Top News: NATO Would Consider Iraq Request for Help

NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday that the alliance is seriously considering any Iraqi requests for assistance in its fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). His comments come on the heels of the NATO conference in Wales, where leaders are considering various options–including the possibility of direct military action–to deal with the threat posed by the radical militant group.



Court postpones lawsuit on religious parties
The Alexandria Urgent Matters Court on Wednesday postponed to the beginning of October a lawsuit filed by the Popular Front Against the Brotherhoodization of Egypt. The lawsuit, filed under Article 74 of the constitution, calls for the dissolution of all political parties founded on a religious basis. The court postponed the case to review the platforms of the parties that are suspected of sectarianism. The parties concerned are the Freedom and Justice Party, New Wasat Party, Nour Party, Fadila Party, Asala Party, Renaissance and Reform Party, Renaissance Party, Strong Egypt Party, Watan Party, Construction and Development Party and Egyptian Islamic Labor Party. [Egypt Independent, DNE, 9/3/2014]

Major power outage hits Cairo and governorates
A major power outage hit Cairo and other governorates early Thursday morning, halting several metro lines in Cairo for more than two hours. Electricity Minister Ahmed Shaker apologized to Egyptians, explaining that the massive outage was due to a maintenance maneuver that requires the circuit to be disconnected. This blackout is the largest simultaneous power outage seen this summer in Egypt, which has been plagued by daily power outages as the government struggles to supply power stations with necessary natural gas quantities to meet peaking consumption. Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority declared a state of emergency as the blackout caused a paralysis in the movement of ships, leading to a total loss of LE100 million. PM Ibrahim Mahlab later said the power outage was under control. [AP, Reuters, DNE, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, Egypt Independent, 9/4/2014]

Thousands of Egyptians evicted without compensation for Suez project
Thousands of Egyptians have been evicted from their homes without compensation to make way for a bypass to the Suez canal, one of the world’s most important trade routes. The inhabitants of two villages in the path of the proposed bypass say that 1,500 homes have already been destroyed, with a total of 5,000 under threat. Asked for comment, an army spokesman said he would look into the matter before issuing a response. Soldiers told evicted villagers they had no right to live on the land as it technically had always belonged to the army. Some of those who argued were arrested. [The Guardian, 9/3/2014]

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claims killing of eleven Egyptian security personnel
In a video posted online on Wednesday, the Sinai-based militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for killing eleven security personnel, including a police officer, in an attack in North Sinai the day before. The video shows an armored vehicle being bombed as a voice in the background cheers and vows for victory. The video showed weapons and identification cards it said were retrieved from the destroyed vehicle. [Ahram Online, AFP, 9/4/2014]


Helicopters bomb Islamists’ ammunitions sites in Libya’s Benghazi
Government forces and helicopters belonging to former general Khalifa Haftar’s forces have bombed ammunition sites of suspected Islamist militants in Benghazi, where Islamists have been trying to take the civilian and military airport from government forces. Residents also heard helicopters and warplanes. Meanwhile, Operation Dignity forces based in Tobruk claim that they, in collaboration with Zintanis, are preparing an offensive to take back Tripoli. [Reuters, 9/4/2014]

Libyan port rebels reject rival parliament but say will honor oil deal
A group of rebels campaigning for autonomy in eastern Libya rejected the revived General National Congress (GNC) but will honor a deal to keep major oil ports open, according to a rebel spokesman. Since that deal, the country has been thrown into turmoil as a rival group opposed to the government has occupied Tripoli and set up a rival parliament and cabinet, refusing to recognize the elected House of Representatives. The House “represents all parts of the Libyan people,” said a spokesman for the port rebels supporting Ibrahim Jadhran. He added, however, that the group would honor its part of the oil deal with the government. [Reuters, 9/3/2014]

Crude production continues to recover
Despite the deteriorating security and political crisis gripping Libya, the country’s oil output continues to show signs of recovery, with daily production now up to 725,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to National Oil Corporation sources. Key terminals at Ras Lanuf and Es Sider both resumed exporting in August, freeing up storage tanks and allowing connecting fields to increase production. Despite the improvement, current production is only around half of the country’s total capacity under normal circumstances. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 9/4/2014]

250,000 have fled militia fighting in Libya, says United Nations
A UN report finds that four months of inter-militia fighting in Libya’s two biggest cities, Tripoli and Benghazi, have forced an estimated 250,000 people to flee, including 100,000 who have been internally displaced. The report, issued by the UN Support Mission in Libya and the UN Human Rights Office, says that some 150,000 people, including migrant workers, have fled the country. The report says a “climate of fear” has made citizens reluctant to speak about militia abuses. [AP, 9/4/2014]


Obama calls for united front against ISIS, will lead UNSC session September 25
President Obama called Wednesday for an international front against jihadists in Iraq and Syria, after the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or Islamic State) beheaded a second American reporter. “We know that if we are joined by the international community, we can continue to shrink [ISIS’s] sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its financing, its military capabilities. The question is going to be making sure we’ve got the right strategy, but also making sure that we’ve got the international will to do it.” Britain and France said they are weighing military options. UAE echoed Obama’s call for a “unified effort” against militant extremism. US Vice President Joe Biden claimed the US would follow ISIS “to the gates of hell.” US officials announced Wednesday that Obama would lead a UN Security Council (UNSC) session on the threat of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria on September 25. [Daily Star, NYT, 9/4/2014]

Canadians held Americans hostage in Syria
Three Canadians were directly involved in the kidnapping of two American journalists by Islamist militants in Syria, Canada’s public broadcaster reported Wednesday. The trio–whose identities are unknown–forced captives Theo Curtis and Matt Schrier to reveal their computer passwords, then drained their bank accounts and racked up credit card bills. They also wrote to the two journalists’ families pretending to be the men. Ottawa has said as many as 130 Canadians are fighting overseas with extremist groups. [AFP, 9/4/2014]

Fire from fighting in Syria hits Israeli-held Golan, Israel shoots back
A projectile from fighting in the Syrian civil war struck the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Thursday and Israeli forces responded by attacking a Syrian army position, the military said. In a statement, the military said it appeared the shooting from Syria was “errant fire” from battles between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels trying to topple him. As with other similar recent incidents, the Israeli government has sought to play down the cross border fire. [Reuters, 9/4/2014]

In northeast Syria, Islamic State builds a government
In the cities and towns across the desert plains of northeast Syria, ISIS has insinuated itself into nearly every aspect of daily life. The group famous for its beheadings, crucifixions, and mass executions provides electricity and water, pays salaries, controls traffic, and runs nearly everything from bakeries and banks to schools, courts, and mosques. Residents say much of the group’s power lies in its efficient and often deeply pragmatic ability to govern. “Let us be honest, they are doing massive institutional work. It is impressive,” one activist from Raqqa who now lives in a border town in Turkey told Reuters. [Reuters, 9/4/2014]


Rights organizations call for gender parity in electoral lists
As Tunisia marked national Women’s Day on August 13, several women’s rights and human rights organizations, issued a common statement calling “every democratic force” to implement “full [gender] parity [in their electoral lists], vertical and horizontal.” Women currently hold a quarter of the seats (27 percent) in the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), while they represented 48 percent of all candidates on running lists in the 2011 elections. With legislative elections set for October 26, followed by presidential elections on November 23, women’s rights organizations have doubled efforts to ensure equitable representation of female candidates across the Tunisian political arena. [Tunisia Live, 9/4/2014]

Prime minister pledges to step down after elections; promises continuity
Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa confirmed on Wednesday that he will not accept reinstatement after the 2014 elections. He deemed it inconceivable that he would carry on assuming the post of prime minister and said it is necessary to create a tradition of state continuity and power transfer. The premier underscored his commitment to strengthening the political process, vowing to continue his work as an independent leader. [TAP, 9/4,2014]

Foreign minister visits Russia to discuss bilateral relations
Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi paid his first official visit to Moscow at the invitation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on September 1. The visit that lasted two days aim at strengthening bilateral relationship between the two countries. The Tunisian delegation headed by the foreign minister discussed with his Russian counterpart regional developments, the Libyan security situation, and its impact on Tunisia. [Tunisia Live, 9/4/2014]

UAE offers to bolster economic partnerships in trade and investment  
United Arab Emirates (UAE) Minister of Development and International Cooperation Sheikha Lobna Kasmi voiced hope that the international conference “Invest in Tunisia: Start-up Democracy” will constitute an opportunity for boosting investments in Tunisia, establishing partnerships and creating strategic projects. In a message sent to the Tunisian prime ministry, the Emirati minister reaffirmed her country’s commitment to strengthening existing economic ties with Tunisia, while opening new opportunities for collaboration in trade and investment. [AllAfrica, 9/4/2014]


Hadi concerned over Houthi escalation after initiative rejected
President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi expressed his concerns about continued escalation by Houthi rebels who rejected an initiative to end the current political crisis. At a meeting with the ambassadors of the ten countries backing the transition, Hadi put the spotlight on escalating protests by the rebels inside and on the outskirts of the capital city of Sana’a where large tents have been pitched and armed militants have gathered. Turkish news agency Andalous reported that a presidential delegation has returned to Sana’a after failed negotiations with Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi in Sa’ada. President Hadi said that he would deal firmly with the escalation of protests by armed Houthi militants in Sana’a and the surrounding areas. [Yemen Post, Al Masdar (Arabic),

Leading candidates for new prime minister released; Dialogue implementation progress
President Hadi is currently considering naming one of four favorites to head the next government based on efficiency and all popular acceptance. The four candidates named include Director of the Office of the Presidency Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak, Information Minister Nasr Taha Mustafa, Planning and International Cooperation Minister Dr. Mohamed Said Said, and Communications Minister Dr. Ahmad Obeid bin Daghr. Despite rumors to the contrary, an informed source at the prime minister’s office refuted reports saying that the Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindaw had handed over his resignation of his post. In other developments, the National Dialogue Outcomes Oversight Authority completed its bylaws and internal rules of procedure, bringing it one step closer to beginning its work. [Marib Press, SABA, 9/4/2014]

Government reduces fuel prices, distributes bonuses
The cabinet, in its meeting on Wednesday chaired by President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, approved to reduce the selling prices of fuel in the domestic market 25 rials per liter. The cabinet agreed to amend its decision No. 143/2014 on the prices of oil derivatives through reviewing ways to buy derivatives from the global markets–including entering into long-term purchase contracts (six months to a year)–and its reviewing effect on international prices. The cabinet confirmed that the new pricing would be applied as of midnight on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the ministry of defense issued a statement ensuring that all bonuses will be disbursed to eligible members of the armed forces within the coming days. This comes against the backdrop of a recent finance ministry decision to postpone annual bonuses to public employees, including civil, military, and security officials. [SABA, Al Masdar (Arabic), Marib Press (Arabic), Yemen Times, 9/4/2014]


NATO would consider Iraq request for help
NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday that the alliance is seriously considering any Iraqi requests for assistance in its fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). His comments come on the heels of the NATO conference in Wales, where leaders are considering various options–including the possibility of direct military action–to deal with the threat posed by the radical militant group. [Naharnet, 9/04/2014]

Kurdish parliamentary speaker says Arab role in Iraqi Kurdistan “weak”
Kurdish Parliamentary Speaker Yousif Muhammed Sadiq has called for a stronger Arab role in Iraqi Kurdistan, stressing that this will help the semi-autonomous region confront the numerous challenges it is facing, including the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The senior Kurdish official emphasized the friendly ties with Arab countries, affirming that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is actively seeking to deepen and strengthen cooperation with the Arab world. The Kurdish official also expressed deep concern with the growing humanitarian crises facing numerous Kurdish regions as refugees continue to flow from ISIS-controlled areas.
[Asharq al-Awsat, 9/2/2014]

Jordanian MPs advise against taking part in anti-ISIS drive
Jordanian lawmakers on Wednesday submitted a memo calling on the government to refrain from taking part in any international or regional efforts to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Jordan has not announced any official position on its intention to take part in the anti-ISIS alliance, which is in the making. His Majesty King Abdullah, who is in London to take part in a NATO summit that will discuss the ISIS threat, has repeatedly affirmed that Jordan is facing no security or military challenges, calling instead to focus on domestic economic challenges and reform endeavors. [Jordan Times, 9/4/2014]

Lebanon’s cabinet convenes over captured soldiers
Lebanon’s cabinet convened Thursday to formulate a plan to secure the release of captured soldiers and policemen as families pressed authorities to negotiate with ISIS and the Nusra Front to free their loves ones. At least twenty-three soldiers and policemen are still being held by the Nusra Front and ISIS, which captured the men during the Arsal clashes between the army and militants from Syria who tried to seize the border town. [The Daily Star, 9/4/2014]