Top News: Iraqi Parliament Approves New Government

Iraq’s parliament approved a new government headed by Haider al-Abadi as prime minister on Monday night, in a bid to rescue Iraq from collapse, with sectarianism and Arab-Kurdish tensions on the rise. Abadi, a Shi’ite Islamist, included members of Iraq’s Shi’ite majority and its Kurdish and Sunni minorities in his cabinet as he started his uphill task to unify the country after this summer’s devastating loss of territory across northern Iraq to Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham fighters.




Egypt’s protest law to be amended: NCHR member
Egypt’s controversial protest law is poised to undergo an “amendment phase,” the National Council for Human Rights’ Nasser Amin said on Monday, adding that the council has been asked to review the amended law before it is issued. The council will suggest that the law be comprised of only three points: First, protesting is a right. Second, in case a notice for a protest is rejected, the interior ministry should appeal the decision in front of the administrative court and not the protest’s organizers, as currently stated in the law. Finally, those who violate the law should pay fines and not face prison sentences. [Ahram Online, 9/8/2014]

Beltagy and Hegazy sentenced to twenty years in prison
The Cairo Criminal Court sentenced Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed al-Beltagy and Islamist preacher Safwat Hegazy to twenty years in prison. They received ten years in a maximum security prison for the alleged torture of two policemen during the Raba’a al-Adaweya sit-in. They received another ten years each on charges of joining and managing an illegal organization—a reference to the Brotherhood. Other defendants in the case include Mohamed al-Zanaty and Abdel Azeem Ibrahim, two doctors from the Raba’a makeshift hospital. The court sentenced them to fifteen years in prison over torture charges. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, Reuters, EGYNews (Arabic), 9/9/2014]

Enough GCC aid will be made available to Egypt: Merrill Lynch
Sufficient aid will be available to Egypt through external bilateral assistance from the GCC, according to a report by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The report also expects no near-term IMF engagement with Egypt. Authorities appear to be focused on securing direct GCC fiscal support through purchases of EGP-dominated treasury bills (T-bills) and treasury bonds (T-bonds). [DNE, 9/8/2014]

Security alert ahead of new campaign calling for protests Tuesday
A new Egyptian movement that first kicked off on social media has called for protests on Tuesday against the increasingly high cost of life in the country and deteriorating public services, according to the movement’s Facebook page. The movement, calling itself ‘Dunk,’ which means extreme poverty in Arabic, called on people to hold demonstrations on September 9 in front of subsidized supermarkets, public hospitals and transportation facilities to protest the country’s deteriorating services and high food prices. The protest is expected to begin in Suez and head to Cairo. Security authorities have warned protesters against approaching security facilities or personnel and have intensified police presence in anticipation of any violence. [Ahram Online, 9/9/2014]


UN envoy visits Libya to back elected parliament
UN Special Envoy Bernardino Leon visited Libya’s elected parliament, the House of Representatives, in Tobruk on Monday in a show of support against the rival General National Congress set up by armed groups in Tripoli. At a news conference after meeting lawmakers, Leon asserted that “a ceasefire must be total for any political contacts and talks to be successful.” Meanwhile, the French defense minister is seeking support from European counterparts for joint action to stem the violence in Libya and uproot terrorists, saying his country could move its troops in the region closer to the Libyan border. [Reuters, 9/8/2014]

Crude output rises to 740,000 bpd
Libya’s total oil production has reached 740,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to a spokesman for the state-run National Oil Corporation. This is a slight increase from the production update last week, which put total output at 725,000 bpd. Chairman of the Italian energy company Eni, which is a partner in Mellitah Oil and Gas running several fields in western Libya, said oil production is “satisfactory” but has yet to reach pre-crisis levels. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 9/9/2014]

Al-Thinni delays presentation of new cabinet
Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni has delayed presenting his new government to the House of Representatives, according to a spokesman, but a cabinet announcement is expected over the next day. Al-Thinni was asked to form a new full-time government by the parliament a week ago, but it appears that Cyrenaica federalists and the National Forces Alliance are exerting pressure on the caretaker prime minister over the composition of the cabinet. [Libya Herald, 9/8/2014]


Saudi Arabia hosts talks to combat ISIS; Syrian media admonishes Arab League
As part of the international effort to build an anti-ISIS coalition—which the United States now puts at more than forty nations, including Israel and perhaps Syrian Kurds—Saudi Arabia will hold talks on Thursday with the United States and regional allies, the kingdom announced on Tuesday. Expected participants include Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, and member states of the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which in addition to Saudi Arabia comprises Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar. On Sunday, Arab League foreign ministers agreed to take all necessary measures to confront ISIS (also known as the Islamic State), and on Tuesday Syrian state media slammed the Arab nations for giving a “green light” for US attacks. [Reuters, Naharnet, 9/9/2014]

Regime pounds rebels near Damascus
Regime forces on Monday launched an offensive to retake a strategic rebel-held area near Damascus two days after fighters, including from al-Qaeda’s Syria franchise al-Nusra Front, seized large sections of the southeastern suburb of Dukhaniyeh. Government forces launched a major counter-offensive and pounded the rebels from the air and with mortar fire, killing at least ten insurgents Monday. Rebels moved into Dukhaniyeh to ease the pressure on the eastern Damascus district of Jubar, which the regime has been attempting to take through heavy fighting for the last two weeks. [AFP, Al Monitor, 9/8/2014]

UN Security Council plans to suppress foreign extremist fighters
The UN Security Council plans to demand countries “prevent and suppress” the recruitment
and travel of foreign fighters to join extremist militant groups like ISIS by ensuring it is considered a serious criminal offense under domestic laws. To date, Western efforts to track foreign fighters have hit snags. The United States circulated a draft resolution late on Monday to the fifteen-member Security Council and hopes it can be unanimously adopted at a high-level meeting chaired by US President Barack Obama on September 24. [Reuters, 9/9/2014]

Oxfam urges rich nations to take five percent of Syria refugees
British charity Oxfam called Tuesday on rich nations to commit to accepting between them at least five percent of Syria’s three million refugees and urged them to increase aid contributions. The group slammed much of the international community for leaving Syria’s neighbors to shoulder the burden of the massive refugee influx and said many countries were failing to donate fairly. Achieving the 5 percent goal would involve the resettlement of approximately 179,500 Syrian refugees. So far, rich countries have pledged to host just 1 percent. [AFP, 9/9/2014]


Registration opens for Tunisia’s presidential candidates
The Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE) announced the opening of candidate registration for presidential elections scheduled for November 23. Registration will remain open until September 22, and candidates will submit their applications at the ISIE headquarters in Tunis. Candidates must meet eligibility requirements established by the May 1 electoral law and the ISIE will give its decision regarding final approval four days after the registration period concludes. [Tunisia Live, 9/8/2014]

Terrorist cell apprehended on the Tunisia-Algeria border
A spokesman for the ministry of interior announced Tuesday that security forces arrested twelve terror suspects and disrupted a plan to transfer weapons, ammunition, and logistical equipment  through the Alhaanbe Salloum mountains and across the Algerian border. Security forces seized grenades, RPGs, technical manuals, ammunition, 18,000 dinars, generators, tents, military boots, and a car. The spokesman, Mohammad Ali Laroui, declared the operation a success and maintained the ministry’s commitment to confronting terrorist networks aiming to mar the country’s upcoming elections. [Maghrebia, 9/8/2014]

‘Invest In Tunisia’ conference closes with great expectations for the future
Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa announced Monday at the closing of the international conference “Invest in Tunisia: Start-up Democracy,” that Tunisia is on track to achieving a successful economic transition and building a brighter future for all of its citizens. He explained that despite security challenges the region is going through, Tunisia faces a bright future “thanks to the efforts of its sons and its permanent openness to the world.” The prime minister reiterated his commitment to implementing all projects, programs, and recommendations announced during the conference, and thanked both internal and external participants for their support of Tunisia’s economic transition. [TAP, 9/8/2014]


Four Houthi protesters killed at Sana’a cabinet building
At least four protesters were killed when security forces opened fire in front of the cabinet building in Sana’a on Tuesday, an alleged response to Houthi protesters’ attempts to erect tents in front of the building. An eyewitness reports that the violence is ongoing as more Houthi protesters head toward the area. The killings come on the heels of new demands from Houthis on Monday, including that they are given the intelligence services, the national organization for control and auditing, and the prosecution as their share within the new government. They also demanded President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi hold deliberations for a new prime minister. [Yemen Times, 9/9/2014]

Jets continue bombardment of Jawf; More than fifty dead and wounded
More than fifty Houthi militants were killed and wounded in air strikes on a training site in al-Munsaf and near a hospital in al-Ghayl in Jawf on Monday. A military source said the strikes targeted Houthi training camps, as a number of fighters reportedly arrived from Sa’dah to fight against the army and its supporters, and that a tank and several armored vehicles were also struck. Air strikes continued for the third day Tuesday, with a military source reporting a further two strikes in al-Ghayl as fighting continued between Yemeni security forces backed by tribal militias and Houthis. [Marib Press, 9/9/2014]

President Hadi chairs Supreme Security Committee, issues three decrees
President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi chaired a meeting of the Supreme Security Committee Monday evening on the recent Houthi escalation, saying that the government cannot remain silent on the issues hurting its citizens, that it must be prepared for all developments on the national scene, and the security of the capital and surrounding regions must be secured. The president issued three decrees, appointing Maj. Gen. Mohammed Mansour Ali al-Ghadra as commander of the Special Security Forces, Fadhel Yehia bin Naji al-Qawsi as Assistant Undersecretary of Interior Ministry for Criminal Security Sector, and Abdul-Hafedh Naji Mohamed al-Sama as chairman of the board of Kamaran Company for Industry and Investment. Additionally, television reports stated that Hadi was taking action to purge the military and security forces of “operatives” cooperating with Houthi militias. [Marib Press, 9/8/2014]

Arab FMs condemn escalation in Sana’a
In a statement issued Sunday at the conclusion of the 142nd regular session of the Arab League council, the Arab Foreign Ministers condemned political and security escalation in Sana’a and stressed the necessity of commitment to the outcomes of the National Dialogue Committee (NDC) to complete the transition. The following day, Kuwait’s foreign minister and Qatar’s assistant foreign minister for foreign affairs met with Yemeni Foreign Minister Jamal al-Salal to express their countries’ continued support for President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s efforts to achieve a peaceful transition. In return, al-Salal praised GCC state efforts at brokering a settlement. Also on Monday, Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa briefed GCC, US, and Russian diplomats on the political, security, and economic implications of recent national developments. [SABA, 9/8/2014]


Iraqi parliament approves new government; interior and defense posts remain vacant
Iraq’s parliament approved a new government headed by Haider al-Abadi as prime minister on Monday night, in a bid to rescue Iraq from collapse, with sectarianism and Arab-Kurdish tensions on the rise. Abadi, a Shi’ite Islamist, included members of Iraq’s Shi’ite majority and its Kurdish and Sunni minorities in his cabinet as he started his uphill task to unify the country after this summer’s devastating loss of territory across northern Iraq to Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham fighters. No interior or defense minister was named but Abadi pledged to do so within a week, bringing the cabinet to thirty seven posts. [Reuters,9/8/2014]

Former Lebanese prime minister calls for unity, urges calm in Bekaa valley
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri called for Lebanon’s Sunnis and Shiites to ward off sectarian strife and protect the country from sliding into the chaotic scenario that has engulfed both Iraq and Syria. The former prime minister slammed what he called a campaign against the northeastern border town of Arsal and its mainly Sunni residents, and condemned media reports provoking sectarianism in Tripoli and Akkar, also predominantly Sunni. His announcement comes a day after reciprocal kidnappings swept the Bekaa Valley after two Lebanese soldiers were decapitated this past weekend by Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and Nusra Front militants. [The Daily Star, 9/8/2014]

Hezbollah downplays ISIS threat, says Army and Resistance will prevail
Hezbollah officials downplayed threats posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) arguing that the Lebanese Army and the party’s armed resistance were capable of crushing the militants. MP Mohammad Raad, who heads Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc in Parliament, said that ISIS was seeking to ignite sectarian strife in Lebanon by manipulating the issue of the captive security personnel. At least twenty-nine soldiers went missing during last month’s clashes in Arsal between the army and militants from ISIS and Nusra Front who have demanded that the government release Islamist detainees held in Roumieh Prison in exchange. [The Daily Star, 9/8/2014]