Top News: ISIS Tightens Noose Around Ayn al-Arab; Turkish Parliament Expands War Powers

ISIS fighters continued to close in on three sides of the border town of Ayan al-Arab (Kobani in Kurdish), digging trenches and lobbing mortar fire. Kurdish sources predicted a wide-scale massacre should ISIS overrun the city. The campaign by ISIS has already captured over one hundred villages and displaced approximately 300,000. 

On Thursday, the Turkish parliament expanded the war powers of the government, opening the pathway for cross-border actions. After the vote Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters, “We will do whatever we can so that Kobani does not fall” to ISIS, without giving specific details on the measures Turkey might take.



Political actors call on Sisi to release revolutionary youth for Eid
Abeer Suleiman, central committee member and campaign coordinator of the People’s Alliance, called on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to start a new page and release imprisoned youth bearing light charges. The alliance’s statement pointed out the amnesty for young prisoners will confirm that the president can give opportunities to build Egypt after the opposition’s practices, stressing that the occasion of Eid is the best time for a presidential pardon. In addition, Dostour party issued a statement to ask President Sisi to respond urgently to the repeated calls for the immediate release of revolutionary youth who are unjustly detained in prisons. [EGYNews (Arabic), 10/3/2014]

Egypt judge in mass death sentence cases removed
The Egyptian judge who oversaw mass death sentence cases against Islamist supporters of the country’s ousted president, drawing strong international criticism, has been removed from his criminal court, officials and the judge himself said on Thursday. The removal of Judge Said Youssef, taken by a top appeals court, signals a possible shift in Egypt after an extensive crackdown on backers of toppled President Mohammed Morsi and an attempt by judges to begin to repair the damage done by judge’s heavy handed rulings. [AP, 10/3/2014]

Gallup: Egyptians’ views on life, economy starting to rebound
After a tumultuous year of political turmoil, violence, and at times international isolation, Egyptians seem to be turning a corner. The percentage of Egyptians who rate their lives poorly enough to be considered “suffering” has been cut in half, dropping to 16 percent this June, one year after hitting a record high of 34 percent. At the same time, the percentage who rate their lives highly enough to be considered “thriving” has nearly doubled over the same time period, rising from 9 percent to 17 percent. [Gallup, 10/3/2014]


Around thirty soldiers killed in double suicide bombing
An estimated thirty Libyan soldiers were killed and seventy wounded in a double suicide bombing and clashes in the port city of Benghazi on Thursday. Military sources have said that the fighting which took place on Airport Road was some of the heaviest seen in the eastern city. The area has been the scene of frequent battles between Operation Dignity and Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council forces since the end of Ramadan. Saiqa Special Forces, loyal to Operation Dignity, appear to have retained control of the airport. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 10/2/2014]

Libya’s runaway parliament seeks refuge in Tobruk bubble
The House of Representatives self-exiled in Tobruk is holed up in the Dar al Salam seaside resort, protected by trucks fitted with anti-aircraft cannon, troops, and cement roadblocks. For some, Tobruk is not just somewhere to work but the last safe place in Libya. The hotel resembles an all-inclusive vacation package; parliamentarians and their families get three meals a day, paid for out of Libya’s $47 billion budget. The House broadly represents anti-Misrata, anti-Islamist forces, but lawmakers also have differing visions for post-Qaddafi Libya, making it hard for international mediators to find consensus. [Reuters, 10/2/2014]

UNSMIL welcomes House commitment to Ghadames talks and ceasefire
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has welcomed the House of Representatives’ commitment to recent talks saying the tone “opens a new page in relations among Libyans.” UN Special Representative Bernardino Leon also praised efforts by the elected House members who have been boycotting, for helping make the launch of the Ghadames negotiations a success. He also thanked them for their commitment to the political process, saying, “Choosing negotiation over confrontation is a very encouraging sign. [Libya Herald, 10/2/2014]

Misrata in prisoner exchange gesture with Zintan, frees Tawerghan prisoners for Eid
The arch rival cities of Misrata and Zintan exchanged prisoners, with Misrata also releasing a large number of Tawerghan and other prisoners for Eid, in what is seen as an exceptional political confidence-building gesture. The exchange, mediated by Sabratha’s Shura Council of Elders and Wise Men, is being interpreted as a sign of Misrata’s willingness to take part in the UN-sponsored talks. In a far less conciliatory gesture, the Grand Mufti has called on Operation Libya Dawn in Tripoli and revolutionaries in Benghazi and Sebha to unite and impose law and order, saying “outlaws” needed to be smashed “with an iron fist.” [Libya Herald, 10/2/2014]


ISIS tightens noose around Ayn al-Arab; Turkish parliament expands war powers
ISIS fighters continued to close in on three sides of the border town of Ayan al-Arab (Kobani in Kurdish), digging trenches and lobbing mortar fire. Kurdish sources predicted a wide-scale massacre should ISIS overrun the city. The campaign by ISIS has already captured over one hundred villages and displaced approximately 300,000. On Thursday, the Turkish parliament expanded the war powers of the government, opening the pathway for cross-border actions. After the vote Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters, “We will do whatever we can so that Kobani does not fall” to ISIS, without giving specific details on the measures Turkey might take. [Naharnet, The National, 10/3/2014]

Army fights to choke last major rebel route into Aleppo
The Syrian army clashed with insurgents on the northern edge of Aleppo city on Friday threatening to take the last main rebel supply route into the city and trap opposition forces and civilians inside. Although there are smaller, more indirect routes into Aleppo, taking the road would significantly reduce the rebels’ ability to resupply and it would allow the army to besiege areas of the city which fell to insurgents two years ago. “The road is completely closed and the regime has erected barriers. Our comrades were there and had to take another very long road which takes hours,” said activist Muhammad Bidour. Bidour said clashes were ongoing in the villages of Sifat and Dowir al-Zeitoun, around five miles north of Aleppo. [Reuters, 10/3/2014]

US airstrikes hit ISIS positions at Raqqa airport
US-led airstrikes targeted the Tabqa military airport, which ISIS captured from the regime earlier this year, activists said Friday. The Syria Observatory for Human Rights said the airstrikes hit the military airport in the Raqqa province, a stronghold of ISIS, though casualty figures had not been released. [The Daily Star, 10/3/2014]


Cabinet shifts attention to election security; ISIE promises strict staff oversight
Cabinet officials met in Kasbah on Wednesday to finalize preparations for the upcoming legislative elections. Officials indicated that at least 4,500 educational facilities had been transformed into polling stations and officials from the Independent High Authority for the Elections (ISIE) were working in close coordination with their regional counterparts to oversee the monitoring and oversight of all polling sites. ISIE Chief Chafiq Sarsar indicated that the ISIE had received over 75,000 applications for polling staff and would ensure that each applicant was adequately vetted prior to selection. [All Africa, 9/3/2014]

Six members of Ansar al-Sharia arrested
National guard units arrested six members of Ansar al-Sharia and seized several weapons and ammunition after raids in Medenine on Thursday. According to a statement released by the interior ministry, the six individuals were arrested under suspicion of planning attacks against security installations and personnel. The statement also indicated that the six suspects were tied to another terrorist organization in Sidi Bouzid. [TAP, 10/3/2014]

ISIE launches mobile service to combat voter fraud
The Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE) released Thursday a text messaging service that enables voters to confirm their picks for the presidential election. The service was launched after allegations that individuals’ names were fraudulently used to back candidates without their knowledge. ISIE officials have so far rejected the applications of forty-two presidential candidates for failing to meet the official requirements. Officials did confirm the eligibility of twenty-seven candidates during a press conference held on Tuesday. [Tunisia Live, 10/3/2014]


Houthis dictate state spending
Reports circulated Thursday that Houthi forces had ordered the finance ministry to suspend all payments except state employee salaries. A member of the group alleged that the step was taken at the request of anxious state employees who wanted the funds protected in a time of uncertainty. A ministry employee said the Houthis delivered the order to suspend payments and instructed employees not to resume them until a new government was formed. The Houthis have refused to leave the capital, claiming that they have the right to remain until President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi appoints a new prime minister. Explaining the decision, Houthi political bureau member Abdelmalek al-Ejri said: “In these extraordinary circumstances, there is a real danger that elements from the former government would act in a way that would tamper with funds and to doctor books, which will cause the collapse of the state.” [Reuters, 10/2/2014]

US releases $26 million in military aid to Yemen;
The US released over twenty-six million dollars in military aid to Yemen earlier this week when it waived sanctions imposed on six countries for recruiting child soldiers. President Barack Obama waived sanctions and lifted bans on international military, education, and training assistance to Yemen Tuesday, which will free up twenty-five million dollars to improve the state’s counterterrorism capabilities and over one million dollars to develop further its professional army. However, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Kozak said that the US government must evaluate “whether it still makes sense to provide assistance as situations on the ground change.” [Naharnet, 10/3/2014]

Islah accuses defense minister and military leaders of complicity with the Houthis
After urging its members on Tuesday to “overcome what they had suffered” in order to avoid conflict with the Houthis, the Islah Party accused members of the defense ministry of collaborating with the Houthis in the fall of Sana’a. Saeed Shamsan, head of Islah’s political secretariat, said in an interview that Defense Minister General Mohammed Nasser Ahmed moved troops from their positions in Sana’a to facilitate Houthi advances into the capital. He demanded an open investigation to uncover why the Houthis were able to seize the capital, and accused military leaders of “treason.” Abdulsalam said that the Houthis coordinated with the defense ministry and military leaders during their “revolution against corruption,” and were effectively handed army camps and military sites. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 10/2/2014]


Ankara approves military operations in Iraq and Syria
Turkey’s parliament approved a motion Thursday giving the government new powers to launch military incursions into Syria and Iraq and allowing foreign forces to use its territory for possible operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The parliament voted 298-98 in favour of the motion, which sets the legal framework for any Turkish military involvement, and for the potential use of Turkish bases by foreign troops. The motion comes as ISIS militants moved closer into Kobani, right across the border from Turkey, despite renewed US-led airstrikes in the area overnight. The United States has been bombing the Islamic State group across Syria since last week and in neighboring Iraq since early August. [The Jordan Times, 10/3/2014]

Stalemate continues in Iraq over ministerial appointments
Iraq’s main political parties are caught in a seemingly endless stalemate over the appointment of two ministerial candidates in the interior and defense ministries, dashing hopes that the government will be finalized before the Eid al-Adha holiday. Earlier this week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi confirmed discussions with the Speaker of the Parliament Salim al-Jubouri on the possibility of holding a parliamentary session before the Eid al-Adha break. Contradicting reports about whether former Iraqi Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi will stand as the Sunni-majority’s candidate for the interior ministry have however complicated a process that seems to have reached an irresolvable standstill. Issawi served as the country’s finance minister under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki between 2010 and 2013 before he was sacked over corruption and terror charges. [Asharq al-Awsat, 10/3/2014]

Hariri calls for resolution of hostage crises as security raids surge in Beirut and Arsal
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Friday urged for a speedy resolution to the ongoing hostage crisis that has inflamed tensions between residents and government forces in the northeastern border with Syria. The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the Nusra Front kidnapped more than thirty Lebanese Army soldiers and policemen during their brief takeover of the northeast border town of Arsal in August. They have since released seven and executed three. Security forces have since increased operations in Arsal, capturing arms and munitions during multiple raids on local homes and roadside checkpoints. Military officials reported Friday that security personnel had defused an explosive device weighing around fifty kilograms and additional raids in Antellias, north of Beirut, led to the arrest of several Syrians, many of whom are suspected of having links with terrorist groups. [The Daily Star, Naharnet, 10/3/2014]