad early on Wednesday, local officials said. It is unclear whether the men were Shia or Sunni. Politically, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said on Wednesday that the Kurdish-controlled city of Arbil is becoming an operations base for the Islamic State militants and Baathists, further deteriorating the relationship between the two governments. On Tuesday, the Iraqi government told the United Nation that it has lost control of a former chemical weapons facility to “armed terrorist groups” and is unable to fulfill its international obligations to destroy toxins kept in the facility. [Reuters, AFP, 7/9/2014]

Islamic State rounds up ex-Baathists to eliminate potential rivals
When the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), seized large swathes of Iraq at lightning speed last month, other Sunni Muslim armed groups, including ex-Baathists, supported it. However, ISIS are now rounding up members of those groups, signaling a rift in the Sunni alliance that once cooperated together in order to capture Mosul and other Iraqi cities. Mosul residents said that they believe ISIS’s bold declaration of a caliphate last week had caused local discontent, possibly prompting the group to head off the first signs of resistance. [Reuters, 7/8/2014]

Former Iranian president says Iran can cooperate with US on Iraq
Former Iranian president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, announced that Tehran is able to cast aside bitter differences with Washington and cooperate on Iraq. He cited information sharing and “mutual support in terms of finance and technology” among possible shared initiatives between the two states. Iran has already sent small numbers of operatives into Iraq to strengthen the Shia-led government in Baghdad, but there was no sign of a large deployment of army units, the Pentagon said late last month. [Naharnet, 7/9/2014]