Top News: King Salman Will Not Attend Camp David Summit

Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday that its new monarch, King Salman, would not be attending meetings at the White House with President Obama or a summit gathering at Camp David this week, in an apparent signal of its continued displeasure with the administration over United States relations with Iran, its rising regional adversary. The state-run Saudi Press Agency said that the king would instead send Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi interior minister, and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the defense minister. King Salman is expected to call Mr. Obama on Monday to talk about his last-minute decision not to attend the summit. [NY Times, 5/10/2015]



Egypt court upholds three-year sentence against Mubarak on graft charges
A Cairo criminal court has upheld a three-year sentence against Mubarak on graft charges, but the former strongman will return home since he has served the full sentence, his defense team said. The court reduced a sentence on his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, to three years – down from four – in the same case on graft charges. Mubarak’s two sons, who were out on bail, were moved to Tora prison soon after the court verdict while the former autocrat returned to a military hospital in order for the prosecution to calculate their time served, security sources told Ahram Online. The Mubarak defense team said that the trio had spent the required detention period in jail, meaning that they will be released as soon as the prosecution confirms this fact. According to Egyptian law, pre-trial detention is counted as time served towards any possible sentence. If the conviction withstands appeal, it would officially establish Mubarak as a convicted criminal. [Mada Masr, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, AP, Ahram Online, DNE, 5/9/2015]

Alaa Abdel Fattah’s suspended sentence upheld in arson case
Egypt’s Court of Cassation turned down on Monday a request for retrial by political activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, upholding his suspended year in prison. Abdel Fattah received a suspended sentence alongside his sister Mona Seif and ten other activists for illegal assembly in January 2014. The defendants were accused of torching the electoral headquarters of former minister and presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq in May 2012 and referred to court, despite Shafiq’s waiver of the charges. Abdel Fattah’s defense team had challenged the ruling, describing it as “void” for depending on a “contrived” State Security investigation. Abdel Fattah is serving a five-year sentence in a separate case after he was convicted of violating the protest law. [Cairo Post, Aswat Masriya, Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 5/11/2015]

Egyptian tribes pledge to battle Islamist militant groups
Thirty Egyptian tribes based in Sinai said on Sunday they would confront militant groups including an Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) affiliate that has killed hundreds of soldiers and police, in a possible boost to Egypt’s efforts to improve security. The Sinai Tribal Federation said it had held its first meeting on Sunday to discuss ways to tackle militants seeking to topple the US-backed Cairo government. It would work “in coordination with the relevant agencies and institutions of the formal state … to support the state and the armed forces in their war against terrorism,” the alliance said in a statement. It was not immediately clear why the tribes in Sinai had now decided to weigh in behind a central government that they have accused of marginalizing them in the past. Security sources say that in the past few weeks, the Sinai State (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis), which supports ISIS, has executed prominent members of the tribes. [Reuters, DNE, 5/10/2015]

Egypt cooperation with Iran and Turkey ruled out, says FM
Egypt’s cooperation with Iran and Turkey is ruled out for Arab national security, said Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry Sunday in an annual conference at the Faculty of Economic and Political Studies in Cairo University. “A rapprochement with Iran amid what is going on in the Arab world is off the table, as that would mean there is a role for Iran in the Arab world, while we are working on Arab national security and territorial integrity,” Shoukry said. [Cairo Post, 5/10/2015]

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Turkish ship attacked as it approached Libyan port of Tobruk
A Turkish dry cargo ship was shelled from the Libyan coast as it approached the port of Tobruk and then attacked from the air as it tried to leave the area on Sunday, according to the Turkish foreign ministry. The third officer on the vessel died and other crewmembers were wounded in the attacks. The Turkish foreign ministry did not specify who launched the assaults, and there was no immediate comment from Libyan officials. Internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said back in February that his government would stop dealing with Turkey because it was sending weapons to the rival faction in Tripoli. [Reuters, 5/11/2015]

Libya rejects EU migrant plan, says it was not consulted
Libya’s ambassador to the United Nations rejects a European Union plan to fight the growing migrant crisis, saying that his internationally recognized government has not been consulted and ruled out EU forces on Libyan soil. Diplomats have been working on a draft UN Security Council resolution, which would be militarily enforceable, to authorize an EU operation that would seize suspected migrant smuggling ships in Libya’s territorial waters, even along its coast. The EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini is due to brief the council today. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi dismissed the proposals, insisting that the “only way out” is to arm his government and help it to extend its control throughout the country. [AP, 5/9/2015]

GNC members call for UN dialogue suspension, Leon’s removal
Sixty members of the continuing General National Congress (GNC) have called on GNC President Nuri Abu Sahmain to suspend participation in the UN-brokered dialogue and demand that there be no more involvement until Special Representative Bernardino Leon and other UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) officials be replaced. According to one GNC member, the recent draft accords from Leon are unacceptable. The latest draft, released in late April, recognizes the House of Representatives as Libya’s legitimate parliament and, although some GNC members would be coopted as part of a Supreme State Council, the body would have an advisory role only. [Libya Herald, 5/9/2015]

In Tunisia, nine alleged terrorists plotting assassination arrested
According to an interior ministry statement, nine alleged terrorists plotting to assassinate a national figure in the governorate of Sousse were arrested. The suspects were apparently in touch with terrorists based in Kasserine in order to supply them with arms to use them in assaults. After interrogation, the nine suspects were brought before the public prosecutor to a Tunis court. [TAP/All Africa, 5/9/2015]

Tunisian defense ministry says mass graves of terrorists found in Mount Chaambi
Combing operations between 2014 and 2015 by the armed forces in the mountains led to the discovery of sixty-one terrorist camps and caches used by militants in clashes with security forces, according to a spokesman for the defense ministry. Belhassen Oueslati also mentioned the discovery of mass graves in which terrorists bury their dead in an effort to hide the number of victims in their ranks to appear strong when mobilizing new recruits. Such practices are part of what he referred to as a “shadow war,” an attempt to sow doubt among the people and security forces. [TAP/All Africa, 5/9/2015]


Assad’s intelligence chief Ali Mamlouk arrested for coup plot
Intelligence chief of Syria’s National Security Bureau Ali Mamlouk has been placed under house arrest and has been removed from his position, after suspicions that he was plotting a coup. Mamlouk has been accused of talking with countries backing the rebels in Syria and exiled members of the regime, including Rifaat al-Assad. It is believed that as the Syrian army recently started losing territory to rebels in Idlib, Mamlouk reached out to foreign governments as exiled regime officials. This dismissal comes as further evidence of the struggles of the regime’s “inner circle,” with speculations that the increasing paranoia in Damascus could be related to disagreements over the Iranian role in the Syrian government. Sources inside the Syrian presidential palace told The Telegraph that the top officials are increasingly turning on each other over Iranian involvement in the war. Mamlouk’s arrest comes after the death of Political Security Directorate Chief Rustum Ghazaleh on April 24 by assailants devoted to General Rafiq Shehadeh, who was fired for the death. [Al Arabiya, The Telegraph, 5/11/2015]

Syria’s main opposition group not attending Geneva talks
The main Syrian opposition group in exile says it is not attending low-level consultations taking place in Geneva and hosted by the UN’s Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura. Syrian National Coalition chief Khaled Khoja says President Bashar al-Assad’s government is responsible for Syria’s conflict, now in its fifth year. Khoja spoke to reporters Monday together with Louay Hussein, longtime Syria-based opposition activist and leader of Building the Syrian State party. Hussein recently fled to Turkey. [AP, 5/11/2015]

Weapons inspectors find undeclared sarin and VX traces in Syria
Diplomatic sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Friday that international inspectors have found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at a military research site in Syria that had not been declared to the global chemical weapons watchdog. Samples taken by experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition and Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in December and January tested positive for chemical precursors needed to make the toxic agents. The sarin and VX nerve samples were taken from the Scientific Studies and Research Center, a government agency where Western intelligence agencies say Syria developed biological and chemical weapons. An OPCW fact-finding mission has been investigating allegations of dozens of recent chlorine gas attacks in Syrian villages but is being refused access to the sites by the Assad government. [Reuters, AFP, 5/9/2015]

Rebels storm Jisr al-Shughour hospital
Syrian rebel groups stormed the National Hospital in Jisr al-Shughour Sunday after a daytime suicide truck bomb attack. At least 200 regime troops and civilian officials are believed to be holed up in the complex since rebels seized the town last month. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels entered the hospital’s perimeter and “entered one of the buildings” as fierce clashes raged throughout the day. Regime aircraft pounded the perimeter of the complex and nearby areas of Idlib province with “at least thirty-three” airstrikes as the fighting raged. At least sixty rebels and government troops were killed in the fighting. [The Daily Star, 5/11/2015]

Turkey’s Prime Minister Davutoglu in unauthorised visit to tomb in Syria
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu traveled into Syria Sunday to visit a relocated historic tomb inside the country, his office said. The trip, which was not announced in advance, is the first such visit by a Turkish political leader to the tomb of Suleyman Shah. Syria’s official news agency SANA denounced Davutoglu’s trip to the tomb, calling the visit a “clear aggression against a sovereign UN member state and a violation of international law.” In related news, on Friday, foreign ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic denied it had struck a secret new pact with Saudi Arabia to back Islamist rebels in Syria in a drive to bring down Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The suggestions emerged after rebels captured the Syrian city of Idlib. On Saturday, Davutoglu rejected claims by the opposition that Ankara is preparing to intervene militarily in neighboring Syria. [Reuters, BBC, AFP, AP, 5/10/2015]


Houthis agree to May 12 ceasefire
Houthi rebels here said on Sunday that they had agreed to a five-day cease-fire proposed by Saudi Arabia that would allow humanitarian relief supplies to be delivered to the country. The cease-fire would begin at 11 p.m. Tuesday. Since proposing a halt in the hostilities last week, the Saudi-led coalition has escalated its bombing campaign, apparently trying to inflict as much damage as possible on the Houthis and their allies before any pause in the conflict. The UN criticized the Saudi campaign saying that the bombing is “effectively trapping civilians.” The US supported air campaign has killed 1,400 people. Since Saudi Arabia declared the city of Saada a military zone on Friday, the nearby city of Amran has received more than 100,000 internally displaced persons from Saada. [NYT, 5/10/2015]

Yemen’s Saleh declares support for Houthi militias
Yemen’s deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh claimed his support for Houthi militias after bombing raids by the Saudi-led coalition on his house in Sana’a. “I was not an ally of Ansar Allah [the Houthis] but today I am announcing from this place that Yemenis will be supportive of anyone who defends the nation’s resources,” the deposed leader said. On Sunday, Saudi-led forces conducted air strikes in Sana’a targeting Saleh’s house. Three loud explosions were heard and plumes of smoke were seen rising from the area where Saleh’s residence is located in the capital. [Al-Arabiya, 5/11/2015]

Coalition bombs Sana’a airport
Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition struck the Sana’a international airport on Saturday, shortly after authorities in the rebel-controlled Yemeni capital said it would reopen to receive humanitarian aid. Also on Saturday, coalition warplanes reportedly pounded rebel bases and the homes of Houthi leaders in the rebel-held Saada province. Missiles pounded rebel chief Abdul Malik al-Houthi’s hometown of Marran, and nearby Baqim, Al-Masirah television reported. [AFP, Al Jazeera, 5/9/2015]

Moroccan fighter jet goes missing in Yemen
A Moroccan F-16 warplane that is part of the Saudi-led force carrying out air strikes in Yemen has gone missing, Morocco’s military said on Monday as Houthi rebels and Saudi forces traded heavy fire across the border. “One of the F-16s of the Royal Armed Force put at the disposal of the coalition led by Saudi Arabia to restore the legitimacy in Yemen went missing on Sunday at 6 p.m. local time,” Morocco’s military said in a statement. The Houthis’ official news channel Al-Maseera said on Monday that anti-aircraft guns had downed an F-16 over in the remote Wadi Nashour area in the northwestern province of Saada, a Houthi stronghold bordering on Saudi Arabia. [Reuters, 5/11/2015]


Iraq to slash investment spending in 2015
The Iraqi government is expected to slash investment spending for 2015 by over 80 percent as weak oil prices hit state revenues. Investment projects have been put on hold. All other remaining projects have been postponed or cancelled, apart from ongoing projects that are 50 percent complete and those deemed vital. An economic advisor to the Iraqi government said it is reassessing a five-year national development plan. Iraq has requested financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund and announced plans to issue $5 billion of debt in an international bond sale. [Zawya, 5/10/2015]

Libyan oil company pumping up to 260,000 barrels per day
Libya’s Arabian Gulf Oil Co. (AGOCO) is producing 230,000 to 260,000 barrels per day (bpd), down some 35,000 bpd, due to a protest that closed the Nafoura oilfield. The company’s port of Hariga is expecting three tankers to lift oil this week, an oil official said, and another tanker was docked at the eastern port to deliver petrol for the local market. Two more tankers bringing fuel were waiting outside the port. The closure of several oilfields across the Libya has reduced the country’s oil production to 380,000 to 400,000 bpd, an industry source said last week. [Reuters, 5/10/2015]

Saudi Aramco said to plan spending $80 billion overseas
Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco), the world’s largest oil exporter, is planning to spend between $70-$80 billion on overseas acquisitions and investments during the next five years. The investment is part of the state-owned company’s target of spending $150 billion at home and internationally through 2019. Saudi Aramco is expanding in refining and petrochemicals and seeking to boost ties with Asia as part of its ambition to become both the world’s largest oil and chemicals producer by the end of the decade. [Bloomberg, 5/11/2015]

Egypt’s annual core, urban inflation slow in April
Egypt’s annual urban consumer inflation and core inflation both slowed in April, a reprieve from rising prices after two straight months of increasing inflation. The central bank kept its benchmark interest rates on hold at its last meeting in April, saying it had balanced improved economic growth in the second half of last year against accelerating inflation from volatile food items. The bank has now held rates steady following two consecutive meetings. [Reuters, 5/110/2015]