Top News: Iran Promises Houthis Two Years’ Worth of Oil

Iran will provide Yemen with oil and electricity, a Houthi delegation returning from a two-week visit to Tehran announced on Thursday, although it remains unclear if the supply would reach areas outside the control of Houthi militia. The delegation was headed by Saleh al-Samad, president of the Houthis’ political wing. He promised that the visit would have a “positive impact” on the economy of Yemen, currently the poorest country in the Middle East, which appears to have worsened since Houthi militiamen overran the capital Sanaa in September. [SABAMiddle East Monitor, 3/13/2015] 



Kerry urges firms to invest in Egypt, no new military aid
US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered words of encouragement Friday for Egypt’s efforts to attract greater foreign investment, but no new military assistance as demanded by the country’s president. Kerry arrived in Sharm al-Sheikh on Friday morning to attend Egypt’s three-day economic conference. He said investment was needed to restore confidence in Egypt and provide stability for the region and that the United States, whose companies invested $2 billion in Egypt last year, stood ready to help. “The United States is eager, ready, and willing to be a catalyst in Egypt’s economic development and we respect the efforts you’re already making and we want to help,” Kerry said. During his visit, Kerry will meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi later on Friday, Jordan’s King Abdullah, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. [AP, Reuters, 3/12/2015]

Cairo court adjourns verdict in graft case against Mubarak’s interior minister
A Cairo criminal court adjoined on Thursday its ruling against a Hosni Mubarak-era minister over graft charges until March 19 after new evidence in the case surfaced, judicial sources said. Former interior minister Habib al-Adly is charged with illicit gains amounting to 181 million Egyptian pounds by using his political influence to amass a fortune disproportionate to his sources of income. Adly’s lawyer successfully demanded that the court allow further hearing of defense in the case, claiming that new evidence exists, which proves the defendant’s innocence. This is the last remaining trial Adly is facing. [Ahram Online, 3/12/2015]

Sisi says Brotherhood is ‘godfather of all terrorist organizations’
In his latest interview, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, described the Muslim Brotherhood as the “godfather of all terrorist organizations.” Sisi said, “The Muslim Brotherhood is the parent organization of extreme ideology.” He also called on the United States to support Egypt, and the popular will of Egyptians. He added, “We need the US to clearly understand that there is a strategic vacuum in this region,” and expressed concerns that Egypt is in danger of collapse. Commenting on the US-Iran nuclear negotiations, Sisi said, “We understand that President Obama is engaged in a lot of actions in order to tackle this issue. We should give him time. … Meanwhile, we have to understand the Israeli concern.” He added that he speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often “to reassure him that achieving peace [with the Palestinians] will be a historic deal for him and for Israel.” [Washington Post, 3/12/2015]

Report shows Sinai population still striving for basic rights as unrest continues
Sinai residents continue to voice disillusionment amid gross negligence by authorities and a worsening security and economic situation in the border region, a rights report has revealed. The draft report, compiled by a delegation from the state-funded National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) upon a five-day visit, showed that the evacuation of homes have further alienated a population with long-standing grievances. Hundreds of homes have been demolished and thousands of residents evicted as Egyptian troops press to build a buffer zone along the border with Gaza. Several locals beyond the buffer zones had to flee their homes in Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid, some of whom now live in tin shacks and others with no access to drinking water or living staples, acknowledges the report. Most of the displaced families resent “palpable government negligence, unavailability of nearby schools for their sons, lack of health services, and the threat of being evicted from their new residences by property-owners,” the report shows. The report does not directly address security in Sinai but it lists recommendations to tackle the grievances. [Ahram Online, 3/12/2015]

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ISIS claims responsibility for attack on Libya’s Tripoli police station
The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) claimed responsibility for a bomb attack at a police station in Tripoli, issuing what appear to be credible before and after pictures of the attack. The blast occurred early Thursday morning and no injuries have been reported, however it did cause significant damage to the station and nearby buildings and vehicles. The Libya Dawn militia and General National Congress have repeatedly claimed there is no ISIS presence in Tripoli, yet this is the latest in a series of attacks in the city involving militants who claim to be with the militant group. [Libya Herald, Reuters, 3/12/2015]

Saudi Arabia, Sudan allow Libyan overflights; Airport guards stop Thinni from boarding plane
Saudi Arabia and Sudan have given permission to Libyan aircraft from Tripoli’s Mitiga airport to pass through their airspace en route to Amman, Jordan. Normally flights from Mitiga to Jordan pass through Egyptian-controlled airspace, but Egypt has insisted that flights originating from Libya Dawn-controlled airports must be checked at either Tobruk or Labraq, under the control of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives with which Egypt is allied. Meanwhile, guards at the Labraq airport stopped the Tobruk-based Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni from getting on a plane to Tunis in protest of his choice for interior minister. The guards demanded the post go to a southerner, instead of the current westerner, highlighting regional and political divisions. [Libya Herald, Libya Monitor (subscription), Reuters, 3/12/2015]

Zintan confirms loss of base to Libya Dawn
Zintan officials confirmed that the Libyan National Army (LNA), allied with the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, lost its base at Um Shawisha to Libya Dawn forces allied to the rival Tripoli-based General National Congress. A Zintani official claimed that the LNA forces pulled out of the base before the Libya Dawn forces moved in to consolidate their forces at Wattiya airbase. [Libya Herald, 3/12/2015]

Tunisian judges protest draft higher judicial council law, on strike
The Tunisian Judges Association and the Union of Judges called for a strike to protest the new draft law to establish a Higher Judicial Council. The purpose of the new council is to supervise the judicial system, ensuring its commitment to the implementation of the constitution, and enforce compliance with international standards. The Tunisian Judges Association claims that the new council undermines the independence of the judiciary and criticized Article 47 of the proposed law, which states a judge can be disbarred by presidential order. [Tunisia Live, 3/12/2015]

Algeria invites activists to check press freedoms
Algeria’s communications minister invited rights groups to visit and check on media freedoms in a rare move by the country. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International often accuse Algeria for cracking down on journalists and activists. Since the Arab Spring movement in 2011, Algerian television has hosted more political debates and cartoonists. Columnists often mock veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, army generals, and ministers in the press. However, HRW recently reported that authorities arrested rights activist Rachid Aouine for mocking the police on social media. [Reuters, 3/11/2015]


UN chief demands determined measures to end Syria crisis
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday urged the Security Council to take “determined measures” to end the war in Syria, as it entered its fifth year with no prospect for peace. “The Syrian people feel increasingly abandoned by the world as they enter the fifth year of the war that has torn their country apart.” The suffering continues “under the eyes of the international community, still divided and incapable of taking collective action to stop the killing and destruction.” Heads of several UN agencies said in a joint statement that world leaders must put aside disagreements to end the four-year war in Syria that has exacted an “unconscionable” human cost. The United States also made a fresh call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Adding that without the departure of Assad, it would not be possible “to fully stabilize” the country. [AFP, 3/12/2015]

Export of Iran’s revolution enters new chapter
Iran’s top general Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said Wednesday that his country has reached “a new chapter” towards its declared aim of exporting revolution, in reference to Tehran’s growing regional influence. The comments come amid concern among some of Shia Iran’s neighbors about Tehran’s role. “The Islamic revolution is advancing with good speed, its example being the ever-increasing export of the revolution… Today, not only Palestine and Lebanon acknowledge the influential role of the Islamic Republic, but so do the people of Iraq and Syria. They appreciate the nation of Iran.” Jafari’s remarks echoed those of another Iranian general, Qassem Suleimani, head of the Quds Force, who has reportedly been posted in Iraq near the front line against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). “Today we see signs of the Islamic revolution being exported throughout the region, from Bahrain to Iraq and from Syria to Yemen and North Africa,” Suleimani said in February. [AFP, 3/11/2015]

Iraqi forces push into Tikrit
Iraqi government forces and Shia militias are advancing into Tikrit on several fronts, forcing ISIS militants to fall back to the city center. Iraqi forces have reportedly retaken key sites including a police headquarters and a hospital. On Thursday, a security official in the Samarra Operations Command in Salahuddin province said forces had taken the Industrial Zone and Celebrations Square near the city center after seizing the Qadisiya area further north. Adding that battles with ISIS militants were taking place near Celebration Square, in the western district of al-Zuhur, and around the presidential palace complex built by Saddam Hussein in the southeast. [BBC, AFP, 3/13/2015]

Turkey shuts border crossings as fighting worsens around Aleppo
Turkey has closed two border crossings with Syria as a security precaution as fighting around the northern Syrian city of Aleppo intensifies. The crossings at Oncupinar and Cilvegozu in Turkey’s southern Hatay province have been shut to vehicles and individuals crossing from Syria since Monday. “Turkey has some security concerns and it is natural for measures to be taken based on the threat assessment conducted. This is what is also expected by Turkey by the international community,” said a Turkish official. Humanitarian aid will not be affected and Syrians with passports are still allowed to cross into Syria. On Thursday, The Turkish coast guard opened fire to stop a cargo vessel carrying 337 mainly Syrian migrants heading towards European Union waters and arrested the suspected traffickers. Turkey’s Foreign Minister said Friday authorities have detained sixteen Indonesians who were trying to cross the border into Syria to join ISIS.[Reuters, 3/12/2015]


Hadi meets with escaped defense minister
Yemeni President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi met with Defense Minister General Mahmoud al-Subaihi in Aden on Wednesday, their first meeting since Subaihi escaped house arrest imposed on him by the Houthi movement. The talks between the two come as clashes continued around Aden’s main airport between Special Security Forces (SSF)—who are believed to be allied with the Houthis and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh—and members of the Popular Committees, or volunteer forces, which are loyal to Hadi. [Asharq al-Awsat, 3/12/2015]

GCC extends invitation to Houthis
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) reiterated its support for the constitutional legitimacy of Yemeni President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi Thursday during a meeting in Riyadh. Qatar’s foreign minister Khalid al-Attiyah said that the Houthis who took control Sana’a were welcome to attend crisis talks hosted by Riyadh. There has been no set date for the meeting. However, anyone who attends the talks must adhere to President Hadi’s conditions for the talks. These include rejecting “the coup d’etat” by Houthis, returning seized military equipment and allowing the state “to recover its authority over all territory.” [Gulf News, Saudi Gazette, Al Masdar, 3/13/2015]

Iran promises Houthis two years’ worth of oil
Iran will provide Yemen with oil and electricity, a Houthi delegation returning from a two-week visit to Tehran announced on Thursday, although it remains unclear if the supply would reach areas outside the control of Houthi militia. The delegation was headed by Saleh al-Samad, president of the Houthis’ political wing. He promised that the visit would have a “positive impact” on the economy of Yemen, currently the poorest country in the Middle East, which appears to have worsened since Houthi militiamen overran the capital Sanaa in September. [SABA, Middle East Monitor, 3/13/2015]

Saudi rights activist’s flogging delayed for ninth week in a row
Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger jailed for criticizing Islam, has had his weekly lashes delayed for a ninth consecutive week. Human rights group Amnesty International confirmed the news on Twitter, saying the reasons were unclear for yet another postponement. Badawi was arrested in June 2012 after criticizing the Saudi regime and expressing views critical of Islam on his blog. He was eventually sentenced in May 2014 to ten years in jail and 1,000 lashes, to be delivered in batches of 50 every week. He was flogged for the first time on January 9. [CBC, 3/13/2015]


Egypt’s president passes series of laws on eve of economic conference
Egypt’s president approved a package of amendments to investment laws on Thursday, aimed at enticing foreign investors on the eve of the Economic Development Conference. The amendments package trims corporate taxes to 22.5 percent, from as high as 30 percent previously, and facilitates settling disputes with investors. Sales taxes were dropped to 5 percent from 10 percent and customs duties on equipment used for production were set at 2 percent. Non-tax incentives were provided to investors in labor-intensive industries. Tarek Tawfik, a businessman and deputy chairman of Egypt’s Federation of Industries said the new measures also allow the president to give away land for development for limited periods. Sisi also ratified an amended criminal law, extending the statute of limitations for bribery and embezzlement. [AP, Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, 3/12/2015]

Iran promises a year’s worth of oil to Yemen’s Houthis
A Houthi delegation returning from a two-week visit to Tehran, announced that Iran pledged to provide Yemen with support in the sectors of energy, electricity, transportation, water and sewage. Iranian officials expressed readiness to provide Yemen with oil for one year and to build a 165-megawatt power plant in the energy-starved country. The agreement also envisaged cooperation to expand and develop the Red Sea port of al-Hudaydah. The announcement is expected to further increase fears among Yemen’s Gulf neighbors that Iran is looking to expand its influence over the region. [MEE, World Bulletin, Saba (Arabic), 3/13/2015]

Favorable conditions boost Jordan’s budget
The head of the Jordanian Lower House Financial Committee announced that “unexpected developments” helped trim Jordan’s public debt by nearly JD 700 million by the end of 2014. Falling global oil prices since June last year saved the Treasury over JD 300 million and the state budget received a boost of around JD 371 million in revenues. Public debt was also projected to exceed JD 21 billion but the developments to state finances kept it at around JD 20 billion. Reportedly, IMF officials are comfortable with the financial situation in Jordan and view the 2015 State Budget Law, recently endorsed by parliament, as a positive development. [The Jordan Times, 3/13/2015]

Libya’s GNC accuses rival of trying to sell oil independently through Es Sider port
Libya’s rival parliament has accused forces loyal to the country’s official government of trying to arrange a crude oil sale from outside the Tripoli-based state oil firm NOC. Deputy Speaker Saleh al-Makhzoum said his Tripoli-based General National Congress would complain to UN Special Envoy for Libya Bernardino Leon about a tanker trying to dock at Es Sider port. Ali al-Hassi, spokesman for a security force controlling Es Sider and loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized Tobruk-based House of Representatives, denied it had tried to bypass Tripoli in selling oil. Ship tracking data showed the Panama-flagged tanker was currently sailing past Crete, Greece. [Reuters, 3/12/2015]