Top News: Obama Authorizes Air Strikes in Iraq

The Pentagon said US aircraft attacked artillery that was being used in northern Iraq against Kurdish forces defending the city of Irbil. President Barack Obama has authorized air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants in Iraq if the fighters make a move toward American personnel residing in Irbil




Egypt rebukes Israel, Palestine for refusing ceasefire extension
Egypt’s ministry of foreign affairs rebuked Israel and Palestinian factions on Friday for failing to come to terms on an extension of the seventy-two hour ceasefire that expired early this morning. Israel launched air strikes across the Gaza Strip on Friday in response to Palestinian rockets fired after the talks failed to extend the truce. Hamas officials said they are ready to continue talks, but Israel’s government spokesman said Israel will not negotiate under fire. The foreign ministry expressed “extreme regret” over the failure to extend the truce, urging restraint by both sides and calling for a new ceasefire to resume negotiations. The ministry claimed the majority of the Palestinians’ demands and needs had been met. Only a few unresolved issues remained, which should have impelled both parties to accept an extension of the temporary cease-fire in order to finalize the negotiations. [Reuters, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), The Guardian, SIS, 8/8/2014]

Sabbahi announces he ‘won’t run’ for parliament
Leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi said on a television program on Thursday night that he will not stand in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Speaking to host Mahmoud Saad on private satellite channel Al Nahar, the former presidential candidate also criticized some of the groups intending to contest the elections, including parties founded by former presidential candidates Amr Moussa and Ahmed Shafiq, as representing the era before the January 25 revolution in 2011. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 8/8/2014]

Eleven extremists killed and three tunnels destroyed in Sinai crackdown
Eleven extremists were killed on Friday in a wide-scale security crackdown on Sinai, state-run MENA agency reported. Three tunnels were also demolished, one vehicle confiscated, and eleven houses and twelve shacks demolished  in the security campaign to clear the areas of al-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid, and Rafah of terrorists, the source added. Necessary legal procedures to notify Egypt’s public prosecutor were also taken. [Aswat Masriya, EGYNews (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic), 8/8/2014]

Egypt government allocates EGP 3.9 billion for subsidized ration card commodities
Minister of Finance Hani Kadry announced in a statement the allocation of EGP 3.9 billion ($550 million) to provide the required primary subsidized commodities. The government approved an additional EGP 7 allocation per person at the ration cards during the month of Ramadan in addition to the defined EGP 15 already included in the system. [Cairo Post, 8/8/2014]


Libya militia clashes spread beyond Tripoli towards Zawiya oil port
Clashes in Libya have spread to the western town of Zawiya near a large oil port along Tunisia’s border, according to local town council officials. Over the last couple of days, four people were killed and nine wounded when Warshafana militias from the non-Islamist town of Zintan battled Islamist-leaning brigades from Misrata, playing out much of the armed political struggle that has been gripping Tripoli and Benghazi over the last few weeks. The managing director of the Zawiya port, a major terminal that is fed by the El Sharara oilfield, said the port was safe. [Reuters, 8/7/2014]

Operation Dignity claims seventy Ansar supporters killed outside Benghazi
Operation Dignity forces claim to have killed seventy members of Ansar al-Sharia and the Benghazi revolutionaries’ shura council who were trying to move toward the city’s Benina airbase by a back road. Benina has served as the main base for the Saiqa special forces since their headquarters were overrun by Islamist militias nine days ago. Ansar and their allies are now targeting the airbase in an attempt to take it over and destroy Saiqa. The commander of Operation Dignity’s air forces said that seventeen other members of Ansar and the revolutionaries shura council, the umbrella body for Islamist forces in the city, had been captured and were being held by locals. [Libya Herald, 8/7/2014]

Constitutional drafting committee holds meetings in Sebha
Despite the crises currently gripping Libya’s two major cities, the constitutional drafting committee has been pushing ahead with its work, holding town halls meetings in the south. At a session this week in Sebha, attended by community institutions, civil society organizations, and residents, committee representatives from the region presented the constitutional roadmap and provided information about the process thus far. According to a committee member, a frequent topic raised at the meetings is that of citizenship, particularly the challenge of attaining it and the rights afforded to Libyan citizens. Others complained about unfair distribution of assets and marginalization experienced by southern districts. [Libya Herald, 8/7/2014]

Amnesty International says shelling of civilians is a war crime
Amnesty International has said that the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in Tripoli and Benghazi, which has led to the deaths of innocent people, amounts to a war crime. In a statement released Thursday, it noted that parties to the conflict had an obligation to refrain from attacks that disproportionately harmed civilians or failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Meanwhile, in an open letter, Lawyers for Justice in Libya has called on the House of Representatives to take urgent action to stop “the ongoing human rights and humanitarian atrocities occurring in Libya,” asserting that, while the current state of affairs hinders effective state action, it does not justify inaction by lawmakers. [Libya Herald, 8/7/2014]


ISIS withdraws from Lebanese town after truce
Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have reportedly mostly withdrawn from the Lebanese border town of Arsal. Sunni Muslim clerics brokered a truce after days of fighting between the jihadist fighters and the Lebanese army. Seventeen Lebanese soldiers have died in the fighting, and nineteen soldiers are reported to still be held captive by the militants who released three soldiers and six internal security forces officers (ISF) on Wednesday. [BBC, 8/8/2014]

Progress made in destroying Syria’s chemical stockpile
Nearly 75 percent of Syria’s known chemical arms material has been destroyed, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons who’s responsible for policing a treaty banning the munitions announced Thursday. The announcement, said a significant volume of the material had been incinerated at Ellesmere Port, a site in Britain. [NY Times, 8/8/2014]

Jihadists capture key base from Syrian army
Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) jihadists captured the Brigade 93 Syrian army base in Raqqa province overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday. Some troops had already pulled out of Brigade 93 in July after ISIS captured Division 17, another base in the region where at least 85 people were killed in fighting.  [AFP, 8/8/2014]

A number of extremist fighters return to Germany from Syria
Germany’s domestic intelligence chief, Hans-Georg Maassen says more than 400 Islamic extremists from the country are now believed to have traveled to Syria, and about twenty-five have returned to Germany with fighting experience. [AP, 8/8/2014]


Supplementary Finance Bill 2014 adopted and fund to fight against terrorism created
The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) adopted the 2014 Supplementary Finance Bill, article by article. The NCA members also approved (101 votes for and five abstentions) a new article providing for the creation of a national fund to fight against terrorism supervised by a committee of the relevant ministries. Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa asserted that his government accepts this proposal “which will help find new mechanisms to fight against terrorism.” Hakim Ben Hammouda, minister of economy and finance, said that financial transparency in tax matters will be crucial in allowing Tunisia to set up a more functioning financial and tax system. [TAP, L’Economiste Magharébin, 8/8/2014]

World Bank releases quarterly MENA brief
Despite recent signs of economic improvement in Tunisia, growth continues to be weak and cannot generate enough jobs. The new World Bank report sees positive indications of economic improvement for Tunisia, citing easing political tensions and looking to the new Supplementary Finance Law. However, the pace of the projected growth remains far below the rate of the rapid growth that Tunisia, along with the other countries of the study, experienced in the 2000s. The study also finds that many believe that corruption is rampant, and that it is difficult for Tunisians, particularly Tunisian youths, to find employment without connections in high places. [World Bank, 8/7/2014]

Foreign investment down 26.2 percent, trade deficit up 15 percent
The flow of foreign investments reached 700.42 million Tunisian dinars during the first six months of 2014, down 26.2 percent compared with the same period of 2013, according to the latest statistic published by the Foreign Investment Promotion Agency (FIPA). The trade deficit increased during the first seven months of 2014, up 15 percent compared with the same period of 2013. It reached 7,687.1 million Tunisian dinars because of the drop of coverage of imports by exports of 3.9 points, at 67.9 percent. [TAP, 8/8/2014]


International Monetary Fund allocates $560 loan to Yemen
Yemen reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a $560 million loan on Friday. Finance Minister Mohammed al-Saadi said the funds will be paid over three years. The government expects the first payment within two months. Al-Saadi also said that the decision last month to reform petroleum prices helped clinch the deal. The IMF had pressed Yemen to cut energy subsidies that cost the state $3.07 billion last year, equivalent to thirty percent of revenues and twenty-one percent of expenditure. [ReutersSahafa (Arabic), 8/8/2014]

Clashes continue between Yemen’s army and al-Qaeda, resulting in ten deaths
statement revealed that al-Qaeda in Hadramawt issued punishments against government staff. There are no confirmations on the ground that any such “court system” was established by al-Qaeda. Intense clashes between the army and al-Qaeda militants in Hadramawt resulted in the death of two soldiers and eight militants on Thursday, after the army repelled two attacks by al-Qaeda targeting the Yemeni special forces camp and the security directorate in al-Qatan. [Al Masdar, (Arabic), 8/7/2014]

Yemen resumes pumping oil through main export pipeline in Marib
Yemen resumed pumping crude oil through its main export pipeline after repair works were completed on Friday, more than a week after armed men blew it up, halting flows and disrupting an important source of revenue. In related news, a ministerial committee charged with studying the future of the Yemeni oil sector held its first meeting on Friday. Both the deputy prime minister and the communications minister head the committee. [Reuters, Saba (Arabic), 8/8/2014]


Obama authorizes air strikes in Iraq
The Pentagon said US aircraft attacked artillery that was being used in northern Iraq against Kurdish forces defending the city of Irbil. President Barack Obama has authorized air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants in Iraq if the fighters make a move toward American personnel residing in Irbil. The president also confirmed the launch of humanitarian assistance to prevent a genocide of Yazidis, a religious minority stranded on a mountain to escape the advancing forces of ISIS. Obama said any US operations would be limited, and pledged not to allow the US to be dragged into another war in Iraq. [Reuters, 8/8/2014]

Britain tells citizens to leave Iraqi Kurdistan capital
The British government told its citizens to leave parts of Iraqi Kurdistan, including the regional capital Arbil, on Friday. The government said the security situation could deteriorate quickly after fighting in the last two days to the southwest of Arbil, where many Western oil workers and executives are based. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) declared to citizens in Iraq, “If you’re currently in these areas you should leave now. The security situation in the Kurdistan Region could deteriorate quickly.” [Reuters, 8/8/2014]

Former Lebanese PM back in Lebanon for first time in three years
Former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri returned home on Friday for the first time in three years. With no prior announcement, Hariri arrived at the Lebanese government’s headquarters in Beirut, where he met Prime Minister Tammam Salam. Hariri said on his Twitter (Arabic) account, “My return comes after the Saudi donation which requires seeing how it can be implemented and translated into support for the army.” Hariri, Lebanon’s most influential Sunni politician, has been in self-imposed exile since 2011, sharing his time between France and Saudi Arabia. [Reuters, 8/8/2014]