Top News: Iraqi Parliament Approves Abadi Reforms

Iraq’s Parliament voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s reform package which includes measures to reduce corruption and save money in the face of mounting unrest in Iraq. Emboldened by widespread anti-government protests and a supportive sermon by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on Friday, Abadi announced measures over the weekend aimed at reforming a system, which critics say encourages corruption and grants high level positions to unqualified candidates. ISIS on Tuesday claimed responsibility for twin attacks in Iraq’s Diyala province on Monday that killed at least fifty-eight people and wounded more than 100. [BBCReuters, 8/11/2015]



Egypt’s opposition forces will not boycott upcoming ‎parliamentary polls
Egypt’s opposition parties announced that they will not boycott the upcoming parliamentary polls, despite their reservations over controversial election laws. Egypt’s long-delayed parliamentary polls are expected to begin at the end of the month, said Omar Marawan, the Higher Elections Committee (HEC) spokesman, in a statement to Al-Ahram. Most of Egypt’s opposition political parties said they are optimistic this time the polls will finally take place. Although most political parties slammed the amended laws as “flawed” and will not help create a powerful parliament, they said they would neither boycott the polls nor intend to go to the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) to invalidate these laws. Among the parties who intend to participate are the Reform and Development, Tagammu, and Wafd parties. The Socialist Popular Alliance Party also previously announced its plan to participate in the elections. [Ahram Online, 8/11/2015]

Government takes over sixteen hospitals, shuts down ten NGOs for Brotherhood ties
The committee, tasked with managing the assets of Muslim Brotherhood has seized sixteen hospitals belonging to the banned group, Youm7 reported Monday. “The sixteen hospitals are located in five governorates across Egypt; one in Cairo, two in Giza, ten in Gharbiya, two in Damietta, and one in Assiut,” according to the committee’s General Secretary Mohamed Aboul Fotouh. A total of forty Brotherhood hospitals, seized in July, are being run by the health ministry. Egypt’s Minister of Social Solidarity also ordered the dissolution of ten NGOs and the suspension of the administrations of twenty-nine NGOs for their Brotherhood affiliations. [Ahram Online, DNE, Cairo Post, 8/11/2015]

Egypt court upholds 2011 decision to freeze assets of Mubarak-era tycoon Ezz
A Cairo court upheld on Monday a prosecutor’s’ 2011 decision to freeze the assets of Mubarak-era business tycoon Ahmed Ezz pending an end to investigations. Ezz had filed an appeal against the prosecutor’s’ decision to freeze his assets while they continue to investigate him for illicit gains. The assets-freeze will stay in effect while the investigation into his wealth continues. The Illicit Gains Authority said that Ezz faces suspicion of graft, due to an inability to prove that his financial gains were legal. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, Cairo Post, 8/11/2015]

Endowments ministry fires preacher, bans Imam and launches investigations
In a further move against Islamists, the Ministry of Religious Endowments announced on Sunday it has terminated the contract of a preacher working at the ministry’s directorate in Matariya, after he left banners by Salafi group al-Gameya al-Shareya inside one of Matariya’s mosques. The ministry decided to refer all workers of the Nour al-Mohamady mosque in Matariya and its preacher to investigations. Al-Gameya al-Shareya is long known for its Salafi affiliations and charity works across hundreds of towns and villages, especially in rural Egypt. The ministry also suspended on Saturday an Imam in Fayoum, banning him from giving lessons and preaching in the governorate’s mosques. This was due to “not following the policy of the ministry of not discussing politics in religious sermons,” Ministry Deputy Abdel Nasser Atian said. Last week, also in Fayoum, the ministry took over three mosques which were found to have been “controlled by fundamentalist groups.” [DNE, 8/10/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Over 300,000 Egyptians repatriated from Libya since 2011
The Egyptian Manpower Minister Nahed Ashry said that 310,000 Egyptian workers have been forced to leave Libya over the past four years. Ashry said that 285,000 of those had filed compensation survey forms that are meant to “guarantee workers compensation for when the security situation settles in Libya.” Prior to 2011, at least 1.5 million Egyptians worked in Libya. Early this year, an Egyptian official said that up to 800,000 Egyptians remained in the country despite government calls to return home. [Libya Monitor (Subscription), 8/10/2015]

Indians held in Libya’s Sirte safe, says embassy
The Indian embassy in Tripoli says it believes that two of its citizens who were arrested a few weeks ago in Sirte are now safe. An official from the embassy said that they would be released soon. [Libya Herald, 8/11/2015]

Suspected militant shot dead in Tunisia; Algeria arrests fifteen smugglers and eleven immigrants
The Tunisian interior ministry announced on Monday that a suspected jihadist was shot dead in western Tunisia near the Algerian border. The dead man was examined for identification while a second suspect was arrested on suspicion of providing support for “terrorist elements.” Meanwhile, The Algerian National Defense Ministry said that the People’s National Army arrested fifteen smugglers and eleven immigrants in the south of the country. [Al Arabiya/ AFP, All Africa, 8/11/2015]

Algeria and Egypt sign memorandum to fight corruption
On Monday, Algeria and Egypt signed in Algiers a memorandum of cooperation in the fight against corruption. The memorandum aims for exchanging practices in the prevention and fight against corruption. Algerian President of the National Body for Prevention and Fight against Corruption Brahim Bouzeboudjen and Egyptian President of the Administrative Control Body Mohamed Houssam Mohamed Rachouane Mahmoud signed the memorandum. This cooperation includes training sessions, strengthening capacities and expertise, and the development of research on corruption and financial crime. The document also includes the exchange of information and best practices. [APS, 8/11/2015]


ISIS launches offensive in north; Syrian rebels attack two government-held villages in Idlib
The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) launched a new offensive against Syrian rebels in the town of Marea north of Aleppo on Tuesday, gaining ground near the Turkish-Syrian border in an area where the United States and Turkey aim to create an ISIS-free zone. ISIS suicide bombers reportedly detonated four car bombs Monday night and the ensuing clashes killed at least thirty-seven rebel fighters and ten ISIS militants. A rebel commander said this was the most fierce ISIS attack in the area in several months. The Syrian rebel “Army of Conquest” coalition intensified attacks Tuesday on the last remaining government forces in the northwestern province of Idlib, raining shells and mortars on two predominantly Shia villages of Fuaa and Kafraya. Activists said the rebels reached the entrance to Fuaa after detonating an underground tunnel. The attacks left at least twenty dead, including eight civilians. [Reuters, 8/11/2015]

Iran’s FM postpones visit to Turkey; Russia and Saudi FMs disagree on role of Assad
Turkish officials say Iranian foreign minister Jawad Zarif has postponed a Tuesday visit to Turkey in which he was scheduled to hold talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and brief Turkish leaders on an Iranian plan to end the Syrian civil war. Turkey’s foreign ministry said the visit has been postponed until an unspecified date in the future and did not provide a reason for the delay. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir disagreed on the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during talks in Moscow on Tuesday. Al-Jubeir told Lavrov that Assad has no role in Syria’s future and ruled out any coalition that would bring Riyadh and Assad together, but also indicated that Riyadh is interested in an arms contract that would allow Saudi Arabia to purchase Russian Iskander missiles. [AP, 8/11/2015]

UN food aid chief says Syria funding bleak
Head of the World Food Program (WFP) Ertharin Cousin said in an interview Monday that funding prospects for its Syria programs are “bleak” and impoverished Syrian refugees face more cuts in food aid. He called on donor countries to continue to stand by Syrian refugees until the political situation in Syria is solved and warned that “starting in September, unless we receive additional contributions, [Syrian refugees in Jordan] will receive nothing.”[AP, 8/11/2015]

Turkish warplanes strike PKK targets in Turkey
Turkish warplanes struck Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) positions Monday night in southeastern Turkey’s Buzul mountain and in the Ikiyaka region bordering Iran and Iraq. Heavy violence on Monday killed at least nine people, including five police officers. In further violence on Tuesday, Kurdish rebels attacked an infantry brigade command post in Sirnak province, seriously wounding a soldier who later died in a hospital. The PKK released a statement on one of its websites Tuesday claiming responsibility for the bombing of an Istanbul police station Monday in which four people died. [AP, 8/11/2015]


Popular Resistance fighters move closer to Yemeni capital
Saudi-backed forces loyal to Yemen’s exiled government have seized a town south of the rebel-held capital, military officials said Tuesday, in their latest advance against the Houthis. The Popular Resistance Committees, comprised of pro-government fighters, Sunni tribes, and southern separatists, seized the town of Utmah, about sixty miles south of Sana’a. The town is in the Shia majority province of Dhammar next to Sana’a province, where the Houthis have held the capital since September. Elsewhere, military officials said the pro-rebel governor of the southeastern Shabwa province, Ali al-Awlaqi, fled to an unknown location on Monday as loyalist forces prepared to enter the province. Military officials also said that clashes continued in Taiz, which would be a major gain for the pro-government forces if they are able to retake it. [AFP, 8/11/2015]

Aid agencies issue new statements on humanitarian crisis in Yemen
Yemen is “crumbling” under a deepening humanitarian crisis after months of civil war, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Tuesday, and a UN investigator said sieges imposed by combatants were causing starvation. ICRC President Peter Maurer, ending a three-day visit to Yemen, called for free access to deliver life-saving food, water and medicines, while urging the warring parties to work towards a negotiated solution. Some 4,345 people have been killed and 22,110 injured since March 19, the World Health Organization said Tuesday, citing figures from Yemeni health care facilities. Nearly 25 percent of health facilities are not functioning or only partially, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said. UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Hilal Elver said that 12.9 million people in Yemen lacked basic food supplies and 850,000 children faced acute malnutrition. She said the “deliberate starvation of civilians” caught in armed conflict might constitute a war crime. The international group Doctors Without Borders says it has treated more than 10,000 war-wounded in Yemen and that aid groups are being overwhelmed by the country’s massive humanitarian needs. Thierry Goffeau, coordinator of the group in the port city of Aden, said Monday that crowded hospitals were forced at times to turn away patients. [Reuters, 8/11/2015]

Families begin to return to Aden
The first groups of Yemeni refugees have begun to return to Aden, almost three weeks after the fighting ended. The families returned to Aden on a flight from Jordan, one of the first commercial flights into the newly reopened airport. The flight was paid for by the Yemeni government as part of its efforts to reestablish normalcy in the city after the Houthi retreat. Still, however, the joy of returning home has been shattered by the realization of the destruction throughout the city. Many parts of Aden are still without running water or electricity, creating difficulties for those families who have returned. [Reuters, 8/11/2015]


UAE to supply Egypt with $1.6 billion in petroleum products
The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has in principle agreed to send the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) $1.6 billion worth of fuel and petroleum products for three months. Through the agreement, Egypt will receive petroleum products in September, October, and November. Talks regarding the contract, which will be signed by the end of August according to a source, are in the final stages. Last year, ADNOC agreed to send $9 billion worth of petroleum products to Egypt, but the contract was terminated after five months. Meanwhile, on Sunday, Saudi Arabia agreed to provide Egypt with $1.4 billion worth of petroleum products. [AMAY (Arabic), 8/10/2015]

Libyan Central Bank outlines corruption policy, foreign currency measures
The Central Bank of Libya (CBL) issued a statement outlining policies for corruption and foreign currency measures. The CBL said although it can only fully investigate claims of corruption within its own organization, it can freeze bank accounts and restrict foreign currency for banks or companies found guilty of corruption. On Libya’s lack of foreign currency, largely due to a fall in oil revenue and high spending, the CBL said it is “facing a dilemma, either to exhaust [its] foreign reserves to cover food and medicine costs for the population, or preserve these reserves.” In order to manage this situation, the CBL will implement a number of strategies, including putting certain restrictions on commercial banks. The CBL also said it would take measures to improve monitoring procedures in the banking sector. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 8/11/2015]

Prospects dwindle for Kurdistan Eurobond debut
Iraqi Kurdistan’s plans to tap into international markets have been all but wiped out by falling oil prices, rising geopolitical tensions, and a difficult backdrop for emerging economies, according to fund managers. In June, representatives from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) met investors to gauge demand for a potential $500 million debut Eurobond issue. Seven weeks later, it seems unlikely that the bond issue will happen. Kurdistan passed a law that allows it to raise funds through international borrowing, but has no prospect of gaining backing from the central government in Baghdad. Without a guarantee from Baghdad, the bond would not be included in the major emerging debt benchmarks, would be less liquid, and would appeal to fewer investors. However, a senior KRG official commented, “We’re still interested in going forward with a bond issuance.” [Reuters, 8/10/2015]

Algeria launches tax amnesty to improve battered public finances
Algeria launched a tax amnesty on Monday aimed at boosting the government’s finances as it grapples with a 50 percent fall in oil revenue. Analysts estimate that authorities lose $4 billion annually to tax fraud. The tax amnesty, aimed at ordinary Algerians who pay a 7 percent income tax, will end in December 2016, the tax department said in a statement. Algeria’s oil and gas revenues are expected to fall to $34 billion this year from the $68 billion earned in 2014, officials have said. Algerian imports are forecast at $57.3 billion for 2015, exceeding exports for the first time. [Reuters, 8/10/2015]