Top News: Muslim Brotherhood Leader Sentenced to Life in Prison for Murder and Inciting Violence

The Giza Criminal Court sentenced on Monday Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and fourteen others to life in prison for murder and inciting violence. The fifteen defendants were tried for violence, which occurred following the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in Giza’s Bahr al-Azam neighborhood on July 15, 2013. Violent clashes broke out in the neighborhood following a pro-Morsi protest, in which five people were killed. Other defendants include Brotherhood leaders Essam al-Erian and Mohamed al-Beltagy, former Supply and Internal Trade Minister Bassem Ouda and Islamist preacher Safwat Hegazy.




Preparations for Egypt’s parliamentary elections to go ahead in early October
The Higher Election Committee (HEC), a seven-member judicial body in charge of overseeing parliamentary polls, is expected to complete all measures necessary for parliamentary polls to be held before the end of this year. Sources close to Egypt’s transitional justice minister and House of Representatives affairs, Ibrahim al-Heneidy said the HEC is expected to meet after Eid al-Adha, scheduled to begin on October 4. The HEC meetings will also come after the government has almost finalized drafting a new electoral districts law. Sources expect that HEC will meet in the second week of October to announce the dates of registration and campaigning for the polls. Parliamentary polls will be held over three stages, with each stage including nine governorates. If everything goes smoothly, by January or February at the latest, Egypt will see a new parliament meeting for the first time in two years. [Ahram Online, 9/15/2014]

President Sisi delivers blueprint for economic growth
Speaking at the Euromoney’s Egypt Conference: Stability, Investment, and Growth, President Sisi delivered the following message: “Egypt’s economic revival is first and foremost being driven by the ongoing restoration of confidence in the country’s path. Growing confidence rests on the structural reforms the government has already implemented – as well as on the many additional reforms still in the pipeline – to correct fundamental deficiencies in our economy. [DNE, 9/16/2014]

Muslim Brotherhood leader sentenced to life in prison for murder and inciting violence
The Giza Criminal Court sentenced on Monday Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and fourteen others to life in prison for murder and inciting violence. The fifteen defendants were tried for violence, which occurred following the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in Giza’s Bahr al-Azam neighborhood on July 15, 2013. Violent clashes broke out in the neighborhood following a pro-Morsi protest, in which five people were killed. Other defendants include Brotherhood leaders Essam al-Erian and Mohamed al-Beltagy, former Supply and Internal Trade Minister Bassem Ouda and Islamist preacher Safwat Hegazy. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, DNE, Mada Masr, Reuters, 9/15/2014]

Three political groups frozen at Cairo University
The head of Cairo University on Monday made official a previous decision to ban political activity on campus by announcing a freeze on groups affiliated with three of Egypt’s most prominent political parties. Gaber Nasser said in press statements that groups affiliated with the Constitution Party, the Strong Egypt Party and the Salafist Nour Party have been frozen due to partisan activities not being allowed on campus. Nasser also said protests in student dormitories would be completely banned during the upcoming academic year, scheduled to start on October 11. [Ahram Online, Al-Monitor, 9/15/2014]


Haftar claims new air strike in western Libya
Unidentified warplanes conducted airstrikes on Monday near Tripoli, leaving one dead and five wounded, a spokesman for Libya’s Islamist-allied militias said. Forces loyal to the opposing Operation Dignity, led by former general Khalifa Haftar, claimed they were behind the strikes; however, analysts doubt this has he has only a small and outdated air force damaged during the 2011 civil war. A series of mysterious airstrikes, which US officials have previously said were carried out by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, have reinforced the perception that Libya has become a proxy battleground for larger regional struggles. Meanwhile, Qatar has rejected as misleading and unfounded the accusations that it sent weapons to the Islamist fighters. [Reuters, AP, Libya Herald, 9/15/2014]

UN envoy warns Libya on brink of prolonged strife
Speaking to the UN Security Council upon having concluded his first official visit to Libya, envoy Bernardino Leon said that rapidly deteriorating security and deepening political divisions have brought Libya “closer to the brink of protracted conflict and civil strife.” Leon said that the solution to the current crisis lies in political consensus, not military response. The Security Council reiterated its call for the continuation of the political transition, especially through a ceasefire in the areas of Warfashana and Benghazi. The body also expressed concern for the 300,000 displaced Libyan civilians. [AP, 9/15/2014]

At least nineteen killed in fierce Benghazi clashes
In a span of about twenty-four hours, at least nineteen members of retired general Khalifa Haftar’s Operation Dignity and Ansar al-Sharia have been killed in fierce sporadic fighting in Benghazi. According to a Dignity spokesman, airstrikes by their forces repelled Ansar fighters who were attacking Benina airport, adding that claims of Ansar and its allies controlling the airport were untrue. The clashes continued sporadically in Benghazi throughout the day and into the evening. [Libya Herald, 9/15/2014]

Sacking of Central Bank governor ‘illegal,’ says General National Congress
In another sign of intensifying struggles between rival parliaments to assert power, the revived General National Congress (GNC) has said that the decision by the House of Representatives to replace the Central Bank of Libya’s governor is illegal. The House voted to dismiss Saddeq Elkaber reportedly following a dispute over financial irregularities. Spokesman Omar Hmeidan argued that the move was not valid as the House sessions in Tobruk are “illegitimate,” adding that the Central Bank as a state institution comes under GNC authority. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 9/16/2014]


Jihadists down Syria warplane over stronghold
Islamic State fighters shot down a Syrian warplane using anti-aircraft guns on Tuesday, the first time the group has downed a military jet since declaring its cross-border caliphate in June. The plane came down outside Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa city, 250 miles northeast of Damascus, during air strikes on territory controlled by the group, a resident said. “It is the first aircraft shot down since the regime launched air strikes against the jihadists in July following their declaration of a caliphate in late June,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Reuters, AFP, 9/16/2014]

Civilians killed and wounded in government strikes
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that sixteen civilians were killed as government forces dropped barrel bombs on the town of Talbisa in Homs province. Meanwhile, the Observatory also said six people were killed in Ghouta outside of Damascus. Local activists in Aleppo said that eleven civilians, including a child and a woman, were killed during airstrikes by regime warplanes on Marja district in Aleppo. Two other people were killed when regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs on Haj bridge in Aleppo on Monday. [Al Jazeera, 9/16/2014]

Iran will not join United States in ISIS fight
Iran on Monday spurned an American request for cooperation in the fight against Islamic State militants, but the United States said the door remains open to a rare opportunity to make common cause with its principal adversary in the Middle East. The Obama administration—after previously and publicly stating that Iran would not join the coalition against ISIS—is open to talking with Iran on the security crisis in Iraq, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday, even after Iran’s supreme leader angrily said Tehran would no longer discuss Middle East issues with the United States. Kerry was speaking as twenty-six nations, Iran conspicuously not among them, gathered in Paris for an international conference on helping the new government in Baghdad fight the Islamic State. [Washington Post, NYT, 9/15/2014]

Turkey mulls buffer zone along Iraq, Syria border
Turkey’s military is mulling the prospect of establishing a buffer zone along its border with Syria and Iraq amid an escalating threat posed by Islamic State extremists, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday. “The TSK (Turkish Armed Forces) are working on plans and will present them to us and we will decide if it is necessary,” Erdogan responded when asked about the possibility of a buffer zone being established. ISIS continues to draw a steady stream of recruits from Turkey. [AFP/Naharnet, 9/16/2014]


Tunisia to attend ministerial meeting on Libya
Minister of Foreign Affairs Mongi Hamdi will take part in the Ministerial Conference on Stability and Development in Libya scheduled for September 17 in Madrid. This conference will be the crowning of four previous ministerial conferences in Algiers, Equatorial Guinea, Tunisia, and Egypt, which discussed the situation in Libya and the roles that regional neighbors could play in stabilizing the political crises that has threatened to destabilize the entire country in recent months. [TAP, 9/16/2014]

EU announces 200 million euros in assistance guarantees
The European Commission announced the allocation of 202 to 246 million euros in funding guarantees as part of the European neighborhood policy partners program. The announcement coincides with the midterm assessment of the Tunisia-EU winning project scheduled for September 16 in Tunis. [TAP, 9/16/2014]

Tunisia launches social justice agenda at ESCWA
Tunisia’s delegates to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), announced the launch of an ambitious social justice agenda during the 28th session of the ECWA, which opened in Tunis on Monday. The ESCWA meetings will focus on the economic and social evolutions in the Arab region during the 2013-2014 period, the results of the high-level Arab Forum on sustainable development, and support for the Palestinian people. The ESCWA, which Tunisia joined in 2012, aims to promote economic and social development while assisting member states integrate into the world economy. [TAP, 9/16/2014]


Clashes, casualties in Jawf continue
Local sources reported that the army withdrew Tuesday to the borders of Ghayl governorate in the al-Salamat Valley in Jawf to allow for airstrikes against Houthi forces. The sources said that the Houthis had advanced in tribal areas where the army withdrew, and that the brother of tribal leader Sheikh Hassan Abkar and a Houthi fighter were killed Monday. Airstrikes Tuesday morning targeted four Houthi targets in Ghayl, including the Suleimani and Beit al-Habarai sites among others. Midday clashes in the valley between the army and Houthi forces reportedly left fifteen dead. Tribal sources also reported that the body of Abu Abdullah al-Salmi, a Houthi leader killed in airstrikes three days ago, was found. The armed Houthis in Jawf must allegedly seek new leadership. [Marib Press (Arabic), 9/16/2014]

Houthis seek to expand presence in al-Hudaydah; violent clashes in Hamedan
Sources reported that Houthis in the western al-Hudaydah province have escalated fighting in a bid to control Port Maidi near the Saudi-Yemeni border. A source in the so-called Tahami Movement said that popular action against the Houthis will be undertaken today, and that unrest in coastal areas like al-Hudaydah is of particular concern because of their economic value to the country. Fighting between government and Houthi forces took place in Hamedan in the northwest part of Sana’a Tuesday. Deaths and injuries were reported on both sides. The Houthis allegedly intercepted the convoy of military commander Saleh Amer in Hamedan, killing two of his bodyguards and his son, among others. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 9/16/2014]

US-Yemen oil cooperation discussed; former counterterrorism official advocates for limited US role
Oils and Minerals Minister Hussein al-Kaf met with US Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller to discuss mutual investment cooperation in the oil and gas sectors. Al-Kaf stressed the importance of US investment to the Yemeni oil and gas sectors, and Tueller expressed the desire of numerous US companies to meet Yemeni Oil Ministry officials on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference in November. Meanwhile, former US Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism Patrick Theros said that Yemen has a history of domestic dialogue, but the influence of external actors is harmful to the peaceful resolution of the country’s problems. Theros said Washington should not have any interest in military intervention in Yemen beyond eliminating al-Qaeda and preventing its operations, as this would in no way benefit the peace process. [Marib Press (Arabic), 9/15/2014]


Nusra threatens to kill army soldier
The Nusra Front threatened to kill one of the Lebanese soldiers in its custody after rejecting prolonged negotiations over the exchange of its prisoners for the twenty-two Lebanese soldiers captured last month in Arsal. Over the weekend, a ministerial delegation tasked with overseeing the hostage crisis, held talks in Doha over the release of the security and military hostages. The militant group, however, announced Monday that it was opposed to protracted negotiations after Lebanese government officials indicated that the negotiations might continue for at least two months.[The Daily Star, 9/16/2014]

ISIS begins withdrawal from Anbar
The head of the Anbar Provincial Council, Sabah Karhout, announced Monday, that Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants have began withdrawing from Anbar province ahead of airstrikes by the US-led coalition. The official indicated that Iraqi security forces had successfully pushed ISIS militants out of Haditha and other western districts with the assistance of US and Iraqi airstrikes. The withdrawal of ISIS fighters from Iraq’s western districts comes on the heels of a cooperative agreement between the US and Arab states to confront ISIS militants through joint military action. [Asharq al-Awsat, 9/16/2014]

Saudi foreign minister hints at a ten-year anti-ISIS engagement
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal told an international summit in Paris on Monday that the international effort to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) might last a decade. Speaking at the meeting, which drew representatives from thirty countries, the foreign minister explained that the fight against ISIS will require a long-term commitment but vowed to assist the Iraqi government in its fight against the group by any means necessary, including appropriate military assistance. [Asharq al-Awsat, 9/16/2014]