Top News: Half a Million Iraqis Flee as Jihadists Tighten Grip Over Major Cities

In a spectacular assault, the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and their allies on Tuesday seized Mosul, surrounding Nineveh province, and a string of other northern towns. Members of the jihadist group also seized the Turkish consulate in Mosul and kidnapped the head of the diplomatic mission along with twenty-four staff members.


Obama congratulates Sisi in phone call; State Department officials in Cairo for meetings
President Barack Obama called new Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday to congratulate him on his inauguration and “to convey his commitment to working together to advance the shared interests of both countries,” the White House said in a statement. The phone call comes as the State Department’s Ambassador David Thorne and Counselor Tom Shannon prepare to meet with Egyptian officials in Cairo. State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf said, “This continuing engagement is indicative of the importance we place on US-Egypt relations,” adding that Thorne and Shannon would underline steps the Egyptian Government “must take in order to proceed on a path to a political transition.” [Ahram Online, Reuters, AP, 6/11/2014]

Alaa Abdel-Fattah, twenty-four others sentenced to fifteen years prison
Leading anti-Mubarak activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah was sentenced in absentia to fifteen years in jail on Wednesday by an Egyptian court for violating a protest law. Twenty-four other co-defendants received similar sentences for charges related to a protest last November. The court also fined the defendants EGP100,000 each ($14,000) and ordered them placed under five-year police surveillance after their release upon completion of the jail term. Mona Seif, Abdel-Fattah’s sister and founder of the No to Military Trials group, said via Twitter that her brother, along with two other co-defendants, was waiting at the courthouse for permission to attend the session, but was denied entry. Once the sentence was pronounced, the three were arrested at the courthouse for transfer to prison. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 6/11/2014]

Thirteen Syrians sentenced to five years prison for breaking protest law
Cairo’s criminal court on Tuesday sentenced thirteen Syrians residing in Egypt to five years in prison on charges of illegal assembly during a protest in 2012. The defendants denied the accusations, asserting that they were peacefully protesting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad when they were arrested. In a press release on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said, “Egyptian authorities have violated the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants from Syria.” [Ahram Online, Egyptian Independent, Mada Masr, 6/10/2014]

Egypt current account deficit narrows to $232.7 million in July-March
Egypt’s current account deficit narrowed to $232.7 million in the nine months ending in March from a deficit of $5.7 billion in the same period a year earlier. In the period from January to March, the third quarter of Egypt’s fiscal year, the current account recorded a surplus of $523.1 million dollars. [Reuters, 6/11/2014]


GNC successfully convenes and makes key decisions
Against all expectations, the General National Congress (GNC) convened a session achieving a quorum on Tuesday to address several issues. The legislature received a full and detailed copy of the Supreme Court ruling that invalidated the election of Ahmed Maiteg and confirmed Abdullah al-Thinni as caretaker prime minister until further notice. The GNC also reappointed its head, Nuri Abu Sahmain, as commander-in-chief of the Libyan Armed Forces, a position from which he had been removed after inviting the Libyan Revolutionary Operations Room (LROR) militias and Libya Shields into Tripoli without consulting the legislature. The GNC also appointed a new attorney general. [Libya Herald, 6/10/2014]

Algeria, France deny Libya operation
Algeria and France are engaging more closely with each other on security issues, marked most recently with a two-day visit to Algiers by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. At a press conference in which they spoke of their “shared vision” and commitment to standing “shoulder to shoulder in the battle against terrorism,” Fabius and his Algerian counterpart, Ramtane Lamamra, categorically denied that joint operations had taken place in Libya. With regard to the situation in Libya, Lamamra said that the neighboring countries have met twice “for unofficial consultations” to help Libya out of its current crisis, adding that the situation “necessitates close cooperation in the area of intelligence.” [Magharebia, 6/10/2014]

Ansar al-Sharia leader murdered in Derna
A leading member of Ansar al-Sharia has been killed in Derna. This comes after a weekend of violence in the town, with Ansar al-Sharia and Abu Sleem Martyrs Brigade targeting one another. News of the death came amid conflicting reports about a death squad targeting particular individuals and against the backdrop of the attempted bombing of the home of Saeed al-Shaari, a commander in the Abu Sleem Martyrs Brigade. [Libya Herald, 6/10/2014]

Libya wheat imports seen at 2 million tons a year for 2015-2020
Libya’s annual wheat imports are expected to be at least 2 million tons from 2015 to 2020, a senior Libyan official said on Tuesday. Libya relies heavily on imports of grains, including wheat, with 95 percent of its territory desert and about 2 percent of its total area arable land, Abdalla Elfagehia, director of board affairs at Libya’s Joint Stock National Company for Flour Mills, told a grain conference in London. Elfagehia projected total Libyan wheat imports in 2014 would reach around 1.8 million tons with no supply disruptions. The majority of Libya’s population lives around coastal regions, and Elfagehia said the country needed to build more grain silos either around port areas or in the south of the country. [Reuters, 6/10/2014]


Rebels call for urgent support against ISIS
Syrian rebels backed by the international community called on Wednesday for help to fight the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in the east of the war-ravaged country. The appeal came after ISIS took control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Rebel groups called on Arab countries to provide support in order to combat ISIS in eastern Syria. The Islamic Front announced a new offensive against ISIS, claiming to have captured four villages and killing seventeen of its fighters. [Gulf News, Asharq Al Awsat, 6/10/2014]

Assad says the west is changing position on the Syrian war
Western countries that back the revolt in Syria have started to shift position on the conflict because of the danger posed to them by jihadists, according to Bashar al-Assad. “The United States and the West have started to send signs of change. Terrorism is now on their soil,” which he claims are due to the increase in western citizens fighting now in Syria. The Syrian government further announced on Wednesday, “Damascus is ready to cooperate with Iraq to face terrorism, our common enemy,” in light of the new developments in northern Iraq. [Naharnet, 6/11/2014]

Robert Ford calls for the arming of Syria’s Opposition
Robert Ford, the most recent US ambassador to Syria, says in a New York Times op-ed that the United States should arm the Syrian opposition. He writes, “We don’t need American airstrikes in Syria, and we certainly don’t need American troops there. But with partner countries from the Friends of Syria group like France, Britain, Germany, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, we must ramp up sharply the training and material aid provided to the moderates in the armed opposition.” His call arise amid increasing pressure on the Obama administration to alter their policies toward Syria. [NY Times, 6/10/2014]

Putin met Saudi minister to discuss Syria
Russian President Vladimir Putin met recently with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, as both countries appeared to step up dialogue over the war in Syria. Confirmation of the meeting come a day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a telephone conversation with his Saudi counterpart to discuss the war. In which special attention was paid to the political and diplomatic task of resolving the crisis in Syria. [NOW, 6/11/2014]


NCA approves financial agreement between Tunisia and Germany
On Monday, the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) adopted a financial cooperation agreement worth seventy-six million euros ($103 million) between Tunisia and Germany. The funding will support small and medium enterprises and promote employment. The agreement will also provide the necessary funding for the cleanliness project of industrial zones and consolidate a program of integrated water management. Germany is Tunisia’s main financial partner. Since 1960, Germany has granted Tunisia about 1.468 billion euros ($1.987 billion). [TAP, 6/10/2014]

World Bank extends $26.2 million to upgrade water supplies
The World Bank announced 43.3 million dinars ($26.2 million) in additional financing for upgrading water supplies and services in the greater Tunis area and other cities in Tunisia, as well as for “improving the financial situation of the national water utility, Societé Nationale d’Exploitation et de Distribution des Eaux (SONEDE).” [TAP, 6/10/2014]

Number of international electoral observers will be higher than in 2011
The number of international observers in the next elections will be higher than in 2011, Independent Higher Authority for the Elections (ISIE) President Chafik Sarsar said during a meeting with US Ambassador in Tunis Jacob Walles. The meeting focused on preparations for the next elections. Walles reiterated the US desire to support Tunisia in this next step of its democratic transition process. [TAP, 6/10/2014]


Yemeni soldiers defuse three car bombs in Shabwah
On Wednesday, the defense ministry announced that Yemeni soldiers successfully defused three car bombs in Shabwah governorate in the southeastern outskirts of Yemen. Military sources say that the cars carried in them rockets, mortar shells, tank shells, and dynamite. The military succeeded in killing the suicide bombers responsible for the attack, who are thought to be members of al-Qaeda. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 6/11/2014]

Protesters burn tires over electricity blackout
Protesters angry over fuel shortages took to the streets on Wednesday. Protesters blocked several main roads in Sana’a and burned car tires in front of President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi’s house. Witnesses say the military succeeded in clearing the roads. Shortly after, the Yemeni oil company announced the arrival of petroleum products to the port of Hodeidah. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 6/11/2014]

Military troops attack hijackers in Marib
Military troops targeted tribal militants responsible for attacking on an electric grid and kidnapping several employees of the Yemeni oil company, including a Saudi engineer. The military is still unable to reach the power grid and rescue the abductees. This is the fourth attack on the electric grid in Mareb in less than twenty-four hours. [Saba (Arabic), Al Masdar (Arabic), 6/11/2014]

President Hadi makes changes to his cabinet and administration
President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi issued a decree announcing several new appointments to his cabinet and administration. Among the appointees is Yemen’s Envoy to the UN, Ambassador Jamal al-Sallal, who was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Republic of Yemen. [Sahafa (Arabic), 6/11/2014]


Half a million Iraqis flee as jihadists tighten grip over major cities
In a spectacular assault, the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and their allies on Tuesday seized Mosul, surrounding Nineveh province, and a string of other northern towns. Members of the jihadist group also seized the Turkish consulate in Mosul and kidnapped the head of the diplomatic mission along with twenty-four staff members. Elsewhere, ISIS executed fifteen security personnel in Kirkuk and launched an offensive to take over the oil pipeline of Baiji, before withdrawing when troop reinforcements arrived. The United States announced that it is deeply concerned about the events that have transpired in Mosul and called the situation to be extremely serious. [Naharnet, NY Times, 6/11/2014]

Kuwaiti judge shuts down two newspapers
Two newspapers have been ordered to stop printing for a second time in less than two months over articles about a secret investigation into allegations of a coup plot to overthrow the Kuwaiti monarchy. [NY Times, 6/11/2014]