Top News: Libya’s Parliament to Open Dialogue With Opposition in UN-Sponsored Talks

The House of Representatives is expected to hold its first talks today with the opposition, starting a UN-brokered dialogue in the town of Ghadames near the Algerian border.

A parliamentary spokesman said the talks would not include armed groups and be held only with elected deputies from Misrata who have boycotted the House’s sessions. According to a European official, the meeting location was a “major concession by Misratans and Islamists,” since Ghadames is largely controlled by Zintanis. It is hoped that as a first stage, a military ceasefire and an exchange of prisoners would be announced, enabling dialogue to continue.




Sisi promises bigger role for youth in Cairo University speech
Speaking at a ceremony at Cairo University to honor twenty-seven top students from universities nationwide, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said half of the “specialized councils” to be formed under the auspices of the presidency will belong to Egypt’s youth. Sisi also issued a presidential decree stating that all university students with outstanding performances during the last school year should be recognized, promising to increase the number of scholarships for students overseas. Streets surrounding Cairo University have been closed off on Sunday ahead Sisi’s visit. Republican Guards have been securing the vicinity of Cairo University since Friday. Students Against the Coup (SAC) rejected Sisi’s visit, said spokesperson of the group Youssef Saleheen, describing it as giving a green light for an upcoming crackdown on students. The movement’s statement, released after the president’s speech, said that only students who were known to be supporters of the current regime were selected to attend. [Ahram Online, SIS, DNE, 9/28/2014]

Saudi Arabia, Montenegro, Ivory Coast to head Egypt’s human rights review
Saudi Arabia, Montenegro, and the Ivory Coast will be leading the review of Egypt’s human rights track record in the United Nations Human Rights Council’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR), set to take place on November 5. This is the second time Egypt is being reviewed. The first UPR for Egypt took place in February 2010. Saudi Arabia has indicated its support for Egypt on various occasions since the July 2013 ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi. Human rights lawyer and executive director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information Gamal Eid commented on the selection of Saudi Arabia to review Egypt’s human rights record, stating, “This is not a surprise and is completely expected… Arab states are working under the reasoning of covering up for one another in their human rights records,” he said. [DNE, 9/27/2014]

Mubarak retrial verdict postponed to November 29
Judge Mahmoud al-Rashidi delayed Saturday to November 29 an expected verdict in Hosni Mubarak’s retrial on charges of unlawfully killing protesters during the January 25 Revolution, citing that it needs more time to review all the evidence. The court initially said the announced delay is due to the verdict reasoning having not yet been completed. On Sunday, however, Rashidi cited his health conditions as being behind the decision to postpone the verdict. After the announcement, clashes erupted Saturday between Mubarak’s supporters and opponents outside the Cairo Police Academy, where retrial was being held. The Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) each issued statements following the decision. The FJP said the decision to postpone “proved that the judiciary is still an instrument of the military coup.” A timeline of the Mubarak trial can be seen here. [DNE, Ahram Online, AP, Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya, 9/28/2014]

Egypt to invest $14.5 billion in petrochemicals, refining over five years
Egypt plans to invest $14.5 billion in developing its refining and petrochemicals sectors over the next five years, its oil minister said, as part of efforts to overcome an energy crisis that has led to near-daily power cuts and hit company profits. It is also considering floating stakes in some state-owned oil companies on the Egyptian stock exchange. [Reuters, 9/29/2014]


Libya pleads for help in battling terror groups
Addressing the UN General Assembly, President of Libya’s House of Representatives Ageela Saleh pleaded with the international community for help to stand up to Islamist-allied militias that have taken control of government buildings, saying the United Nations must impose sanctions or risk a terrorist expansion throughout North Africa. Libya asked the world either to provide more weapons and other support to help restore security and rebuild its institutions or to declare outright that Libya “must face terrorism alone.” Back in Libya, the House held a swearing-in ceremony for Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni’s cabinet. [AP, Reuters, 9/27/2014]

Libya’s parliament to open dialogue with opposition in UN-sponsored talks
The House of Representatives is expected to hold its first talks today with the opposition, starting a UN-brokered dialogue in the town of Ghadames near the Algerian border. A parliamentary spokesman said the talks would not include armed groups and be held only with elected deputies from Misrata who have boycotted the House’s sessions. According to a European official, the meeting location was a “major concession by Misratans and Islamists,” since Ghadames is largely controlled by Zintanis. It is hoped that as a first stage, a military ceasefire and an exchange of prisoners would be announced, enabling dialogue to continue. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 9/28/2014]

Seven killed in Benghazi as wave of assassinations continues
Seven civilians and soldiers have been murdered in Benghazi just one week after ten targeted assassinations were carried out, with a dozen others killed since. The head of the Saiqa Special Forces investigations unit attributed the rise of assassinations to the successful campaign against extremists in the city, explaining that Operation Dignity forces are draining the resources of Ansar al-Sharia and its allies, forcing them to find money through other means. Meanwhile, Operation Dignity discovered a mass grave holding twenty unidentified bodies in the Warshefana district. [Libya Herald, 9/27/2014]

Oil production dips slightly
Total crude production in Libya has dropped slightly to 900,000 barrels per day (bpd), due to disruption at the Abu Attifel field in the Wahat district. This is down from 925,000 bpd recorded on September 25, the highest so far this year. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s Medco Energi says it has made a new oil discovery in the Ghadames Basin, with initial tests indicating that the well is capable of producing 3,300 bpd. The firm previously said it was aiming to start production later this year, but it is unclear how the political turmoil and insecurity may affect that deadline. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 9/29/2014]


ISIS tightens siege on Kurdish town, Turkish tanks amass on border
Fighters from the militant group ISIS tightened their week-long siege on the predominantly Kurdish border town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, over the weekend, coming within three miles by Monday. On Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan said that Turkish ground troops could be used to secure the border, and on Monday at least fifteen Turkish tanks and armored vehicles took up positions on a hill overlooking the besieged town as shelling by ISIS insurgents intensified and stray fire hit Turkish soil. The resulting refugee crisis has deepened as at least 150,000 Syrians have fled into Turkey. [Naharnet, NYT, 9/29/2014]

US-led raids hit ISIS in north and east; Regime strikes opposition in west
US-led forces launched air strikes on ISIS-controlled territory in northern and eastern Syria Sunday night. In Deir Ezzor, the airstrikes targeted Syria’s main gas plant controlled by ISIS, and in the north the raids hit ISIS targets in the town of Manbij, which sits along a supply route for ISIS troops besieging Kobani. US air strikes also may have inadvertently hit grain silos, destroying foodstuffs and killing eight civilians. Meanwhile in the west, the regime also carried out overnight air raids, targeting areas east of Aleppo city with barrel bombs and other projectiles. [Reuters, Naharnet, 9/29/2014]

Nusra leader killed by US strikes; Group vows retaliation
A jihadist Twitter account said the leader of the Khorasan group, the cell within the Nusra front tasked with international operations, was killed in a US air strike. A US official said on September 24 that the United States believed Mohsin al-Fadhli, a senior al-Qaeda operative, had been killed in a strike a day earlier, but the Pentagon said several hours later it was still investigating what had happened to him. On Saturday, Nusra Front spokesman Abu Firas al-Suri US-led air strikes on Syria, saying they amounted to a war against Islam and vowing to retaliate against Western and Arab countries that took part. “These countries have done a despicable act that will put them on the list of those targeted by jihadist forces all over the world.” [Reuters, NYT, 9/28/2014]


UN Secretary General to visit Tunisia ahead of elections
The ministry of foreign affairs announced Saturday that the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon will visit the country on October 10 and 11 as preparations for the upcoming legislative and presidential elections continue. The ministry also confirmed that Interim President Moncef Marzouki met with the UN secretary general on the sidelines of the 69th UN General Assembly held in New York last week. The ministry indicated that the meeting was a symbolic gesture of support for Tunisia’s ongoing democratic transition. [TAP, 9/29/2014]

ISIE confirms eighteen presidential candidates, reject twenty-six
The Independent High Authority for the Elections (ISIE) announced on Saturday that is has so far accepted eighteen applications for candidacy and rejected twenty-six others for the upcoming presidential elections. At least 100 observers have in the past few weeks reviewed the sixty-nine applications submitted for presidential candidacy and eliminated several applications due to filing errors or failure to submit the required deposit of 10,000 dinars. ISIE officials noted that the examination period will continue through September 29 and the final list of candidates will be announced in press conference on September 30. [All Africa, TAP, 9/29/2014]

ISIE validates 1,326 lists for legislative elections
The Independent Higher Authority for the Elections (ISIE) confirmed on Saturday that it had validated 1,326 names on the electoral lists for the upcoming legislative elections. A separate administrative court validated fourteen of the electoral lists submitted by the ISIE but rejected two others. One-hundred and eleven appeals have already been filed with the administrative court to contest the ISIE’s rulings. Legislative elections are scheduled to take place on October 26. [TAP, AllAfrica, 9/29/2014]


Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for rocket attack; more than twenty killed
Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for a rocket attack carried out against the US embassy on Saturday. The group tweeted, “Ansar al-Sharia have targeted the US embassy in Sana’a with a [shoulder-launched] LAW rocket.” The attack allegedly came “in revenge for Muslim children targeted by a US drone when it bombed in Jawf province on Friday,” though the rocket did not hit any target. Al-Qaeda militants killed more than twenty people in two separate attacks on Sunday against Houthi targets. A suicide bomber drove a truck laden with explosives into a hospital serving as a Houthi base of operations in the town of Majzar, killing fifteen and wounding fifty. In a second attack in Bayda province, al-Qaeda fighters ambushed a vehicle carrying Houthi fighters, killing at least five. Taiz province also saw two police officers killed in a shooting on Sunday, though it is unclear who is responsible for the attack. [Reuters, 9/28/2014]

Demonstrations in Sana’a call for Houthi withdrawal
Protesters took to the streets in Sana’a to demonstrate against the continuing Houthi presence in the capital and President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi’s inability to exert control over the situation. The armed Houthi militants, who have established checkpoints throughout the city, did not interfere in the demonstrations. The Houthis unsuccessfully attempted to fight their way into the Sana’a home of Yemen’s intelligence chief on Saturday, leaving one soldier and two tribesman dead. Protesters put forth three demands: that the militias leave Sana’a, that captured weapons be returned to the government, and that “violations” like home raids carried out by the Houthis cease immediately. The government denies that Sana’a fell to the Houthis, and an advisor to President Hadi said that a new government will be formed before the Eid al-Adha holiday. Meanwhile, Houthi protesters continued to construct camps in the so-called “Change Square” in Sana’a. [Reuters, 9/28/2014]

Saudi foreign minister warns of Yemen’s deteriorating security situation
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said in a speech circulated at the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday that Yemen faced “unprecedented challenges” and was experiencing violence that threatened to spread beyond its borders. “The lack of implementation of the security annex of the agreement and the lack of implementation of the agreement itself in the required manner by the Houthi group has dashed” hopes for a stable security environment, he said. An anonymous Houthi source on Monday allegedly said that the group’s ambitions included reaching the Saudi border, where the Houthis would continue the military operations that won them Sana’a. [Aden al-Ghad, Marib Press (Arabic), 9/29/2014]


Abadi and Maliki feud as vacancies in the Interior ministry threaten Iraq’s security
Attempts by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to distance himself from the legacy of his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki have created a rift between the two that is hindering attempts to appoint ministers to key security posts. Decisions by the new prime minister to scrap the Office of Commander-in-Chief and the forced retirement of two army generals in the wake of stunning losses by Iraq’s security forces to the Islamic state in Iraq and al-sham (ISIS) have increased internal opposition to al-Abadi’s governance. Meanwhile, the defense and interior ministries in the Iraqi cabinet have yet to be filled, and remain the topic of fierce wrangling within and between the country’s various political movements, with each trying to find candidates acceptable to both other parties and their own members. [Asharq al-Awsat, 9/29/2014]

Iraq army woos deserters back to war on ISIS
The Iraqi military command has begun a campaign to reenlist soldiers and officers who abandoned their units, a crucial step in its effort to rebuild an army that has been routed in battle after battle by Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. Army officials at reenlistment centers in Baghdad and in the northern Kurdistan region say they have seen some success in the effort. More than 6,000 soldiers and officers, including those who were sent home by their commanders and those who fled unilaterally, had registered at a military outpost here in Kurdistan and more than 5,000 had signed up in Baghdad. But the returning troops make up only a small part of what has been lost. In June, when ISIS fighters swept across northern Iraq from Syria, four Iraqi divisions disintegrated, accounting for roughly 30,000 troops, though it remains unclear how many were killed and how many retreated on their own or under orders. [The New York Times, 9/29/2014]

Hezbollah calls for a united Sunni-Shia front to combat terrorism
Speaking on behalf of Hezbollah leader Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, Ibrahim Amin Sayyid, a Hezbollah official, called on Shias and Sunnis to strengthen their unity as Lebanon and the Arab world face terrorism. The official explained that Arab and Muslim societies were eager to see the region’s main countries adopt the language of dialogue and understanding in resolving the differences between them. He also noted that rising clashes in Lebanon and the region have emphasized the need to consolidate unity among the Lebanese, Arabs, and Muslims. [The Daily Star, 9/29/2014]