Top News: Iran Troops to Join War in Syria

Hundreds of Iranian troops arrived in Syria ten days ago with weapons to take part in ground operations in rebel-held areas of northern Syria, and Hezbollah is preparing to join the operation, Lebanese sources told Reuters on Thursday. “The vanguard of Iranian ground forces began arriving in Syria, soldiers and officers specifically to participate in this battle. They are not advisers … we mean hundreds with equipment and weapons. They will be followed by more,” one of the sources said. So far, direct Iranian military support for Assad has come mostly in the form of military advisers. Iran has also mobilized Shia militia fighters, including Iraqis and some Afghans, to fight alongside Syrian government forces. [Reuters, 10/2/2015]



Egypt dismisses 186 appeals against parliamentary candidates
Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court rejected 186 appeals aiming to disqualify candidates from contesting the coming elections for the House of Representatives. The court will hold a hearing session for six appeals Friday, and has referred forty-four appeals to specialized circuits also to be reviewed on the same day. These include an appeal by Mubarak-era politician and steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz who is challenging the Supreme Elections Committee’s decision to reject his candidacy applications. This is the second time Ezz is excluded from the initial list. He was rejected last February before the elections were postponed by court order. Meanwhile, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Magdy al-Agaty told privately owned news site Al-Bawaba on Thursday that the House of Representatives (formerly known as the People’s Assembly) is undergoing renovations in order to accommodate the increased number of members of parliament from 508 to 596. [Aswat Masriya, 10/2/2015]

Six human rights organizations demand release of pardoned activist
Six human rights organizations called for the release of activist Nahed Sherif, known as Nahed Bibo, who was among the 100 detainees pardoned by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Eight days after the pardon was issued, Sherif has yet to be released. Nazra for Feminist Studies and five other human rights organizations issued a statement on Thursday demanding Sherif’s release. In the statement, the rights groups said they hold the Interior Ministry responsible for her physical and psychological condition. [AMAY, 10/1/2015]

Top British military officials in Cairo to discuss counter-terrorism
A British military delegation arrived in Cairo on Friday for a two-day visit to discuss counterterrorism efforts with Egyptian military officials. Chief of Joint Operations Lieutenant General John Lorimer heads the delegation. Egypt’s Chief of Defense Staff Lieutenant General Mahmoud Hegazy visited London two weeks ago where he and senior British military officials discussed the role the United Kingdom can play in supporting Egypt in effective counterterrorism work and how to cooperate to secure a stable future for Libya. A British parliamentary delegation, also visiting Egypt, met with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who said that Egypt looks forward to developing ties with the United Kingdom in all areas. According to a presidential statement, members of the delegation said they look to Sisi’s visit to the United Kingdom. The presidency has not announced when the visit will take place, but the UK-based Egypt Solidarity Initiative called to protest Sisi’s anticipated visit outside the Tory Party conference in Manchester on October 4. [Ahram Online, SIS, 10/2/2015]

Smugglers kill Egyptian policeman near border with Israel
Smugglers killed an Egyptian Central Security Forces conscript in North Sinai near the border with Israel as he foiled a cross-border smuggling attempt, Egypt’s Interior Ministry announced in a statement on Friday. Security forces have since cordoned off the area and are searching for the perpetrators, the Ministry added. [AP, Aswat Masriya, Cairo Post, 10/2/2015]

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ISIS fighters attack forces guarding Libya oil port
Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants attacked forces guarding one of Libya’s main oil ports on Thursday with a gun assault and an attempted car bomb, a local security official said. Militants attacked guards at a gate near Es Sider port, which is under the control of forces allied with the House of Representatives, the security official said. The terminal has been closed since December due to fighting with rival armed factions and problems at supply oilfields. He said one guard was killed and two more wounded. In March, ISIS attacked al-Ghani oilfield and kidnapped nine oil workers, but an attack on Es Sider, a key port, signals a major escalation in the campaign. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 10/1/2015]

Libyan Foreign Minister says Egypt’s army sometimes operates beyond border
Egypt’s army sometimes operates in Libya when pursuing illegal smugglers, according to Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed al-Dairi. In an interview on Friday, al-Dairi said, “Egyptian forces have no presence on Libyan soil, except when they cross the border to pursue smugglers, something which happens in collaboration with Libya.” The border covers some 1,000 kilometers and is seen as a serious threat to Egyptian security, with smugglers crossing it to transport weapons and militants in and out of Egypt. “There are 5,000 ISIS fighters in Derna and Sirte. So the Libyan army’s main task is fighting terrorism, and that might require extra troops and hardware,” al-Dairi added. [Ahram Online, 10/2/2015]

Preparatory meeting of International Conference to Support Tunisia proposed
US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker proposed a preparatory meeting in Washington for coordination between Tunisian and US parties to prepare the International Conference to Support Tunisia, due in March 2016, according to a statement made Thursday by the Tunisian Prime Ministry. The second meeting of the US-Tunisian strategic dialogue, scheduled for November 13, 2015 in Tunis, is expected to host US Secretary of State John Kerry. Essid called on the United States to take part in the work of the International Conference to Support Tunisia in March 2016, to carry on its financial and technical support, and to encourage US businessmen to invest in energy and basic infrastructure in Tunisia. [TAP, 10/1/2015]

Morocco eyes boycott of Swedish companies over Western Sahara
Morocco said on Thursday that it is considering a boycott of Swedish companies operating in the country because of Sweden’s position on the conflict over Western Sahara. The government said Sweden has been campaigning to boycott products from Western Sahara and international companies with a presence there. Sweden and other Scandinavian countries have backed Western Saharan self-determination for many years. Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom said in a statement that Sweden’s entire policy on Western Sahara is the subject of an internal review. A spokesman for the ministry also said that Sweden has no boycott against exports from Morocco. [Reuters, 10/1/2015]


ISIS attacks Deir Ezzor air base
The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) attacked Syrian government-held areas in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor and an air base south of the city on Friday, said the Syrian Observatory . Government warplanes bombarded another area of the city and around the air base, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, a day after pro-Damascus media reported Russian jets had struck parts of Deir Ezzor province held by ISIS. [Reuters, 10/2/2015]

Putin, Hollande discuss Syria airstrikes
A French diplomat says Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande have discussed air strikes by both of their countries in Syria and efforts for a political transition in Syria. The two leaders, meeting in Paris on Friday, made “efforts to bridge the differences” over the Syrian leadership issue, the official said. Their talks focused on the air strikes by Russia and the US-led coalition, protecting civilians, and a political transition. The two countries are not officially “coordinating” their air strikes, but inform each other on logistics to avoid problems, the official said. [AP, 10/2/2015]

Turkey accuses Russia of hitting Syrian rebels to bolster Assad regime, children among dead
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Friday accused Russia of targeting moderate Syrian rebels in its air strikes in Syria to prop up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Davutoglu rejected Moscow’s insistence that its campaign of air strikes launched this week was aimed at ISIS jihadists. “The outcome is very worrisome,” Davutoglu said. “The operation has been entirely against positions of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). This is clearly supporting the Syrian regime, which is on the verge of collapse. I don’t think it will be of benefit to destroy the moderate opposition.” In related news, two children were among at least seven civilians killed in air strikes carried out by Russian warplanes in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). [AFP, 10/2/2015]

Turkey kills 17 Kurdish militants, another 44 detained in Istanbul
Turkish security forces killed more than ten suspected Kurdish militants in Silvan, a town in southeastern Turkey’s Diyarbakir province, where an attack on Thursday left two police officers dead. Authorities imposed a 24-hour curfew on Silvan. The army has had repeated clashes with the rebels in Silvan in recent weeks. Forty-four people were detained on Friday in Istanbul allegedly linked with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), including officials from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), unions, and former district mayors. [Reuters, 10/02/2015]


Saudi-led coalition recaptures strategic Bab al-Mandab
The Saudi-led Arab coalition and Yemeni Popular Resistance forces in Yemen retook control of the island of Meyoon in the strategic strait of Bab al-Mandab, and are now progressing towards al-Mukha city in the southwestern Taiz governorate. Bab al-Mandab is located between Yemen, Djibouti and Eritrea, and connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. Six months of war in Yemen has raised fears for the security of oil supplies through Bab al-Mandab, a main thoroughfare for vessels heading for the United States or Europe from Asia or the Gulf. While first residents were unsure if the Saudi-led coalition had won control, Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah, who returned to Aden in mid-September after months of exile in Saudi Arabia, confirmed the victory on his twitter account on Thursday. [Al-Arabiya, Al-Masdar (Arabic), Reuters, 10/2/2015]

More than 500 children killed since beginning of Yemen conflict
Six months of unremitting violence in Yemen have left at least 505 children dead, 702 injured and more than 1.7 million at risk of malnutrition, The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today. Across the country, nearly ten million children, eighty percent of the country’s under-eighteen population, need urgent humanitarian assistance. More than 1.4 million people have been forced to flee their homes. Meanwhile, the last six months have seen a growing number of attacks on civilians and vital infrastructure. Since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, UNICEF has verified attacks on or damage to forty-one schools and sixty-one hospitals because of the fighting. Despite the growing civilian death toll, Saudi Foreign Minister said in an interview on Wednesday that while collateral damage is “extremely regrettable,” the Saudi-led coalition are unable to prevent it fully, as “this is warfare.” [UNICEF, CBS, 10/2/2015]

Bahrain recalls its envoy to Tehran
Bahrain ordered the acting Iranian chargé d’affaires to leave within seventy-two hours on Thursday and recalled its own ambassador over allegations that Iran sponsored “subversion” and funneled arms to militants in Bahrain. The Iranian government did not immediately respond. In a statement released on Thursday, the Bahraini foreign ministry accused Iran of “attempting to spark sectarian tension” and “continually interfering in Bahraini affairs.” This move follows an announcement made by Bahrain security forces on Wednesday that they found a weapons cache in Nuweidrat containing at least 1.5 tonnes of high grade explosives, which Bahrain state media claimed was enough to destroy the entire capital of Manama. Chief of Police Major-General Tariq Al Hasan alleged Iran was responsible for the plan, and that the suspects involved have strong ties with the Iran Revolutionary Guards. [NYT, Gulf News, Reuters, Al Arabiya, 10/2/2015]


World bank lends Tunisia $500 million for economic reforms
The World Bank has approved a $500 million loan for Tunisia to help finance economic reforms and address the impact of two large attacks on the country’s tourism industry. The World Bank said on Friday the operation would aid restructuring of state banks and administration as a way to help economic growth. International lenders want to see Tunisia enact more economic reforms to help reduce the country’s deficit and high public spending. “We have accelerated the pace of our program to support Tunisia to face the economic shocks that followed the terrorist attacks in the Bardo and Sousse,” the Bank said in statement. “As Tunisia moves beyond the political transition, speeding up the pace of economic reforms will be critical to guarantee stability and further progress,” said Eileen Murray, World Bank Country Manager for Tunisia. She said the aid package was prepared “in close consultation” with the African Development Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.” [Reuters, The Financial, 10/2/2015]

Egypt to sign EUR 240 million deal with Siemens to establish electricity transmission stations
Egypt will sign an agreement with the German industrial company Siemens to establish six new electricity transmission stations for EUR 240 million ($268 million), Ministry of Electricity Spokesperson Mohamed al-Yammany said on Thursday. Siemens will establish transmission stations at a 500/220 Kilovolt capacity in eighteen months, he said. He added that the transmission stations would serve power plants located in Burullus on the north coast, Upper Egypt’s Beni Suef, and the planned administrative capital. Siemens signed a $9 billion deal in June with the Egyptian government to establish three high-efficiency natural gas power plants and wind power installations. [Ahram Online, 10/1/2015]

Jordan, Egypt discuss energy cooperation, engage Iraq
Jordan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour and Egyptian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek al-Molla met on Thursday to discuss bilateral relations and energy cooperation. Jordanian Energy Minister Ibrahim Saif and Egyptian Ambassador to Jordan Khaled Tharwat were also present. Jordan hopes to increase cooperation in the recently discovered Zohr gas field. Ensour stressed Jordan’s interest in importing gas from Egypt. Molla said that development of the Zohr natural gas field would bring benefits to both countries. The discussion also highlighted the importance of the Iraqi oil pipeline, planned to be built between Basra and Aqaba. A Jordanian-Egyptian delegation is due to visit Baghdad to examine plans for the pipeline and the possibility of extending it to Egypt. [Jordan Times, SIS, 10/1/2015]

Bahrain lifts meat prices as cheap oil hits state finances
Bahrain more than doubled the prices of beef and chicken on Thursday, removing meat subsidies in a politically sensitive move designed to save money as low oil prices slash the government’s revenues. The government will provide partial compensation to Bahraini citizens through cash handouts. Foreigners, who make up about half the population of roughly 1.3 million, will not be compensated. The government originally announced in August that it would remove meat subsidies starting September 1, but then delayed implementation as it consulted lawmakers and advisers. Local media quoted officials as saying the reform was expected to save the government about 22-29 million dinars ($58-77 million) annually. This marks a small amount compared to a state budget deficit projected at 1.5 billion dinars this year. While considering cuts to a range of other subsidies, the government has not yet announced a concrete plan. [Reuters, 10/1/2015]