Top News: Maliki Uses His Security Forces to Prevent the Formation of a New Government

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered army tanks and Special Forces teams to surround the Green Zone Sunday night as he clings to his position in government. Before he ordered the special forces to action, Maliki delivered a defiant late-night speech in Baghdad saying he would file a legal case against the country’s president, who has resisted naming Maliki as the candidate for another term as prime minister.




Egyptian court dissolves Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party
Egypt’s High Administrative Court ordered on Saturday the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political wing of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, liquefying its assets. A court banned the Muslim Brotherhood itself in September, but that ruling did not mention its political wing, leaving open the possibility it could be allowed to run in parliamentary elections, due late this year. However, Saturday’s ruling effectively bans the Brotherhood from formal participation in electoral politics. The pro-Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy condemned the ban on Sunday, describing it as an unlawful and void decision. The alliance said in a statement that the ban demonstrates the extent to which the Egyptian judiciary is biased and politicized. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, The Guardian, 8/9/2014]

Israel, Palestinians resume Egypt-brokered ceasefire talks
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed indirect talks mediated by Egypt on Monday on ending a month-old Gaza war after a new 72-hour truce appeared to be holding. Egypt’s foreign ministry urged “both sides to exploit this truce to resume indirect negotiations immediately and work towards a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire agreement.” Azzam al-Ahmed, the head of the Palestinian delegation, announced Sunday night that Palestinian factions would use the truce period to reach a permanent ceasefire agreement. On Sunday, Palestinian negotiators had said they would remain in Cairo for an urgent meeting with the Arab League on Monday to discuss the Gaza crisis, while Israeli negotiators arrived in Cairo on Monday to meet with Egyptian mediators, sources at the airport and foreign ministry said. [Reuters, Mada Masr, The Guardian, DNE, AP, Egypt Independent, 8/11/2014]

Egypt drafting law to protect facilities, criminalizes attacks on utilities
Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said that the government will draft a new law to “protect facilities” which criminalizes and toughens punishments for attacking utilities. The law aims to reduce repeated attacks on water and power stations and networks. “The prime minister’s legal advisory body has already begun studying the facilities protection law in coordination with the relevant ministries and the State Council,” said cabinet spokesman Hossam al-Kawish. In a statement made late Saturday following a meeting with the ministers of housing and agriculture, Mahlab instructed the minister of irrigation to inventory the capacity of all groundwater wells across Egypt. [DNE, 8/10/2014]

IMF praises economic reform measures in Egypt
Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia Department, said “Egypt has applied hard and brave economic reforms” in recent weeks. Ahmed said is press remarks on Saturday, “if the fund’s program is applied in Egypt, it will give signals to international institutions that the situation is stable to carry out other programs.” [MENA, 8/10/2014]


Heavy shelling resumes in Libyan capital Tripoli
Heavy shelling resumed in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Sunday after three days of relative calm following more than a month of street fighting between rival armed factions battling for control of the city’s airport. Southern Tripoli was covered by black plumes of smoke, with artillery and rockets hitting areas around the international airport. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the new exchanges, but the health ministry said it could not reach hospitals because of power failures and gasoline shortages in Tripoli. In Benghazi, sporadic gunfire has broken the calm that has prevailed since a coalition of fighters called the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council overran the main military base in the city ten days ago. [Reuters, 8/10/2014]

UN delegation holds talks in Tripoli to broker militia ceasefire
A United Nations delegation has been in Tripoli since Friday to try to broker a ceasefire between armed factions loyal to Islamist-allied Misrata brigades and their rivals allied to the western town of Zintan. The delegation, led by a representative of the UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL), aims to end the violence, help displaced residents, and alleviate food and gasoline shortages. An official from the delegation said on Saturday that UN envoys were optimistic. “The mission has already met several key actors and is still fairly optimistic that a ceasefire can be obtained,” the official said. [Reuters, 8/8/2014]

Libya oil production reaches 450,000 bpd, despite clashes
Libyan oil output is around 450,000 barrels per day despite clashes between rival armed factions in Tripoli and Benghazi, though down from 500,000 bpd two weeks ago. The spokesman declined to give further details but said that all oilfields were secure. A fuel tanker arrived at the Shaab dock of Tripoli port today, laden with seven million liters of diesel in the hope of helping pump some life into the immobile city. Fuel tankers docked at Tripoli port are currently acting as Tripoli’s main fuel depot after the destruction of the city’s depot on Airport Road by the fighting militias. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 8/11/2014]

Staff quit Libya Ahrar TV accusing it of bias
TV presenter Nabil Al-Haj of Libya Ahrar TV resigned yesterday shortly after the station covered Friday’s anti-House of Representatives protests in Misrata. In a statement on his Facebook page, he condemned the lack of integrity at the channel which, he said, had managed to cover that demonstration but not, “for technical reasons,” the pro-House of Representative demonstrations in Tripoli and Benghazi. Another staffer, presenter Ghalia Zakuk broadcaster resigned Saturday, bringing the number of those who have now left the station in recent weeks to sixteen. [Libya Herald, 8/9/2014]


ISIS expand control in eastern Syria; stage gruesome public executions
Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has stripped rebel groups of their control of several areas in eastern Syria in recent fighting. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ISIS fighters crucified two people and executed twenty-three others in the past five days. In Deir Ezzor province, ISIS fighters crucified two men for the crime of dealing with apostates in the city of Mayadin, and two others were beheaded for blasphemy in the nearby town of al-Bulel. A photograph of a young boy holding decapitated head of a slain army soldier emerged on social media. The boy is believed to be the son of Australian jihadist Khaled Sharrouf who is currently fighting alongside ISIS. [Reuters, 8/11/2014]

Saudi Arabia jails four for seeking to fight in Syria; Kosovo jails forty
Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court has sentenced four men to prison for traveling abroad to fight in the Syrian civil war. The men were sentenced to terms ranging up to almost three years; their crimes included forgery of travel documents and money laundering. Separately, Kosovo police arrested forty men Monday on suspicion of having fought with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The arrests are part of a wider crackdown aimed at deterring recruitment of volunteer fighters. The authorities announced the seizure of explosives, firearms, and ammunition. [Reuters, 8/11/2014]

Thousands of Yazidis flee from Iraq to Syria
Thousands of Yazidis—a religious minority group under attack by ISIS extremists–have fled across the Iraqi border to seek refuge with the Kurds of northeastern Syria. Iraqi Kurdish fighters were able to open a safe passage into Syria for more than 20,000 Yazidis, however, the Kurdish forces are continuing to face heavy attack from ISIS fighters. [AP, 8/11/2014]

Assad appoint a new prime minister
President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday renamed Wael al-Halqi as Syria’s prime minister and asked him to form a new government, state media reported. Halqi first became premier in June 2012, succeeding Riad Hijab who defected and accused Assad’s regime of war crimes and genocide. The appointment comes three weeks after Assad was inaugurated for a third seven-year term following an election. [AFP, 8/10/2014]


Tunisia to call up reservists to secure polls
Tunisian Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa has authorized the calling up of army reservists “to contribute to securing upcoming elections.” A government spokesman was unable to say how many reservists would be called up, or what tasks the army would undertake to ensure that the elections are trouble-free. Jomaa’s government will also “take steps to shut Internet sites linked to terrorism, and pursue those who use them,” the statement said. [AFP, 8/8/2014]

Authority for Audio-Visual Communication suspends “Ness Nessma” program
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemned the decision of the Independent High Authority for Audio-visual Communication (HAICA) to suspend “Ness Nessma” program and omit it from the channel’s website and the other related sites for a month. HAICA alleged that two guests were calling for violence and terrorism through the program, in contravention of chapter 5 of decree 116 of 2014. [ANHRI, 8/10/2014]

Firefight between joint army national guard units and terrorist group
A firefight took place Saturday in Fernana between special units of the national guard and the army on one hand and an armed terrorist group on the other. The exchange of fire followed a combing operation led by the special units in the locality of Foueziya, where terrorists are suspected to be holed up. This same area was a theater of clashes early last June. [TAP, 8/9/2014]

Tunisia’s January-July trade deficit jumps 18 percent
Tunisia’s trade deficit jumped 18 percent in the first seven months of 2014 compared to the same period last year, to a total 7.68 billion dinars ($4.48 billion), official data showed on Sunday. The State Statistics Institute said a 3.8 percent rise in imports in January-July, to 24 billion dinars, had helped push the trade deficit higher from 6.5 billion dinars at the end of July 2013. Exports fell by 1.8 percent to 16.27 billion dinars. The World Bank, in the newly released Quarterly Economic Brief of the Middle and North Africa Region, says Tunisia is trapped in a “poor policy, poor growth” cycle which prevents its economy from moving to sustainable growth. [Reuters, TAP, 8/10/2014]


Al-Qaeda expands operations in south Yemen, kills fourteen soldiers in Hadramawt
Al-Qaeda expanded its operations in southern Yemen attacking security and other governmental installations in Lahj on Sunday. Meanwhile, a website affiliated with the Yemeni al-Qaeda branch confirmed earlier reports that militants had killed fourteen soldiers on Friday near Shibam in Hadramawt. The website published pictures of the militants checking the soldier’s IDs after ordering them out of a bus in Sayoun. [ReutersYemen Post, 8/9/2014]

US airstrike kills three al-Qaeda suspects in Yemen
Yemeni security officials said that a US drone strike on a house in central Yemen killed three suspected al-Qaida militants. The officials said the aircraft struck a house in Obeida Valley in Marib, where al-Qaida has a strong presence. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. [Associated Press, 8/9/2014]

SABA news agency hacked
On Sunday, Yemen’s official state news agency’s website (SABA) was hacked. A group called The Electronic Battalion of Yemen replaced all of SABA’s pages with a banner featuring a military-type masked man. Below the picture a statement read “enough with news that is disconnected from reality. Fed up with misleading news and propaganda! Stop manipulating people’s mind!” Yemeni officials have not commented on the breach. At this stage it remains unclear what group carried out the attack. [Yemen Post, 8/10/2014]

Yemen approves selling 2.9 million barrels of crude oil
The supreme committee for marketing crude oil approved on Sunday selling 2.9 million barrels of crude. The committee approved selling 1.4 million barrels of Masila crude oil and 1.5 million barrels of Marib crude oil to Aden Refineries Company. [Yemen PostSaba, 8/10/2014]


Maliki uses his security forces to prevent the formation of a new government
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered army tanks and Special Forces teams to surround the Green Zone Sunday night as he clings to his position in government. Before he ordered the special forces to action, Maliki delivered a defiant late-night speech in Baghdad saying he would file a legal case against the country’s president, who has resisted naming Maliki as the candidate for another term as prime minister. This development brought strong criticism from the United States with Secretary of State John Kerry warning Maliki not to interfere with the process of picking a new Iraqi leader, cautioning pointedly that a power grab would lead to a cutoff of international support. [NY Times, 8/11/2014]

Kurds retake Iraqi towns, as US aid continues
Kurdish forces counterattacked Sunni militants in northern Iraq on Sunday, regaining control of two strategic towns. US air support encouraged the Kurdish militiamen to launch an offensive to retake the towns of Gwer and Mahmour. This development comes, as tens of thousands of Yazidis remain trapped on Mount Sinjar. The US announced that it is currently studying different options to evacuate the Iraqi civilians trapped on the mountain, as the humanitarian aid drops enter their fourth day. [NY Times, 8/11/2014]

Bahrain bans three clerics from preaching
Bahrain has banned three Muslim clerics from preaching in mosques, accusing them of violating the ethics and principles of religious discourse. Opposition activists said the arrests were part of a crackdown on dissent that the government is undertaking. The government declared that the three clerics had ignored warnings from authorities to stick to rules set for preachers. In a statement posted online, the al-Wefaq opposition said such measures were “part of a systematic approach to avoid giving the Bahraini people their political rights to build a democratic system based on justice and equality.” [Reuters, 8/11/2014]