Top News: Jordanians Charged with Terrorism Over Campus Clashes

Jordanian military prosecutors on Wednesday charged fifteen men, including students, with carrying out “terrorist acts” over clashes on a university campus that injured four people, a judicial official said. “State security court prosecutors accused the suspects of carrying out terrorist acts and possessing automatic weapons with intent to use them illicitly,” the official said. The suspects face life prison sentences if convicted. [AFP/Ahram Online, 11/20/2013]



Support for Egyptian cabinet declines
Twenty-four percent of Egyptians think the performance of the current government, headed by Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi, is “good,” according to a poll released Wednesday by private polling organization Baseera. Thirty-three percent said the government’s performance was “average”, while 22 percent said it was “bad.” The new poll shows a marked drop in the popularity of the current government. Geographically, the percentage of those satisfied with government performance is 27 percent in Lower Egypt, but it drops to 23 percent in Upper Egypt, compared to 19 percent in urban governorates. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 11/20/2013]

Clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud anniversary leave two dead, seventeen injured
A ministry of health official has said that seventeen people were injured nationwide on Tuesday, as various demonstrations took place to commemorate the anniversary of violent clashes in 2011. Two men were killed, both deaths caused by birdshot. Two reporters were arrested in Abbasiya, while three were arrested in Mansoura University during a march organized by the Revolutionary Front. Egypt’s security forces fired heavy rounds of teargas in Tahrir in the late hours of Tuesday, dispersing around 200 protesters who had remained in the square to commemorate the 2011 Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes. Earlier in the evening, dozens of the protesters had clashed with police forces deployed at the nearby Arab League headquarters. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, SIS, Reuters, DNE, 11/20/2013]

Egypt sees wheat self-sufficiency for subsidy program by 2019
Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer, can achieve self-sufficiency in wheat for its bread subsidy program by 2019 if silo storage capacity is raised by 1 million tonnes annually, the agriculture minister said. Though self-sufficiency has been cited by successive governments as a goal, Agriculture Minister Ayman Abou Hadid for the first time provided explicit details. “What I mean by self-sufficiency is self-sufficiency in the wheat used to make the subsidized loaves of bread. This is nine million tonnes,” Abou Hadid told Reuters in an interview on Monday. “We can achieve it six years from now on condition that every year we can build silos adding 1 million tonnes capacity at least.” The United Arab Emirates pledged part of its $4.9 billion aid package to Egypt to build twenty-five new wheat silos. Egypt also bought 120,000 tonnes of wheat from Russia through new global tenders, the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) said on Tuesday. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 11/20/2013]

Russia prepared to invest in Egyptian nuclear energy says Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said his country is prepared to back numerous projects in Egypt, including nuclear energy, as the two nations strengthen their bond. Speaking on Tuesday to Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Lavrov described Egypt as a “major power” and an ally of Russia, noting that Russia is the largest “supplier” of both tourists and grain to the Arab World’s most populous country. Meanwhile, Egyptian Ambassador in Moscow Mohamed el-Badri had talks on Wednesday with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. During the meeting, Bogdanov stressed full respect to the Egyptian sovereignty and its policy rejecting the establishment of foreign military bases on its soil. [DNE, SIS, 11/20/2013]


Libya aims to issue three Islamic bank licenses in 2014, says central bank
Libya hopes to have its first three dedicated Islamic banks operating next year to satisfy a demand for sharia-compliant financial services, according to a senior central bank official. Under the former regime, Islamic banking was not encouraged and the overall financial system remained undeveloped. Authorities are now trying to build a modern financial system, although the current political and security situation is slowing the process. [Al Arabiya/Reuters, 11/20/2013]

Ghariyan militia quits Tripoli
The Misratan militias’ pullout from Tripoli has prompted the Ghariyan militia to follow suit. The Ghariyan Revolutionary Council has confirmed that its 200 members, who serve in the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR), were pulled out of the capital, although they will remain a part of the LROR. Also keen not to be seen in the same light as the Misratan militias, the Jadu brigade has given up its base at a beach resort west of Tripoli. Popular opinion against the militias is running high, as people protested the continued presence of all militias. [Libya Herald, 11/19/2013]

EU Council conclusions on Libya
The Council of the European Union Foreign Affairs Council met earlier this week and adopted several conclusions pertaining to Libya. These included condemning the latest violence, underscoring the importance of an inclusive electoral process as Libya prepares to elect the constitutional drafting assembly, and welcoming a national dialogue conference. The Council also reiterated the EU’s commitment to coordinate and provide assistance to Libya for disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs and recognized the need for a comprehensive approach to curbing illegal immigration. [Libya Business News, Council of the EU, 11/19/2013]


Double car bomb attack in Qalamoun; Violence escalates in Lebanese border region
Four suicide car bombs struck Syrian regime targets Wednesday in the Qalamoun region near Lebanon, killing at least seven soldiers. The attacks come a day after troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad made gains in the Qalamoun area north of Damascus, driving rebels out of nearby Qara village. The bombing yesterday of Iran’s embassy in Beirut is providing further evidence that Lebanon is being pulled into the regional war taking place inside Syria. The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon now stands at around 800,000. [AFP, 11/20/2013]

Options narrowed, United States considers destroying Syrian chemicals at sea
Unable to find a country willing to dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons, the United States is considering plans to place the chemical components of the weapons on a barge where they would be dissolved or incinerated. The two systems under review are intended to destroy the precursor materials that are designed to be combined to form chemical munitions. Syria’s smaller arsenal of operational chemical weapons would be destroyed separately. The system could be operational in seventy-five days. The seaborne options have received more serious consideration after Albania on Friday turned down a US appeal to destroy the weapons on its territory. Previously, Sweden turned down a similar request. [NYT, AFP 11/19/2013]

Russia says peace talks should focus on fighting ‘terrorists’
Russia said on Tuesday stopping “terrorists” fighting in Syria should be high on the agenda when an international peace conference convenes to try to end the conflict in the Arab nation. The United Nations hopes the Geneva II conference, which Moscow and Washington are trying to arrange, can be held in mid-December to seek a negotiated solution to a conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people. The meeting has been delayed for months amid disagreements over whether President Bashar al-Assad should play any future role in Syria, dissension within the Syrian opposition, and disputes on whether Iran should take part in the talks. [Reuters, 11/19/2013]


Mediators optimistic consensus on future PM should be reached before weekend  
A spokesman for the quartet of civil society organizations mediating Tunisia’s political talks called for the parties to agree on a future prime minister before the weekend, after a meeting Tuesday with National Constituent Assembly President Mustapha Ben Jaafar. The meeting also discussed a recent administrative court decision overturning selected candidates for the Independent Higher Authority for the Elections (IHAE) and a possible revision of the law governing the creation of the IHAE, issues that the quartet is optimistic will be resolved, according to the spokesman. National personalities and academics called on all components of the civil society, especially youths, to support Tunisia’s national dialogue. [TAP, 11/19/2013]

New telecommunications agency raises spying concerns
The creation of a new telecommunications investigative agency has some cyber activists raising concerns over the return of web surveillance in post-revolution Tunisia. Tunisia announced on November 12 the formation of the Technical Agency of Telecommunication, with a mission described as providing “technical support to judicial investigations in crimes against information technology systems.” The announcement sparked questions over the return of online surveillance and possibly censorship, especially by activists who had fought against it under the rule of toppled president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. [Tunisia Live, 11/19/2013]

Official NCA spokesperson post created
The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) on Tuesday announced the creation of a NCA spokesperson position that will include official social media, including Facebook and Twitter accounts. Deputy NCA President Dhamir Mana’i said the creation of the position aimed to strengthen communication and information tools pending the next debate on the Constitution. NCA Deputy President Hatem Klai will hold the post of official spokesman of the NCA, Mana’i  said. [TAP, 11/19/2013]

‘Smart Tunisia’ project to create 50,000 jobs
“Smart Tunisia,” a project adopted in a cabinet meeting on Monday, will help create 50,000 jobs within five years particularly among university graduates, according to a prime ministry press release issued Tuesday. The project seeks to attract international companies and will help introduce Tunisia as an investment destination in the information and communication technology field. [TAP, 11/19/2013]


Three suspected al-Qaeda militants killed in Yemen air strike, say residents
Three suspected al-Qaeda militants were killed in an airstrike in eastern Yemen on Tuesday, residents and a local official said. The residents said a drone hit the militants as they were travelling in a car in the province of Hadramout in an area called Ghail Bawazeer, forty-five kilometers (thirty miles), from the provincial capital Mukalla. Residents reported hearing a large explosion and later saw the car engulfed in flames. [Reuters, 11/19/2013]

8+8 subcommittee continues meeting; GPC delegation returns for one session
The 8+8 subcommittee in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), tasked with finding solutions to the Southern Issue, continued meeting on Tuesday with  the participation of all political components within the subcommittee. The meeting was held in two sessions. General People’s Congress (GPC)  members boycotted the first session, which focused on the number of federal units in a potential solution for the issue. The second session focused on lessons from the failure to implement the Covenant and Agreement document of 1994. UN Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar attended the subcommittee meeting along with NDC Secretary General, Ahmed bin Mubarak. [NDC, NDC Arabic, 11/19/2013]

Government official says situation of Yemeni deportees from Saudi is deplorable
An official security source from the Harad directorate on the border with Saudi Arabia said that government agencies have still not offered any aid to Yemeni deportees from Saudi Arabia. He added that the conditions for those returning to Yemen are increasingly difficult and tragic but the government has not provided any tangible solutions. A government report called on human rights groups and others with access to the deportees to quickly provide aid. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/19/2013]

Attacks on phone and internet lines, oil pipelines, create difficulties for Yemenis
Service is still cut-off in the Shabwa province for the fourth consecutive day and a local official criticized the lack of cooperation between local authorities and security services to address the issue. The director of communications in the Shabwa province, Salem Munsir, said technicians and engineers have been unable to fix the damaged fiber optic lines that are exposed to sabotage by tribal militants. In addition, data from the Yemeni Central Bank showed on Tuesday that Yemen’s oil exports fell in September, exacerbating the country’s financial difficulties. Yemen relies on crude oil exports to boost its foreign exchange reserves and the financing of the budget, but the repeated attacks on oil pipelines have reduced government revenue. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/19/2013, Al Tagheer (Arabic), 11/20/2013]


Bahrain opposition leadership systematically targeted
The head of the main Shia political society in Bahrain has told the BBC that the opposition leadership is being systematically targeted by the state. Sheikh Ali Salman of Wefaq has been charged with insulting the interior ministry through a museum exhibit about alleged human rights abuses by police. His deputy, Khalil Marzook, is on trial for inciting youth violence and trying to overthrow the Sunni-led government. Salman said the allegations against them both were politically motivated. [BBC, 11/19/2013]

Twelve die in Algeria after World Cup qualifier
Algerian authorities say twelve people have died and 240 were injured during celebrations for Algeria’s victory over Burkina Faso that sent the country’s team to the 2014 soccer World Cup in Brazil. A government statement Wednesday said that nine celebrating fans were killed in two car accidents, while another three individuals died in separate incidents. Across Algeria people poured into the streets to celebrate their team’s qualification for the cup, with young men driving their cars down the streets and honking their horns, despite heavy rain in the north Tuesday night. [AP, 11/20/2013]

Image: Masked students involved in what appeared to be a tribal brawl outside the main campus of Balqa Applied University, November 19. (Photo: Omar Zorba;