Top News: ISIS Moves to Capture Iraqi Border Crossings With Syria and Jordan

The Sunni militant extremists who have seized a broad area of Iraq extended their control on Monday to the country’s entire western frontier, having secured nearly all official border crossings with Syria and are fighting to gain the only crossing with Jordan, giving them the semblance of the new independent state that they say they intend to create in the region. Although many international media outlets have reported that the Trebil crossing was seized, Jordanian officials insisted that business was usual at the crossing and the groups applying pressure were local tribes, not ISIS. Jordan has, however, sent reinforcements to the border. [NYTWashington Post, 6/23/2014]


US urges Egypt to pardon journalists; Sisi refuses to interfere in judicial rulings
In a statement issued on Monday, the White House condemned the sentencing in Egypt of three Al Jazeera journalists, and fifteen others, to seven to ten years in jail for aiding a “terrorist” organization. The United States called on Egypt to pardon the defendants, or commute their sentences. US Secretary of State John Kerry phoned Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shokri on Monday to register Washington’s “serious displeasure” with the verdict, which he described as “chilling” and “draconian.” Australian Foreign Minister summoned a senior Egyptian diplomat Tuesday to protest the sentencing of Australian citizen Peter Greste, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay joined other nations in expressing concern over the verdicts. Sisi, however, said on Tuesday he will not interfere in court rulings, rebuffing calls from the United States and other Western governments. “We must respect judicial rulings and not criticize them even if others do not understand this,” he said. [AFP, The Guardian, DNE, Reuters, Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 6/24/2014]

Rights groups condemn renewed detention for Ittihadiya protesters
Twelve Egyptian human rights groups have issued a joint statement condemning what they say were fabricated charges levied against a group of protesters arrested on Saturday. The NGOs accused the prosecution of levelling “fabricated charges that include: assembly, obstructing the enforcement of the law, participating in an unauthorized protest, damaging public property, possession of incendiary material and the show of force in the aim of terrorizing citizens.” Among the signatories were the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, Nadeem Center for the Psychological Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, the Arab Penal Reform Organization, and the Association for Freedom of Thoughts and Expression. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, Shorouk (Arabic), 6/23/2014]

Political parties, legislators deadlocked over parliamentary elections bill
A contentious draft law governing parliamentary elections is expected to be one of the first major challenges for President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to overcome. A major bone of contention in the draft law is the mixed parliamentary system, whereby eighty percent of the seats are elected for single candidates and twenty percent are reserved for party lists. Critics warn that this system could once again empower individuals with traditional bases of support, such as money, power networks and tribal connections, which they would use to mobilize voters and thus turn the elections into a contest between people, not political ideas. The geographical division of the party lists’ constituencies has also drawn serious criticism from political parties. [Mada Masr, 6/23/2014]

Sisi says will donate 50 percent of his salary and wealth to Egypt’s economy
In a televised speech held during the graduating military students’ commencement ceremony, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he will give up half of his monthly EGP 42,000 ($5,800) salary and half of his wealth to assist Egypt through its economic challenges. Sisi said he has refused to ratify the 2014-2015 state budget, which in its present form would raise the total domestic debt to over EGP 2 trillion. The current domestic debt stands at EGP1.7 trillion. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Reuters, EGYNews (Arabic), 6/24/2014]


Election commission announces turnout for overseas vote
The Higher National Elections Commission (HNEC) has announced that 3,816 Libyans abroad have voted in the elections for the House of Representatives. Overseas voters cast their ballots in thirteen countries at twenty-two polling stations. The turnout was 38 percent of the 10,087 registered voters abroad. Citizens of Libya living in the country will cast their ballots tomorrow, June 25, for the new House of Representatives. Authorities have declared the day a public holiday to help ensure wide public participation.[Libya Herald, 6/23/2014]

Tebus expected to boycott poll
Libya’s Tebu community may boycott the House of Representatives election on June 25. They say that they are still waiting for the General National Congress to explicitly acceptance what is known as the consensus principle; that is, that at least two-thirds of the entire sixty-member Constituent Assembly, including all six Amazigh, Tebu, and Tuareg members have to agree to proposals in the draft constitution on the name of the state, its identity, flag, national anthem and language(s). The Amazigh are not participating in Wednesday’s election over the issue, same as they boycotted the February 20 Constitutional Assembly elections. In a separate incident, a Tebu candidate from Sebha was murdered Monday morning in what is thought to have been a deliberate act of ethnic vengeance. [Libya Herald, 6/23/2014]

Renegade Libya general warns Turks, Qataris
The spokesman for retired general Khalifa Haftar, who has been waging an offensive against Islamists, called on Turks and Qataris to leave Libya’s east within two days or suffer a backlash from the public. Colonel Mohammed Hejazi told reporters in Benghazi that citizens of the two countries have forty-eight hours to leave, warning that unspecified measures will be taken against those who do not. Hejazi said Libyans are angry about the policies of Turkey and Qatar and accused the two countries of sending spies to eastern Libya. There was no immediate comment from either country, both of which support the Muslim Brotherhood. [AP, 6/22/2014]

Crude exports at Libya’s Hariga port blocked by protesting guards
Libya’s easternmost Hariga oil port has been shut down again after reopening over the weekend, after oil guards demanding salaries prevented a tanker from loading, according to a spokesman for operator Arabian Gulf Oil Company. Members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard have been protesting since May over late salary payments. They allowed one of the two waiting tankers to load crude over the weekend after a month-long wait but will not let the second one load until they receive their May salaries. [Reuters, 6/23/2014]


ISIS moves to capture Iraqi border crossings with Syria and Jordan
The Sunni militant extremists who have seized a broad area of Iraq extended their control on Monday to the country’s entire western frontier, having secured nearly all official border crossings with Syria and are fighting to gain the only crossing with Jordan, giving them the semblance of the new independent state that they say they intend to create in the region. Although many international media outlets have reported that the Trebil crossing was seized, Jordanian officials insisted that business was usual at the crossing and the groups applying pressure were local tribes, not ISIS. Jordan has, however, sent reinforcements to the border. [NYT, Washington Post, 6/23/2014]

Israel says Assad forces behind Golan attack that killed boy
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday that Syrian forces launched an attack that killed an Israeli boy on the occupied Golan Heights and Damascus would have to “pay the price” for it. “We got all the analysis, all the intelligence, and it was clear it was Syrian authorities, Assad’s forces, who fired on the Israeli boy,” Liberman said. Earlier reports had blamed Islamist rebels operating inside Syria for the attack. [Reuters, 6/24/2014]

Human Rights Watch says rebel groups sending children into war
Militant Islamist groups in Syria are recruiting children as young as fifteen and sending them into battle after promising them a free education, a Human Rights Watch report said on Monday. The report said the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS) had given children weapons training in Syria and told them to carry out suicide bombings. Citing personal accounts, the rights group also found evidence of children being mobilized by the more moderate Western-backed Free Syrian Army, the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, the Islamic Front coalition, and security forces in Kurdish-controlled areas. [Reuters, 6/24/2014]


Tunisians join jihadists in Syria
At least 2,400 Tunisian jihadists are fighting in Syria, most of them rebels affiliated to the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Interior Minister Lofti Ben Jeddou said Monday. In February, the minister said Tunisian authorities had prevented 8,000 people from traveling to Syria, while some 400 Tunisians had already returned from fighting there. Ben Jeddou also indicated that terrorists holed up in the Tunisian mountains are tied to al-Qaeda. [AFP, TAP, 6/23/2014]

Security units, terrorist gunmen trade fire near Jebel Salloum
Sunday night, security units exchanged fire with a group of terrorists in Oued Argoub Mimoun, near Jebel Salloum, Kasserine governorate. The four terrorists were seeking food supplies, according to official spokesman for the interior ministry Mohamed Ali Laroui. Sweeping operations were carried out jointly with military units to hunt for these terrorists who are on the run. No loss of life was recorded among security units, Laroui specified. [TAP, 6/23/2014]

Tunisia begins voter registration
Tunisia began voter registration on Monday for heavily-delayed legislative and presidential elections due to take place later this year. Tunisians can register on the Internet, by SMS, or by going to the relevant offices before July 22. To facilitate the process, which is only required of those who were not registered for the October 2011 elections, the electoral body has set up a call center to field questions about how to register. An estimated seven million people are eligible to vote, but only 4.1 million Tunisians registered in 2011. The proposed elections timeline will come before the National Constituent Assembly for a vote on Wednesday. If approved, legislative elections will occur late October, with two rounds of presidential elections following in November and December. [AFP, TAP, 6/23/2014]


Yemen to begin $3.5 billion international road project
Yemen has announced plans to build a $3.5 billion highway linking Aden to Saudi Arabia in the next three months. Together with the World Bank, the Saudi Development Fund will fund $320 million of the road’s southernmost stretch going north from Aden. [Reuters, 6/24/2014]. In related news, an official from the Yemeni ministry of planning and international cooperation said that a government delegation will visit Riyadh on Wednesday to sign off on a $67 million deal with the Saudi Development Fund to fund water, sanitation, and electricity infrastructure projects in Sana’a. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 6/24/2014]

Yemeni intelligence officer killed by suspected al-Qaeda gunmen
Suspected al-Qaeda militants killed Yemeni Intelligence Officer Ahmed Radman in Mukalla on Monday. At least twenty-five other senior officers have been killed in Yemen in 2014. Another colonel was shot dead in Sana’a on June 22 and a local official was killed in Yemen’s southern province on June 23. [Reuters, 6/23/2014]

Three soldiers abducted in Ibb province
A source from the 55th Artillery Brigade in Ibb province alleged that a well-known local tribal leader with links to al-Qaeda kidnapped three of the brigade’s soldiers on Thursday. Colonel Ismael al-Jaifi, chief of staff of the 55th Brigade, said the soldiers were taken to Rada’ district. [Yemen Times, 6/24/2014]


More than 1,000 killed in Iraq violence in June
At least 1,075 people were killed and 658 were injured in the country in the seventeen days from June 5 to 22, according to Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations human rights office. The majority of casualties occurred in northern Iraq, mainly in the provinces of Nineveh, Diyala and Saladdin. The news comes amid US Secretary of State John Kerry visit to Iraq, in which he held crisis talks with leaders of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, urging them to stand with Baghdad against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). [AFP, Al Arabiya, Reuters, 6/2/2014]

Bomb injures at least five in Lebanon
A security officer was killed and twenty people were wounded in a suicide car bombing outside a café near a Lebanese army checkpoint in Beirut, security sources and the Lebanese Red Cross said Tuesday. The blast, which caused a huge fire, occurred in a southern suburb mainly inhabited by Shia Muslims. Previous attacks on Shia areas in Lebanon have been carried out by Sunni extremists who accuse Shia militant group Hezbollah of fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s troops in Syria. [BBC, Naharnet, The Daily Star, 6/24/2014]

UAE jails seven men convicted of belonging to al-Qaeda
Seven men arrested last year on suspicion of planning attacks on the United Arab Emirates were jailed Monday for belonging to an al-Qaeda and aiding its affiliate in Syria. They were accused of supporting the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate fighting Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria. Other charges included forming an al-Qaeda cell in the UAE while two of the defendants were accused of setting up websites to spread al-Qaeda’s ideology. [Al Arabiya, The Daily Star, 6/24/2014]

Saudi Arabia is committed to supplying market with extra oil if needed
Saudi Arabia is committed to supplying the market with extra crude to meet any rise in demand or if there are disruptions in oil supplies, a Saudi oil official said on Tuesday. The country currently produces around 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd), and it has the ability to pump to its full capacity of 12.5 million bpd, the official said. Saudi Arabia is preparing for any disruptions in the oil market that might occur due to the crisis undergoing in Iraq.” [Reuters, 6/24/2014]