Top News: McCain Suggests United States is ‘losing’ Against ISIS

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain said at the Committee hearing Tuesday that “there is no compelling reason to believe that anything we are currently doing will be sufficient to achieve the President’s long-stated goal of degrading and ultimately destroying ISIS – either in the short-term or the long-term.” He further suggested that the United States is “losing” the fight against ISIS and criticized the pace of training for Syrian rebels after Defense Secretary Ash Carter reported that the United States has only trained sixty moderate Syrian rebels. The White House acknowledged Tuesday that the sixty Syrian rebel fighters the Pentagon is training to battle ISIS is “not enough” but said rebels were being carefully screened before being admitted into the program. Activists reported Wednesday that a US drone strike killed an Uzbek ISIS security leader in Syria’s Raqqa province. [AFPAP, 7/7/2015]



Egyptian show host sentenced to ten years in absentia for inciting regime overthrow
An Egyptian misdemeanor court sentenced a television show host to ten years in prison in absentia on Wednesday. Moataz Matar, a presenter at the Istanbul-based al-Sharq satellite channel, was sentenced to five years in prison and fined EGP 500 for “inciting the overthrow of the regime” and five years and fined EGP 200 for “spreading false news.” Egypt accused al-Sharq of being a “terrorist” channel affiliated with the banned Muslim Brotherhood. In March, Matar also received a one year prison sentence on charges of spreading false news and publicly defaming Judge Khaled Mahgoub, who handled former president Mohamed Morsi’s Wadi al-Natroun prison break trial. Matar has worked with the satellite channel Misr 25, which was owned by the Muslim Brotherhood, under the rule of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. [Aswat Masriya, DNE, Egypt Independent, 7/8/2015]

Egypt dissolves fourteen Brotherhood-linked NGOs; Health Ministry running forty Brotherhood hospitals
Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Waly dissolved fourteen non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on Tuesday in Minya, Beni Suef, and Damietta for being associated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, Al-Ahram reported. Twenty-one other NGOs in Qena, Fayoum and Daqahliya will have a new board of directors, so that they do not stop offering their social services. Waly said that the NGOs were dissolved after consulting the Union of Non-Governmental Organizations and Institutions. The decisions have not been applied yet, as an inventory is still being prepared of the NGOs’ assets. Up to 434 NGOs have been closed by court order so far, according to Al-Ahram. Meanwhile, the committee managing the Brotherhood’s funds decided Tuesday to seize a hospital owned by a top Brotherhood leader. The Committee Secretary General Mohamed Aboul Fottouh said the hospital is currently operating under the Ministry of Health. According to Youm7 the Health Ministry is currently running forty Brotherhood-owned hospitals. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, 7/8/2015]

Five civilians killed in North Sinai shelling police sources say
Five civilians were killed and four others were injured when a house in the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid was shelled on Wednesday, police sources said. The shell targeted a security camp, the sources said, adding that it nevertheless derailed and landed in the middle of a residential area in Sheikh Zuweid. The injured civilians were transferred to the al-Arish General Hospital to receive treatment, a medical source said. [Aswat Masriya, 7/8/2015]  

Sisi tells American Jewish Committee resolving the Palestinian issue is key to counter ‘terrorism’
Resolving the Palestinian issue will eliminate one of the most important reasons why people join “terrorist organizations,” President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told the American Jewish Committee (AJC) on Monday. Sisi met a delegation, headed by Stanley Bergman, from AJC in Cairo to discuss Egypt-US relations. He added that international guarantees should be provided to increase Palestinian hopes of establishing an independent state, and encourage Israeli leaders to achieve peace. AJC emphasized the importance of promoting the strategic Egypt-US relationship and developing it politically, economically and militarily. “Egypt, a vital ally of the United States, faces stiff challenges – but we come away from our latest visit to Cairo impressed by President Sisi’s resolve to confront them,” said Bergman, after the group’s two-hour meeting in the presidential palace. “The battles Egypt is waging against the jihadist threat, and the course it is pursuing to recover from years of stagnation and political upheaval, are critical to the region and to the world.” [Cairo Post, 7/8/2015]

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Tripoli parliament rejects Libya peace plan
The parliament in Tripoli rejected on Tuesday a UN proposal to resolve Libya’s political crisis but said it wanted to press on with talks toward reaching an accord with its rival in the east of the country. On June 29, delegations from both sides headed home from the Moroccan resort of Skhirat after holding their first direct talks in months but failed to agree on UN proposals for a united government. UN Envoy Bernardino Leon had appealed to both delegations to endorse his proposals for a merged administration to tackle a growing extremist presence in the North African nation. Omar Hamdan, Spokesman for Tripoli’s General National Congress (GNC), said the draft accord was not satisfactory. The GNC called on the UN envoy to “reopen the debate,” and said its team was “ready to head [to the table of] dialogue immediately, once a date is decided, to “discuss modifications the GNC wants to introduce in the text.” [Gulf News/AFP, 7/7/2015]

US nominates new ambassador to Libya
The White House confirmed the news that its current ambassador in Nepal, Peter Bodde, has been nominated as the next US ambassador to Tripoli, in succession to Deborah K. Jones who leaves towards the end of the summer. Bodde is a career diplomat with experience in the Arab world, serving in Iraq from 2010 to 2012 at the US embassy as Assistant Chief of Mission for Assistance Transition and Coordinator for Minority Issues. Prior to that he served as the US Ambassador to Malawi from 2008 to 2010 and was Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Pakistan from 2006 to 2008. The appointment is yet to be approved by the US Senate. The US will appoint an interim Chargé d’Affaires to take charge of the embassy after Jones leaves. [Libya Herald, 7/8/2015]

Benghazi clashes intensify
Heavy clashes took place in Benghazi over the span of two days, with most of the fighting concentrated in the downtown areas of Suq al-Hout and neighboring Sabri, Libya Herald reported Tuesday. In Hawari and other districts, clashes were sporadic, but nonetheless deadly. At least twelve people were reported killed, including four Libyan National Army soldiers killed in the clashes, and eight, mostly civilians, killed as the result of random shelling. Among the civilians killed were four brothers from the city’s Hay al-Zawia. [Libya Herald, 7/7/2015]

Tunisian government fears terrorist agendas; plans barrier along Libyan border
Tunisia’s Prime Minister, Habib Essid, said that authorities believe plots aimed at massive deaths and destruction of the country’s economy are in the works, and justify the state of emergency declared after a second deadly attack on tourists in three months. Essid, addressing parliament on Wednesday, implied that personal freedoms guaranteed by the constitution should not be affected by the “exceptional measures.” Meanwhile, in a televised interview Tuesday, Essid said that Tunisia plans to build a wall and trench along the Libyan border in an effort to stop militants and smugglers from crossing into the country. “The wall will be 168 kilometers long and will be ready by the end of the year,” Essid added. He also said that Tunisia is considering an electric fence along the border, despite the high cost involved. [AP, Libya Monitor, 7/8/2015]

Algeria says 102 extremists ‘neutralized’ so far this year
Algeria’s Defense Ministry says that 102 extremists have been killed, arrested, or turned themselves in during the first half of the year. The ministry was also quoted on Tuesday saying that large quantities of arms and munitions were seized. Most of the terrorists, sixty-six, were ‘neutralized’ on the outskirts of the capital, Algiers, and the Kabylie region to the east, the zone where al-Qaeda’s North African wing is headquartered. Another seventeen were neutralized south of Algiers in the Sahara region. It didn’t specify how many of the 102 were killed. [AP, Al Arabiya, 7/7/2015]


US House approves closer military ties with Jordan; Syrian tribal leaders form coalition
The US House of Representatives approved legislation Tuesday that would ramp up military cooperation with Jordan, including accelerated arms sales. The bill, passed by voice vote, will now head to the Senate for consideration. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said the measure sends a “strong message of support” to a critical partner at a vital time. Syrian tribal leaders recently formed a Coalition of Syrian Tribes and Clans in order to expel the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) from Syria. They have reportedly engaged in secret talks with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, met with ministers from Saudi Arabia and Gulf States, and will soon meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah. [AFP, 7/8/2015]

McCain suggests United States is ‘losing’ against ISIS
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain said at the Committee hearing Tuesday that “there is no compelling reason to believe that anything we are currently doing will be sufficient to achieve the President’s long-stated goal of degrading and ultimately destroying ISIS – either in the short-term or the long-term.” He further suggested that the United States is “losing” the fight against ISIS and criticized the pace of training for Syrian rebels after Defense Secretary Ash Carter reported that the United States has only trained sixty moderate Syrian rebels. The White House acknowledged Tuesday that the sixty Syrian rebel fighters the Pentagon is training to battle ISIS is “not enough” but said rebels were being carefully screened before being admitted into the program. Activists reported Wednesday that a US drone strike killed an Uzbek ISIS security leader in Syria’s Raqqa province. [AFP, AP, 7/7/2015]

Syrian troops repel militants’ attack on Aleppo neighborhood; citizens flee Palmyra
Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen on Tuesday reportedly repelled a rebel and militant offensive in Aleppo’s Zahra neighborhood. Opposition activists claim that the Syrian army carried out a chlorine gas attack while attempting to regain control of the Scientific Research Center in a different part of Aleppo. Dozens of families fled ISIS-controlled Palmyra Tuesday after heavy government air strikes killed at least five people. Activists said that over ninety raids have been launched in the past forty-eight hours in residential areas in the town, these strikes being the most intense since Palmyra was taken by ISIS on May 21. [AP, 7/7/2015]

Fearing new Syria exodus Turkey readies new refugee camp, army detains 800 at border
Head of Turkey’s disaster management agency Fuad Oktay said Wednesday that Turkey is readying a giant new refugee camp in the border town of Kilis to house 55,000 people in anticipation of a new wave of migrants fleeing the civil war in Syria. He indicated that as many as 100,000 more refugees could arrive in a 24-hour time span, given the increasingly fragile security situation in Syria. The new camp is the largest yet to be built in Turkey, which is already hosting some 1.8 million refugees from the Syria conflict. The Turkish army said Tuesday that it has detained almost 800 people trying to enter the country illegally from Syria, including three separate ISIS members, whom it sent to jail in the southern city of Sanifurla after detaining them on July 2. [AFP, 7/8/2015]

Iraq court sentences twenty-four to hang over Tikrit massacre
The Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) on Wednesday sentenced twenty-four men to hang over the June 2014 “Speicher” massacre, in which militants killed hundreds of mostly Shia military recruits in Tikrit. All twenty-four men denied any involvement in the massacre, and four additional defendants were acquitted. [AFP, 7/8/2015]


Death toll passes 3,000 in Yemen as humanitarian crisis deepens
Yemen, where more than 3,000 people have been killed and one million displaced since war broke out in March, is at risk of famine, aid chiefs said on Tuesday. Antoine Grand of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen warned that food shortages, combined with increasing fuel and electricity scarcity, makes famine a “real risk.” In addition, UN officials in Geneva said that the $245 million pledged by Saudi Arabia had not materialized, and that there had been serious human rights violations, including attacks on places of worship and United Nations offices. “There has been no disbursement so far,” Jens, Laercke, spokesman for the UN Human Rights Office, said in Geneva, adding “the humanitarian operation does not stand or fall with that. It is a $1.6 billion operation and there are other donors.” The current aid package is just 13 percent funded, with money already received from the United States, the European Commission, and Japan. [Reuters, 7/72015]

ISIS launches dual attacks in Yemen
The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) claimed responsibility for two deadly car bombs in Sana’a and the southern city of al-Badya Tuesday. The twin ISIS attacks come only one day after Yemen’s deadliest day yet, in which clashes killed almost 200 people nationwide. One of the explosives-laden cars was detonated near the Shia al-Raoudh Mosque in downtown Sana’a, where SABA reports numerous people were killed and injured. The other bomb, detonated in the provincial capital city al-Badya, resulted in at least ten deaths.  On Wednesday, Saudi-led coalition strikes targeted over thirty Yemeni soldiers who attempted to defect to the Houthi militia. [Reuters, al-Arabiya, 7/7/2015]

US and UAE launch online counter-offensive against ISIS
The US and Emirati governments launched a new Mideast digital communications center Wednesday focused on using social media to counter the Islamic State’s (ISIS or ISIL) propaganda efforts online. The Obama administration has urged Arab allies to do more to combat the extremist group’s social media blitz, characterizing the fight on the communications front as a key pillar in the overall effort to defeat the group. The new Sawab Center is one of the most concrete responses to that call yet in the region. Named for the Arabic word for “the right or proper way,” it will be based in Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich capital of the United Arab Emirates, a key American ally and a member of the US-led coalition against ISIS. The center released YouTube videos and Twitter messages Wednesday in Arabic and English announcing its launch. [AP, 7/8/2015]


Iraq cancels Kirkuk crude cargoes as Kurds boost sales
Iraq has canceled all Kirkuk crude loadings to the Turkish port of Ceyhan due to a lack of oil, while the the autonomous region of Kurdistan has ramped up of independent oil sales. Kurdistan boosted independent sales in June while cutting allocations to Iraq’s state oil marketing organization (SOMO) in a dispute over export rights and budget payments. Companies including Eni, Socar, Repsol, and BP have canceled cargoes, according to shipping lists. SOMO did not comment officially, but an oil source in Baghdad said he hoped exports could restart soon. Kurdistan has sold at least 12 million barrels of oil from Ceyhan since mid-June. [Reuters, 7/7/2015]

Syria’s parliament approves deal for Iranian credit
Syria’s parliament on Tuesday approved a deal with Iran for a new line of credit worth $1 billion. The credit line will be the third that Tehran has extended to Damascus since the conflict in Syria erupted in March 2011. The official state news agency SANA said the credit would be used for “importing merchandise and carrying out projects.” Further details were not provided. In 2013, Tehran extended two lines of credit to Damascus worth a total of $4.6 billion, much of which was devoted to purchasing oil. [AFP, 7/7/2015]

Libya lifts force majeure at Ras Lanuf oil terminal
Libya has lifted force majeure at its Ras Lanuf oil terminal, however Mohamed Harari, a spokesman for the National Oil Corporation (NOC), said restarting exports will take at least two days depending on available crude. Restarting Ras Lanuf would be a major boost for Libya’s oil industry. The terminal, along with the major eastern oil port Es Sider, has been under force majeure since December due to fighting between rival factions. Libya’s internationally recognized government in Tobruk criticized the decision to lift force majeure, claiming that the area remains unsafe. [Reuters, Libya Monitor (subscription), 7/7/2015]

Egypt halts cotton imports in bid to boost local crop
Egypt has halted all cotton imports in a bid to assist the production and marketing of its local crop, signaling a change of course just six months after announcing an end to support for its farmers. “The decision aims to protect local production of cotton and resolve its marketing problems,” the ministry said in a statement. The ministry had halted all state support for cotton growers in January and told farmers not to grow cotton unless they had contracts in place to sell it. The halt in imports is stirring fears that the country’s textile industry could end up paying the price, as it is highly dependent on imported short-staple cotton, a crop rarely grown in Egypt. [Reuters, Ahram Online, DNE, 7/7/2015]