Top News: Libyan Parliament Allies with Haftar, Struggles to Assert Authority

Libya’s beleaguered House of Representatives, struggling to assert some authority, has declared a formal alliance with renegade former general Khalifa Haftar, who leads Operation Dignity in a campaign to rid Libya of Islamists.

The House, Libya’s elected parliament which has relocated to Tobruk in the far east, has endorsed Haftar’s campaign, giving him an official role in a move that contradicts past calls for the disarmament of all militias and could exacerbate the conflict. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has again postponed its hearing regarding whether the House sessions in Tobruk are constitutional.




Endowments ministry inspectors granted right of civilian arrests
The ministry of endowments received approval from the justice ministry on Sunday to grant the first batch of endowments inspectors the right to arrest any civilian who violates religious speech law and regulations inside mosques. The decision aims to ensure the religious speeches at mosques do not contain political elements, by banning “outsiders and those who don’t qualify” for giving speeches, alongside those who use the platforms for personal or partisan interests, the endowment ministry said in a statement on its official website. [DNE, 10/20/2014]

Arab journalists urge Sisi to pardon imprisoned journalists
A delegation of Arab journalists urged President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to pardon imprisoned journalists in Egyptian prisons on Monday. Sisi met with the delegation of Arab journalists at the presidential palace, presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said. Sisi said he understands “the best way to deal with violations committed by some [foreign] journalists is to deport them.” He nevertheless added that Egypt’s judiciary is “fully independent” and “commenting on court rulings is not possible,” Youssef said. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Mada Masr, Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 10/21/2014]

Military court sentences seven to death on charges related to terrorism
A military court sentenced seven Egyptian men to death and two to life in prison on charges of terrorism on Tuesday, in the first trial to be conducted concerning prominent Egyptian militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. The defendants were arrested after a weapons’ warehouse was attacked in Qalubiyya on March 19, in an incident, which left two military officers killed. They are accused of the murder of armed forces personnel, resisting authorities, and possession of rifles, said their lawyer. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Ahram Gateway (Arabic), EGYNews (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic), 10/21/2014]

Foreign ministry and Arab League study ways to support legitimate institutions in Libya
Spokesman for the ministry of foreign affairs Badr Abdel-Aty said that Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with Nasser al-Qudwa, Envoy for the Secretary General of the Arab League, and discussed Libya’s political and security situation and ways to support the legitimate institutions and elected officials there. A foreign ministry statement stressed the necessity to implement sanctions against those militias that have attacked the legitimate government institutions in Libya and urged that they immediately surrender captured territory to restore the Libyan government and its capital to its rightful place. The Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, however, has rejected Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE’s role in supporting General Khalifa Haftar’s aerial campaign against the militias. [EGYNews (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic), 20/21/2014]


Libyan parliament allies with Haftar, struggles to assert authority
Libya’s beleaguered House of Representatives, struggling to assert some authority, has declared a formal alliance with renegade former general Khalifa Haftar, who leads Operation Dignity in a campaign to rid Libya of Islamists. The House, Libya’s elected parliament which has relocated to Tobruk in the far east, has endorsed Haftar’s campaign, giving him an official role in a move that contradicts past calls for the disarmament of all militias and could exacerbate the conflict. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has again postponed its hearing regarding whether the House sessions in Tobruk are constitutional. [Reuters, 10/20/2014]

National Oil Corporation steps up efforts to maintain oil output
Reports suggest that Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) is nearing a deal with protesters in the Wahat district who have been demanding job opportunities at state-owned oil firms. Their protests have lowered output to around 800,000 barrels per day early this month. According to the Jalu local council statement, the NOC has “agreed to employ 60 percent of those seeking jobs in the area.” The NOC website now shows Mashallah al-Zwai, appointed by the rival Tripoli government, as the oil minister. Mustafa Sanallah, recognized by the Tobruk government, is named on the website as the “chairman of the board of directors.” [Libya Monitor (subscription), 10/21/2014]

Constitutional body reportedly continues to meet
The Constitutional Assembly, responsible for writing Libya’s new constitution, continues to hold meetings as it prepares a draft version of the document, according to the assembly’s website, although no details have been provided about what was discussed. The assembly faces serious challenges. Thirteen of the sixty seats remain vacant after minority groups boycotted the February elections. Assembly members say they will present a draft constitution in late December, though it is unclear how the process may move ahead given the violent power struggle gripping the country. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 10/21/2014]

Tawergha displaced by violence again
Some 3,000 members of Libya’s persecuted Tawergha community have fled their refugee camp after getting caught in crossfire between Islamist militias and pro-government forces in Benghazi. This is the second time they have been displaced by post-revolution violence. In 2011, after Qaddafi’s ouster, nearly 40,000 residents fled their village when Misrata rebel forces attacked it, believing its inhabitants had aided regime forces. According to one lawmaker, the racially distinct group is “the most vulnerable” in the midst of the crisis. [AP, 10/20/2014]


UN to provide humanitarian assistance in proposed safe zones inside Syria
The United Nations’ top humanitarian official Valerie Amos said on Monday that the United Nations would offer humanitarian assistance for proposed safe zones inside Syria even if they were created without a Security Council resolution. The announcement comes on the heels of proposals by Turkish officials to establish zones inside Syria where civilians could be protected from the ongoing conflict. The United Nations already operates in parts of Syria where the government is not present and negotiates with rebel groups to reach some of the estimated eleven million people trapped inside the country and in need of critical assistance. [Reuters, 10/20/2014]

Britain approves surveillance missions over Syria
Britain’s defense ministry says Royal Air Force drones will fly intelligence-gathering missions over Syria, in a broadening of UK operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) beyond Iraq. Britain’s Parliament voted last month to approve British airstrikes against ISIS forces in Iraq, but not in Syria. A statement released to the British parliament, however, indicated that the drones would not be used to strike targets inside Syrian territory, and that such action would require additional authorization. [Washington Post, Reuters, 10/21/2014]

Syrian Army adjusts to challenges of guerilla warfare
After exhaustive fighting and the depletion of half its forces, the Syrian army has transitioned from a Soviet-style conventional army to a more flexible counterinsurgency force. But experts say that government forces, though less numerous, have become battle-hardened and more lethal since the conflict broke out in 2011. Defections, desertions, and attrition after three years of civil war saw Syria’s total manpower decline from a high of 325,000 in 2011 to 295,000 in 2012 to an estimated 178,000 in 2013 and 2014, but the remaining 100,000 to 150,000 loyal troops tested in battle over more than two years of fighting are arguably more lethal than a 300,000-strong Syrian military in 2010. High casualties have forced the army to rely on compulsory military service, although it recently released an unusual call for voluntary sign-ups. [AFP, 10/21/2014]

McCain to push for ground troops in Iraq and Syria if Republicans take Senate
Senator John McCain of Arizona has said that President Barack Obama may face pressure from Congressional Republicans to deploy ground troops to Iraq and Syria should the GOP gain a Senate majority in midterm elections. “Frankly, I know of no military expert who believes we are going to defeat ISIS with this present strategy,” McCain said Monday. “We may be able to ‘contain,’ but to actually defeat ISIS is going to require more boots on the ground, more vigorous strikes, more special forces, further arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and creating a no-fly zone and buffer zone in Syria.” [Huffington Post, 10/20/2014]


FM Hamdi meets with Turkish President in Ankara
Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi met with President Recep Erdogan on Monday in Ankara where the Turkish president confirmed his country’s willingness to provide logistical support to Tunisia’s army and security forces. The two leaders discussed regional security issues and confirmed plans to construct a joint Diplomacy Academy in coordination with the Turkish Diplomacy Academy of Foreign Affairs. [TAP, 10/20/2014]

PM Jomaa hosts WHO representatives and Arab health ministers
Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa on Monday met with the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), the WHO Regional Director of the Eastern Mediterranean Region, and sixteen Arab health ministers. The meeting focused on Tunisia’s role in supporting health security in the region and improving cooperation between the WHO and Tunisia’s health ministries. Tunisia is currently hosting the 61st session of the World Health Organization committee for the Eastern Mediterranean from October 19 to 21 in Tunis. [TAP, 10/20/2014]

National dialogue to resume after elections
The Secretary General of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) announced Monday that the national dialogue process would resume on October 31 after the conclusion of parliamentary elections. The secretary general indicated that subsequent meetings would focus on the interim government’s role in the post-election transition and the official end to the National Constituent Assembly. [All Africa, 10/20/2014]


Al-Qaeda attacks targeting Houthis kill at least thirty-three people
Suicide and gun attacks by al-Qaeda in Yemen’s center resulted in the deaths of at least thirty-three people on Monday, and a suicide bombing against a Houthi checkpoint in Sana’a killed another fifteen. An al-Qaeda suicide bomber near Rida killed fifteen when he drove a car toward the home of a local government official in Bayda province. The victims of the attack had reportedly been holding telephone negotiations with al-Qaeda representatives. Gunmen attacked the home of another Rida government official, killing an unspecified number, and attacks on the town’s outskirts and at a checkpoint in Ibb left ten more Houthis dead. [Reuters, 10/20/2014]

Al-Qaeda consolidate hold on Udain, reach outskirts of al-Hudaydah
A local source in Ibb province said Tuesday that al-Qaeda had consolidated its control on the town of Udain, and that militant forces had gathered in the mountains on Ibb’s eastern outskirts and were also moving westward toward the border of al-Hudaydah province. The source said that al-Qaeda had seized the western Madhikra directorate in Ibb and stationed themselves in government buildings there. These movements in western Ibb came a day after al-Qaeda reportedly raised its flag over Udain, a town it began to occupy last week. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 10/21/2014]

Protests against Houthis, Hadi; southern leaders warn against Houthi expansion
Protesters in Sana’a on Tuesday demanded an end to the Houthi militant presence in the city and other provinces, and called on President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi to take responsibility for the country’s security. The protesters chanted that they were marching “in order to secure the homeland” and that they held Hadi and his local and international political allies responsible for Houthi expansion into Yemen’s center. They also demanded the return of the army to protect against “militias and terrorist groups.” Meanwhile, southern leaders again warned against Houthi expansion into the south. Herak official Nasser al-Khabaji said that he did not anticipate a Houthi movement south because the militants do not have a popular base to mobilize in the region, but he warned any attempts at Houthi expansion would be met with massive armed resistance. [Al Masdar, Aden al-Ghad (Arabic) 10/21/2014]


ISIS militants launch second offensive on Mt.Sinjar
Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or Islamic State) militants advanced on Mount Sinjar on Monday, seizing two villages and blocking roads as besieged fighters from the minority Yazidi sect pleaded for US-led airstrikes to stop the ISIS advance. The numbers of those stranded Monday was unclear after tens of thousands of Yazidis were displaced from the area during ISIS’s August assault. Yazidi volunteers that have so far repelled militant attacks noted that they had limited arms and resources and ran the risk of being overrun without external assistance. [Washington Post, 10/21/2014]

Iraqi PM meets with Iranian president as attacks in Baghdad continue
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised on Tuesday that Iran would stand by Iraq in the neighboring country’s fight against the Sunni extremists belonging to ISIS. The announcement came during a visit to Tehran by Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi where the two leaders discussed joint efforts to defeat the radical militant group. Rouhani confirmed that Iran would continue to provide Baghdad with military advisers and weapons as fresh attacks in the Shia-dominated district in eastern Baghdad, killed fifteen people and wounded thirty-two others. [Naharnet, Daily Star, 10/21/2014]

ISIS black market oil sales thrive
Iraqi officials on Monday indicated that the ISIS black-market oil smuggling operation continues to thrive despite escalating air strikes targeting the group’s positions in Iraq and Syria. Local and regional sources confirmed that Iraqi black market oil, which is being used to fund ISIS’s terrorist operations, is being smuggled into Iran, Turkey, and Syria, although the majority of the illegal oil is sold within Iraq. Sources noted that despite efforts by Iraq’s security forces to suppress illegal oil sales, the militant group controls large swathes of oil rich territory in cities such as Kirkuk where the Iraqi military is so far unable to access. [Asharq al-Awsat, 10/17/2014]