Top News: Iraq’s Top Shia Cleric Warns Parliament Not to Stall Abadi’s Reforms

Iraq’s top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani warned parliament on Friday not to use concerns over the legality of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s reforms as a tactic to block them, in a boost to the premier days after lawmakers sought to rein him in. Iraq’s parliament voted unanimously on Monday to bar the government from passing important reforms without its approval, resisting Abadi’s efforts to unilaterally reshape a governing system that critics say encouraged corruption. Sistani is one of the most influential figures in Iraq. [NYT, 11/6/2015]



Sisi meets Cameron amid back and forth UK-Egypt remarks
The aftermath of the Russian plane crash in Sinai dominated President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s maiden official visit to the UK Thursday, with Sisi stressing in a joint press conference that security procedures at Sharm al-Sheikh airport are sufficient. “We are completely ready to cooperate with all our friends to make sure that our airport provides the safety and security needed for the people who come to us,” he said at a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Sisi said that Sharm al-Sheikh airport, where British investigators are probing security measures, had passed a previous inspection requested by Britain. “Ten months ago we were asked by our British friends to send teams to Sharm airport to make sure that all the security procedures are (good) enough,” he said. “They were happy with that,” he added. Cameron said in the press conference with Sisi that although it is not certain that the Russian plane was brought down by a terror attack, he had to take intelligence advice for the security of his people. The Russian Foreign Ministry complained about Britain’s failure to hand over information about Saturday’s deadly plane crash in Egypt, after its statements about a possible terror attack. Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama said on Thursday there was a “possibility” that the crash of a Russian passenger plane in Egypt was caused by a bomb on board the airliner. [DNE, AFP, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, SIS, The Guardian, Cairo Post, 11/6/2015]

NCHR president wants to meet Sisi over police violations
Members of the National Council for Human Rights have agreed that NCHR President Mohamed Faeq will request a meeting with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after he returns from London to brief him on violations committed by police against Egyptian citizens. Council members unanimously agreed these violations, including the unlawful mass arrests of civilians, must come to an end. The head of the NCHR’s complaints office, Nasser Amin, said the council had serious concerns over the unprecedented human rights violations by police, particularly regarding the detention of citizens, and preventing them from communicating with their families. The council received 169 complaints, the highest rate compared to other types of complaints, on the exploitation of power and use of violence, Amin said. The council has also sent the Interior Ministry a list of fifty-one citizens who were forcibly disappeared and demanded their whereabouts be disclosed. The ministry ignored the council’s request, Amin added. [AMAY, 11/6/2015]

Interior ministry says three ‘militants’ killed in car bomb
Three individuals were killed after an explosive device detonated inside a car on Friday in the town of Abu Kebir in Egypt’s Sharqiya province. According to the official statement released by the Ministry of Interior, two of the individuals died inside the car, and the third was on a nearby motorcycle and appeared to be talking to the men in the car. It is unclear whether the explosive device detonated prematurely or not. After identifying the men, authorities declared that they were militants belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. Following the explosion, police and members of the bomb squad combed the area looking for additional explosives. [Cairo Post, 11/6/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Tripoli faction seeks relaunch of Libya talks, says UN envoy biased
Libya’s western government in Tripoli wants to relaunch UN-sponsored talks aimed reaching a political agreement, because it says the outgoing UN Envoy Bernardino Leon was biased in favor of the rival eastern government. The chief negotiator for the Tripoli-based government Awad Abdulsadek said Leon had demonstrated his bias by accepting a post in the United Arab Emirates, a country Tripoli sees as backing its rival. Abdulsadek said, “The replacement of Leon should start [the dialogue] all over again; now we know Leon was biased in favor of one of the sides.” The United Nations said on Wednesday that Leon would be replaced by veteran German diplomat Martin Kobler in the coming days, and Leon gave what is understood to be his last official statement to the UN Security Council on Thursday. [Reuters, AP, 11/5/2015]

ICC prosecutor says ISIS responsible for most Libya killings
Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants are killing more civilians in Libya than any of the other warring factions, but all sides are committing crimes, International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Thursday. Of the thirty-seven car and suicide bombings recorded this year in Libya, twenty-seven have been attributed to ISIS, Bensouda said in a report to the UN Security Council. Bensouda said the Libya Dawn militia that controls Tripoli and the Libyan National Army loyal to the eastern government have also committed large-scale crimes. Total numbers of violent deaths have seen an average monthly increase in 2015. Civilian deaths have fluctuated, but no less than sixty per month have been recorded this year alone. The prosecutor added that the UN-supported dialogue represents the best hope for Libya’s transition to national unity and durable peace. [AFP, All Africa/UN News, 11/5/2015]

Gunmen kidnap dozens of Tunisians in Libya
Gunmen have kidnapped dozens of Tunisians in western Libya to demand the release of a Libyan arrested in Tunisia, families and authorities said on Thursday. Tunisia’s foreign ministry confirmed the kidnapping and said it was in contact with the Libyan authorities to try and secure the release of its citizens. It did not give any details about a detained Libyan suspect. Mustapha Abdel Kebir, a Tunisian human rights activist with contacts in Libya, said as many as fifty Tunisians were being held in Warshafana, an area west of Tripoli. [Reuters, 11/5/2015]

MOU between Tunisia and Sweden
Tunisia and Sweden signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Thursday to enhance political, economic, and cultural cooperation between the two countries. According to Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, this MOU will energize Tunisian-Swedish cooperation and establish regular consultations between the two countries on issues of mutual interest. Essebsi and his wife started a three day state visit to the Kingdom of Sweden on Wednesday at the invitation of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia. Also on Thursday, Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced that Sweden’s embassy in Tunis will reopen soon. [TAP, 11/5/2015]


Syrian rebels recapture village from regime forces in western Syria; Russia, Turkey discuss Syria
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and other activist groups say rebels have recaptured a village in western Syria, days after it was seized by government troops as part of a major offensive. SOHR reported that a coalition of rebel fighters regained control over the village of Atshan in Hama province on Friday, fighting back multiple offensives by the Syrian army and allied militiamen supported by Russian air strikes. Also on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu discussed the search for a political solution in Syria on the phone. [AP, Reuters, 11/6/2015]

Mustard gas used in Syria in August
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) experts have concluded for the first time that mustard gas was used during fighting in Syria in August. The deadly gas was used in the town Marea in the northern province of Aleppo on August 21. “We have determined the facts, but we have not determined who was responsible,” the OPCW source said, asking not to be named. Syrian rebels and aid groups said that the end of August saw dozens of people affected by a chemical attack on Marea, where moderate opposition rebels and ISIS militants had clashed. The OPCW report said a baby “very likely” died as a result of its use. [AFP, BBC, Al Jazeera, Reuters, AP, 11/6/2015]

Russian air strikes kill forty-two in Raqqa
Air strikes by Russian warplanes on the ISIS-held Syrian city of Raqqa killed forty-two people earlier this week, including twenty-seven civilians and fifteen ISIS fighters according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The bombings add to a civilian death toll from Russian strikes, which the Syrian Network for Human Rights, another activist group, said Monday stood at 254 people killed in just over a month. [Reuters, 11/6/2015]

Turkish police detain twenty ISIS suspects; Crackdown on Gulen continues
Turkish police have detained twenty ISIS suspects in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya ahead of a G20 summit being attended by world leaders there, local media reported Friday. US President Barack Obama is among G20 leaders who will be at the summit in Antalya on November 15-16. There was no further information about the Antalya raids and no immediate comment from the prime minister’s office. Also on Friday, Turkish police searched offices of a business association close to Fethullah Gulen, sustaining a crackdown on the Muslim cleric’s supporters after Sunday’s election. The search of the TUSKON business confederation and related groups in Ankara was carried out on the order of the Ankara state prosecutor’s office, state-run Anadolu Agency reported. [AFP, 11/6/2015]

For more in-depth Syria news and analysis, please visit SyriaSource.


Russian plane delayed leaving Sana’a
According to the Saudi-led Coalition’s spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri, Houthi rebels are to blame for the delayed departure of a Russian plane in Sana’a. The plane delivered more than twenty tons of humanitarian aid to Yemen. Despite the Gulf Coalition’s strict blockade on the country, the coalition did not subject the plane to inspection. Asiri added that the Russian plane was allowed to land at Sana’a airport after getting permission from the Arab coalition. While the flight was briefly delayed, the coalition said that the plane will leave tomorrow with around seventy-five passengers who wanted to leave the city, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. [Al Arabiya, Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/6/2015]

Cholera spreads from Iraq to Kuwait and Bahrain
A cholera outbreak in Iraq has spread to Kuwait and Bahrain and risks turning into a region-wide epidemic as millions of pilgrims prepare to visit the country, UNICEF’s Iraq Director Peter Hawkins said. The outbreak was first detected west of Baghdad in September and has since infected at least 2,200 people in Iraq and has killed six. Hawkins said cholera had spread to Bahrain, Kuwait, and Syria but, in a later statement, UNICEF said the cases in Syria were not confirmed. The outbreak can be traced to a number of factors including low water levels in the Euphrates and winter flooding that has contaminated the river and shallow wells with sewage water. [NYT, 11/6/2016]

Saudi Foreign Minister holds Syria and Yemen talks in Oman
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir held talks on the conflicts in Yemen and Syria on Thursday in Oman, a country known as the traditional mediator in the region. Jubeir and his Omani counterpart Yussef bin Alawi reviewed the situation in Syria and Yemen and discussed the means of strengthening cooperation between the six Arab states in the Gulf. Unlike its Gulf neighbors, Oman maintains good ties with Iran. It is also the region’s only Arab monarchy not to have cut ties with Damascus. Alawi said in the talks that Saudi Arabia and Oman have “shared goals” on the regional conflicts and have agreed to look forward. Meanwhile, President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his Houthi delegation returned to Sana’a on Thursday also having traveled to Oman to reportedly discuss the benefits of peace talks with President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi’s government. [Naharnet, Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/6/2015]

Another cyclone to hit Yemen
The UN weather agency warned Friday that another rare cyclone was heading towards war-ravaged Yemen, bringing more rain to critical areas already badly hit by cyclone Chapala. The new storm is expected to intensify into “a severe cyclonic storm” over the next twenty-four hours. While Megh is not as powerful a Chapala, which killed eight people in southeastern Yemen this week, it is expected to slam into or pass close to the country’s already badly hit Arabian Sea island of Socotra Sunday. Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Friday that up to 44,000 people had already been displaced by Chapala, which made landfall in mainland Yemen on Tuesday, triggering heavy flash floods and mudslides that killed eight people, two of them children, and injured thirty-four others. [The Daily Star, 11/6/2015]


Conflict over economic policy in Turkey’s AKP after election win
There are deep divisions in Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) over how to stop slowing growth in the country’s $800 billion economy. Some presidential advisors have called on the Central Bank of Turkey to lower interest rates to boost growth, while others, including Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek and former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, call for fiscal discipline, central bank independence, and structural reform. Both sides are jockeying for position as a new cabinet takes shape. In an interview on Friday, Simsek said Turkey needs to carry out economic reforms quickly and effectively, including a reform of the country’s tax system and budget. However, Simsek emphasized that Turkey’s macroeconomic framework will remain the same. “We hope that the income tax draft will be prioritized,” Simsek said. “It’s very important that government spending is financed through healthy tax revenues.” Meanwhile, in a report released on Thursday, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development forecast growth for Turkey at 3 percent in 2015. [Reuters, 11/6/2015]

Libya’s Nafoura, Al-Majid oilfields closed after port force majeure
Libya’s Nafoura and Al-Majid oil fields, which have a combined production of around 29,000 barrels per day, have been closed following the shutdown of the Zueitina oil port. Libya’s National Oil Corporation has declared force majeure on the port after guards there said they would only allow tankers registered with the country’s internationally recognized government in Tobruk to load crude. A spokesman for the eastern Libyan oil unit AGOCO said the two fields were closed following a decision by the Petrol Facilities Guard, a force commanded by federalist leader Ibrahim al-Jathran. [Reuters, 11/5/2015]

Egypt to import wider range of foodstuffs to lower prices
Egypt said it would import a wider array of essential items as part of its push to keep food prices down despite a dollar shortage that has crippled imports. On Thursday, the government formed a working group to take “all necessary measures to supply goods to the market and control their prices,” a cabinet statement said. On Wednesday, Egypt’s General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) said it issued an international tender to buy poultry for the first time. The tender marks the start of an expanded mandate for GASC to import more essential food items, a source at Egypt’s Ministry of Supply said. Ministry sources said GASC is coordinating with the Central Bank to ensure it has the dollars needed to import poultry in next week’s tender.[Reuters, 11/5/2015]

World Bank, Tunisia review cooperation
Tunisia’s Finance Minister Slim Chaker met with a delegation from the World Bank on Thursday to discuss strategic cooperation for 2016-2020. Chaker emphasized Tunisia’s priorities, namely job creation and the improvement of services and infrastructure in the country’s interior regions. He also reviewed economic reforms underway, including tax and bank reforms, facilitation of administrative procedures, and the implementation of mechanisms to promote transparency. World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly underlined the Bank’s willingness to provide financial support and technical assistance to Tunisia. She also spoke to the Bank’s concerns regarding economic reforms and the need to boost growth and job creation. Meanwhile, Tunisian Central Bank Governor Chedly Ayari said on Thursday that the technical recession of Tunisia’s economy “has become more and more of a certainty.” [TAP, 11/5/2015]