Top News: Iraq Elects a New President

On Thursday Iraq’s parliament elected Kurdish politician Fuad Masum as federal president. The election of the president comes as much need push for a formation of a new power-sharing government. The election comes as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon traveled to Iraq and held a meeting with Iraq’s top Shia cleric.


Egyptian army blocks aid convoy to Gaza; Additional convoy en route to Gaza
Egypt’s army prevented an aid convoy of medical supplies from crossing the border to the Palestinian Gaza Strip on Thursday, the popular campaign to support Gaza has said in a statement. Meanwhile, the Egyptian military intelligence services allowed another aid convoy to support Gaza to pass through one of the checkpoints en route to the Palestinian strip, after it was halted briefly at Ismailia. The convoy, which is carrying medical supplies, has crossed Al Qantara port in Ismailia, the popular campaign to support Gaza told Aswat Masriya. It is expected to reach the Rafah crossing, where the supplies will be handed over to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS). The PRCS will distribute the aid to hospitals in Gaza, one of the activists in the convoy said. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 7/24/2014]

Moussa rejects NDP members from parliamentary alliance
Amr Moussa, former foreign minister and chairman of the 50-member committee which drafted Egypt’s new constitution, says he won’t let members of Hosni Mubarak’s defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) join a political alliance he formed with hopes of winning a majority in the coming parliament. Sources said that Moussa decided that his alliance—called the Alliance of the Egyptian Nation—would rather join forces with all other political groups, as long as they believe in a civil state that does not mix religion with politics. On July 14, Cairo’s Appeal Court for Urgent Matters ruled that leading officials of Mubarak’s NDP could stand in parliamentary elections, overturning an earlier ban. Moussa’s move came upon the request of political forces that approved joining his alliance. [Ahram Online, 7/23/2014]

Egypt newspapers publish legal reasoning of Al Jazeera case
On Wednesday, Egyptian newspapers published the legal reasoning behind the case of the Al Jazeera journalists, issued by the Giza Court of Felonies, presided over by Justice Mohamed Nagy. According to the reasoning, the verdict rests on several key principles, which have sparked controversy among human rights observers in terms of their legality: The court accepted the premise that a reasonable link between the journalists and the Muslim Brotherhood had been established; they were found using video editing and broadcast equipment without authorization; editing software was proof of an attempt to disseminate false news and tarnish Egypt’s image; possession of an empty tear gas canister and a spent bullet constituted weapons possession; and arguments claiming the police acted on an invalid arrest warrant based on unfounded claims were rejected. Click here to read the Arabic text of the legal reasoning. [Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), Tahrir (Arabic), 7/24/2014]

Egyptian oil company added to EU trade sanctions list
Maadi-based oil trader Tri Oceans Trading has been added to a list of companies sanctioned by the European Union. The company has been accused of “providing support to the Syrian regime and benefiting from the regime by organizing covert shipments of oil to the regime,” and will have any assets in the European Union frozen. [Mada Masr, 7/24/2014]


Clashes in Benghazi kill at least nine
Medical sources say at least nine people were killed and nineteen wounded, mostly civilians, in Benghazi after heavy clashes late Wednesday between Islamist fighters and armed forces trying to oust the militants. Announcing a “full-blown operation against these terrorists,” the commander of the Saiqa special forces has called for reinforcements to defeat Ansar al-Sharia after the two suicide attacks at their barracks this week. The spiraling insecurity continues to drive out the international community; Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu said that Turkey has taken measures to withdraw hundreds of its citizens from Libya and that the country may evacuate its embassy in Tripoli. [Reuters, 7/24/2014]

Libya power handover agreed as airport battle rages on
The General National Congress (GNC) said Wednesday it will hand over legislative power to the newly elected House of Representatives on August 4, but the announcement has not had the hoped-for effect of ending the violence. In Tripoli, there was no sign of a ceasefire between rival factions battling for control of the main airport. The battle is seen as part of a political struggle; liberal factions have won the most seats in the new parliament, and Islamists are trying to reassert their influence by military means. Many newly elected members have expressed reluctance about basing the House of Representatives in Benghazi, with some refusing to take up their seats because of the city’s rampant security problems. [AFP, Libya Herald, 7/23/2014]

Government and civil society aid residents impacted by Tripoli fighting
The government and civil society organizations are stepping up to assist civilians impacted by the fighting in Tripoli. The government has set up a crisis committee to aid the residents from Tripoli’s Gasr Ben Gashir district near the airport, who are bearing the brunt of inter-militia clashes that are forcing most inhabitants to flee to safety. Some have sought refuge with families and friends elsewhere in the city, but others have been left homeless. The clashes have caused damage to dozens of homes in the area, and reports have emerged of a number of civilian deaths. The government is to provide food and shelter for those who have no homes to which they can return and will assess the damage in the area to provide compensation. [Libya Herald, 7/23/2014]


ISIS storm besieged army base
The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham stormed parts of a besieged army base in northern
Syria, setting off clashes that left dozens killed or wounded on both sides. The assault began with two suicide car bomb attacks. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Syrian army helicopters attacked jihadi positions around the base, known as Division 17, in the province of Raqqa. The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, says the air force conducted twelve raids around Division 17 and the nearby provincial capital of Raqqa, which is controlled by ISIS. [AP, 7/24/2014]

Norwegian police warn of Syria-linked terror attack
Norwegian police said on Thursday that they had received intelligence of a potential terrorist attack that could take place within the next few days, and said armed guards had been placed at airports, train stations and borders. “We’ve received an unspecified threat, but worrisome and credible, related to a potential terrorist attack that may happen in Norway in the near future,” Benedicte Bjornland, head of Norway’s Police Security Service, told The Wall Street Journal. “The threat is of limited duration.” The threat was related to a small group of people with links to an extreme Islamist group in Syria, but Ms. Bjornland would not say how many people were involved nor whether any were Norwegian citizens. About fifty Norwegians have traveled to Syria to fight since the conflict began, and about half have returned. [WSJ, 7/24/2014]

Canadian charged with joining ISIS
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced terrorism charges Wednesday against a twenty-five year old Canadian for allegedly traveling to Syria to fight alongside Islamist fighters. The charges against Hasibullah Yusufzai are the first ever laid against a Canadian under a new law passed last year that criminalized travel abroad for the purpose of terrorist activities. Canada’s spy service estimates that more than a hundred young men have left Canada to fight in foreign wars and join jihadist causes. [National Post, AFP, 7/24/2014]

All toxic chemicals removed from Syria are now at destruction sites
All the toxic chemicals removed from Syria under a deal with the Syrian government have been delivered to destruction facilities outside the country, the global chemical weapons watchdog said on Thursday. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement that the 1,300 tons of chemicals removed from Syria were now being destroyed at different locations. The watchdog said thirty-two percent of the total had been destroyed by July 21. [Reuters, 7/24/2014]


Jomaa says no austerity strategy in supplementary finance bill
Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa said at the plenary session of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) on Wednesday that the supplementary finance draft law 2014 does not include an austerity strategy. Jomaa stressed that the supplementary finance bill “aims to put an end to the economic crisis in Tunisia through defining priorities, including consolidation of tax morality, fight against parallel trade and tax evasion, and implementation of urgent and permanent solutions for public finance problems.” [TAP, 7/23/2014]

Tunisia cuts Libya diplomatic presence amid unrest
Tunisia recalled diplomats from Libya and urged expats to leave the embattled country. “We have decided to cut consular services provided by our consular missions in Tripoli and Benghazi, and to provide only necessary and urgent services,” the Tunisian Foreign Ministry said on July 16. Additionally, TunisAir cancelled its flights to Libya because of the security risks. A Tunisian diplomat and embassy staff member kidnapped in Libya last April by gunmen were recently released. Many Tunisian workers have recently returned home from Libya because of the danger. [Magharebia, 7/23/2014]

Anti-terrorism law includes arms dealing as terrorist crime
The Rights and Freedoms and General Legislation Commission of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) reached agreement on Wednesday to include arms dealing as a terrorist crime in the anti-terrorism draft law. A consensus was reached during their joint meeting on adding a dash to Article 31 criminalizing arms dealing, storage, and manufacture and banning the possession of weapons of categories one and two. [TAP, 7/23/2014]


Hundreds of thousands mourn commander death in Sana’a
Hundreds of thousands attended the 310-armored brigade commander’s funeral in Sana’a on Wednesday. Commander Hamid al-Qushaibi was brutally killed by Houthi rebels when they took over Amran earlier this month. The funeral resembled a demonstration, as mourners voiced their disappointment in Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmad whose policies were to blame for Houthi rebel advancement to Amran. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 7/23/2014]

Houthi rebels clash with locals in Jawf
Clashes broke out between Houthi rebels and Jawf residents after a peace deal failed to take effect, resulting in the 100 casualties. Jawf Governor Abdo Sharif admitted to a lack of cooperation from local authorities to broker a deal with Houthi rebels. The presidential commission from Sana’a tasked with brokering a peace deal to end the violence failed to reach an agreement with the rebels on Thursday. [Sahafa (Arabic), 7/23/2014]

UNESCO condemns looting in Socotra
The National Commission for The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) condemned on Wednesday the looting and destruction of archaeological sites that occurred recently in Socotra, Yemen. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the commission considered what happened in Socotra a cultural and ethical crime, as the Socotra Island is considered one of the most important natural archaeological reserves registered in the world heritage list. [Saba, 7/23/2014]

Constitution drafting committee makes progress on draft constitution
The constitution drafting committee announced on Thursday that they finished drafting the political, economic, and social foundations of the federalist state, as well as the articles addressing the breakdown of the three branches of government; legislative, judicial, and executive. The committee’s chairman announced that they would begin their public hearings to reach preliminary consensus on the initial draft after the Eid holiday [Saba (Arabic), 7/24/2014]


Iraq elects a new president
On Thursday Iraq’s parliament elected Kurdish politician Fuad Masum as federal president. The election of the president comes as much need push for a formation of a new power-sharing government. The election comes as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon traveled to Iraq and held a meeting with Iraq’s top Shia cleric. The Secretary-General urged Iraqi politicians to form an inclusive government that can confront a Sunni militant insurgency. [AFP, Reuters, 7/24/2014]

Attack on bus in Iraq leaves fifty-two prisoners dead, as fighting continues in the north
A bomb attack on a bus transporting prisoners near Baghdad killed fifty-two prisoners and nine policemen on Thursday, Ministry of Justice sources said. The bus was transporting prisoners from a military base in the town of Taji to Baghdad when it was hit by roadside. In northern Iraq, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters took complete control the town of Jalawla after fierce clashes with ISIS forces overnight. Meanwhile, ISIS fighters have issued a declaration ordering all women around the city of Mosul to undergo female genital mutilation, the United Nations reported on Thursday. Subsequent reports claim that both Mosul residents and ISIS deny issuing the order. [Reuters, 7/24/2014]

UAE toughens counterterrorism laws
The United Arab Emirates has revised its ten-year-old counterterrorism law to respond to evolving threats. The draft of the law has been sent to President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan for approval. The law will charge convicted terrorists with capital punishment, life imprisonment, and fines of up twenty-seven million dollars. According to the circulated draft, a person will only need to threaten, incite, or plan any terrorist act to be prosecuted as a terrorist. [Defense News, 7/24/2014]