Top News: Iraqi Parliament Delays the Vote For President After Deadly Bombing in Baghdad
Iraq’s parliament delayed the vote for a new president after the Kurds asked for an extra day in order to agree on a candidate for president. The failed session comes as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Baghdad that killed thirty-one people.


Sisi addresses nation on anniversary of July 23 revolution
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi addressed the nation on state TV on Wednesday on the 62nd anniversary of the July 23 revolution that toppled the Egyptian monarchy. In his speech, Sisi remarked that the majority of the goals of Egypt’s January 25 and June 30 revolutions have been achieved. He also praised the Egyptian army as a ‘solid block’ ensuring the continuation of the Egyptian state and said that the army’s campaign against terrorism in the Sinai is aimed at preserving the dignity of the nation. Sisi also commented on the economy and described the recent rise in energy prices as being in the interest of the nation. He also discussed the current crisis in Gaza and said that Egypt will continue to support its Palestinian brothers. Meanwhile, in a cable to Sisi, Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi said the 1952 revolution was a national and heroic achievement that ended colonization and dependency. [Ahram Online, SIS, EGYNews (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic), Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 7/23/2014]

Palestinians propose Gaza truce followed by talks
The Palestinian leadership proposed to Egypt a plan for a Gaza ceasefire to be followed by five days of negotiations to stop fighting between Palestinians and Israel, Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed told reporters in Cairo on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, however, the Palestinian decision-making body led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was backing Hamas’ demands that an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza and other concessions must form part of any deal to end the hostilities. Kerry left Cairo on Wednesday, heading to Israel for a surprise trip, where he cited further progress in negotiations. Meanwhile, Egypt’s permanent representative to the United Nations Moataz Ahmadein Khalil condemned violations committed by Israel against Palestinian civilians, as eighteen people, among them four who were wounded, crossed into Egypt through the Rafah border. [Reuters, Ahram Online, DNE, Mada Masr, 7/23/2014]

Egypt army reveals details of al-Wadi al-Gedid deadly attack on soldiers
Military spokesperson Mohamed Samir revealed in a statement on Tuesday the details of primary investigations into the killing of twenty-two Egyptian border guards in a deadly attack last Saturday. Samir said that twenty armed militants used sniper rifles, machine guns, hand grenades, and RPGs to attack the checkpoint, violently clashing with the soldiers. A major explosion in the checkpoint’s ammunition storage room caused the high number of casualties, the statement added. The army spokesperson added that two vehicles left behind by the attackers, primed to explode, were confiscated and diffused. The statement did not say who the military suspects of carrying out the attack. The military prosecutor is, however, carrying out the investigation, which confirmed that foreign militants were involved, a military source said. [Ahram Online, DNE, AP, Mada Masr, SIS, Al-Ahram (Arabic), 7/22/2014]

Egypt government raises cotton subsidy
Egypt’s economic ministers approve raising the subsidy for spinning companies (private and state-run) to purchase abundant Egyptian cotton to become EGP 350 per quintal instead of EGP 200 ahead of harvest season in September, announced the ministry of, industry, trade and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in a statement on Tuesday. [Ahram Online, 7/22/2014]


Suicide attack escalates Libya violence, oil output slips
A twin suicide bombing at a Libyan army base in Benghazi killed at least four soldiers, as clashes between Islamist militants and regular forces escalate. A first attacker blew himself up at the entrance to the Saiqa special forces headquarters, allowing a second suicide bomber to detonate his explosives at the base and kill at least four troops, according to a security source. After some of the deadliest battles, humanitarian workers were granted access to the special forces camp, where they recovered the bodies of fourteen Saiqa members. Sources say Ansar al-Sharia were able to steal large amounts of ammunition and weapons during their attack. In another blow to the government, Libya’s oil production has fallen. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 7/23/2014]

UNSMIL welcomes House of Representatives election results
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has welcomed the High National Elections Commission’s (HNEC) announcement of the election results for the House of Representatives. Commending HNEC for its professional work in the midst of “extremely difficult conditions,” UNSMIL said it was looking forward to the new parliament being convened as soon as possible. UNSMIL promised to continue providing technical support to HNEC and reiterated its previous call for a political solution to the current crisis. [Libya Herald, 7/22/2014]

Libya may offer deeper crude discounts after sale fails
Libya is preparing a new pricing strategy for its crude exports that may include further discounts after a sales offer last week failed when potential buyers offered “unacceptable” prices. Libya plans to offer different crude prices before the end of next month that will compensate customers for the additional risk of loading oil in the country, said a National Oil Corporation (NOC) marketing director. Oil exports were severely disrupted after political feuding closed oilfields and terminals a year ago, and progress is slow since the government reached an agreement with rebels earlier this month. The NOC has declined to indicate whether Libya would agree to discounts, such as $1-$1.50/barrel, suggested by some analysts. [Bloomberg, 7/22/2014]

Japanese diplomats and businessmen leave due to security situation
The Japanese are the latest to join the international actors withdrawing from Libya or reducing their staff presence as the security situation there rapidly deteriorates. The Japanese Embassy in Tripoli has temporarily closed, and the ambassador and diplomats have been evacuated out of the country, according to a Japanese official. Japanese businessmen have also left, he said. Some embassy staff are operating out of Cairo, Egypt. [Libya Herald, 7/22/2014]


Rebels press bid to expel ISIS from Damascus area
Despite being besieged by government troops, nationalist rebels have managed to eject the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, also known as IS) from four areas in the Damascus region in a drive launched three weeks ago. Monitors said ISIS fighters have been expelled from Misraba and Maydaa, two towns in the eastern neighborhood of Ghouta in Damascus, as well as the suburbs of Yalda and Beit Sahm, just south of the capital. In Yalda, ISIS fighters turned themselves over to the Nusra Front after securing pledges that they would be referred to a sharia court and that they would not be subjected to demeaning treatment. [Daily Star, 7/22/2014]

Government forces launch offensive in key Damascus suburb
Government forces launched an offensive to recapture the opposition-held district of Jobar, in eastern Damascus, on Tuesday, in an attempt to halt rebel mortar strikes on the capital. The clashes were “the most violent for many months,” according to the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and were accompanied by air strikes. Government troops forced rebels back to the edges of the district and the army deployed tanks to areas surrounding the capital’s famous Abbasid Square, in the city center, in order to bombard rebel positions in Jobar. [Asharq al-Awsat, 7/23/2014]

European Union adds to list of Syria sanctions
European Union foreign ministers agreed to expand sanctions Tuesday against the Syrian regime, adding three people and nine companies to their sanctions list “due to their involvement in the violent repression of the civilian population or their support to the regime,” the EU statement said. The new sanction targets, whose names will be published Wednesday in the EU’s official journal, face an asset freeze and an EU travel ban. Tuesday’s decision brings to sixty-two the number of Syrian companies or institutions targeted and to 192 the number of people whom the European Union has listed since the Syrian conflict began. [WSJ, 7/23/2014]

In first reaction since appointment, Syria hopes new peace mediator will be fair
Syria urged a newly appointed international mediator to be “objective and honest,” Syrian state television reported on Wednesday. It was Damascus’s first reaction to the appointment of Staffan de Mistura by United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon two weeks ago. “We hope that he will take an objective and honest approach based on international law… particularly the respect of the national sovereignty and noninterference in the internal affairs.” Syria had also called on Mistura to have “respect for the choices of the Syrian people.” [Reuters, 7/23/2014]


ISIE extends voter registration deadline until July 29
The Independent High Authority for the Elections (ISIE) decided Tuesday to extend the voter registration deadline until July 29. The decision will have no effect on election dates. Legislative elections will take place October 26, and the first round of the presidential election on November 23. More than five million voters are registered on the electoral roll, with more than 80,000 newly registered voters recorded on Tuesday and over 60,000 on Monday. [TAP, 7/22/2014]

NCA starts looking at supplementary draft finance law for 2014
Wednesday morning, the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) started looking at the supplementary draft finance law as part of the 2014 state budget. According to the supplementary draft finance law, the 2014 state budget is estimated at 27,775 MTD ($16.1 billion) against 28,125 MTD ($16.3 billion) scheduled by the main budget. The aim is to bring the State budget deficit to about 5.8 percent, against 6.9 percent estimated by the main budget. The ministry of economy and finance reviewed the 2014 supplementary finance bill on Monday and sent the original version to the NCA, without amendment. [TAP, 7/23/2014]

Security and counterterrorism discussed as Jomaa makes brief visit to Algeria
On Tuesday, Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa made a brief visit to Algeria for a series of meetings with Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, as well as Algerian military and security officials. According to a ministry statement, the visit is part of anti-terrorism coordination, pending the establishment of a security and military strategy in this field. Talks focused on border development and ways to strengthen security and military cooperation, particularly data sharing and logistics. [TAP, 7/22/2014]


President Hadi visits Amran
Yemeni President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi called for unity during a visit to Amran after it was briefly seized by Houthi rebels. Upon his arrival in Amran, President Hadi met with Amran’s local authority. “We have to turn a new page and realise that the age of conflicts and wars is over. Our homeland has suffered enough trouble over the past five decades,” Hadi said, addressing officials at the government complex in the city. His visit to Amran served as an indicator that the city is now secure and stable. The president called upon Amran residents to return to their homes, and assured them that the government is working hard to restore basic services in the city. [Saba (Arabic), 7/23/2014]

Yemenis struggle after government lifts energy subsidies
A clampdown on state spending was an effort by Yemen’s government this month to win public support before its biggest economic reform in years: higher fuel prices. The frustration is palpable among Yemenis. The government has been trying for more than a year to secure a loan of $560 million from the International Monetary Fund, which is pressing for reforms such as cuts in fuel subsidies. In the end, reducing the subsidies would be good news for the state budget; they cost about $3 billion last year, or a third of state revenue. The immediate impact of the reform may be politically explosive. [AlbawabaYemen Post, 7/22/2014]

Yemen among US-honored development projects
The United States on Wednesday honored six development projects for helping some of the world’s most politically fragile countries or poorest people. The projects included providing basic health and water services in Yemen. The World Bank provided funding and training for several community-driven projects in Yemen that hired local Yemenis. The projects offered them better health and water services and vocational training, and also built new schools and a more durable road. The awards recognize exceptional development impact and give insight into the United States’ priorities in overseas aid, including its focus on fragile states and food security. [Reuters, 7/23/2014]

Four killed in an attack on an oil pipeline in Marib
Two soldiers and two militants were killed as armed men attacked an engineering team sent to fix an oil pipeline. The armed militants succeeded in preventing the engineering team from fixing the pipeline. [Sahafa (Arabic), 7/23/2014]


Iraqi parliament delays the vote for president after deadly bombing in Baghdad
Iraq’s parliament delayed the vote for a new president after the Kurds asked for an extra day in order to agree on a candidate for president. The failed session comes as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Baghdad that killed thirty-one people. The bomber targeted his a checkpoint near a revered Shia shrine in the heart of the Baghdad, killing mostly civilians. The Human Rights Watch said Wednesday that Iraqi government airstrikes against jihadists with the use of barrel bombs have killed at least seventy civilians since the start of June. [AP, Reuters 7/23/2014]

House votes to toughen sanctions on Hezbollah
The US House of representatives on Tuesday passed a legislation to enforce further sanctions against Hezbollah’s foreign assets. The measure, which passed by 404-0, would direct the Treasury Department to prohibit maintaining a payable-through account in the US by a foreign financial institution that knowingly helps Hezbollah’s activities. Through the measure the president will be able to designate Hezbollah as a foreign narcotics trafficker and a transnational criminal organization. [The Hill, 7/23/2014]

Strong condemnation by Saudi ambassador toward Israel’s assault on Gaza
Saudi Arabia has criticized on Tuesday what it called Israel’s shameful war crimes in the Gaza Strip. Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Nations declared that the international community should not be fooled by Israel’s claims of self-defense against Palestinian rocket attacks. [Al Arabiya, 7/23/2014]