Top News: Obama Orders New Syria Policy Review

President Barack Obama has asked his national security team for another review of Syria policy after realizing that ISIS may not be defeated without a political transition in Syria and the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, senior US officials and diplomats told CNN. In just the past week, the White House has convened four meetings of the President’s national security team, one of which was chaired by Obama and others that were attended by principals like the secretary of state. These meetings, in the words of one senior official, were “driven to a large degree how our Syria strategy fits into our ISIS strategy.” Other sources denied to CNN that Obama has ordered a formal review, but admit there is concern about core aspects of the strategy. [CNN, 11/13/2014]



Washington defends Egypt investment drive, despite human rights concerns
Washington has stated that promoting US investment in Egypt does not preclude it from voicing concerns about the country’s human rights record, nor would it signify moving forward with certifications of additional funding. “International investment in Egypt’s economy supports the Egyptian people, and so we believe that by bringing companies there Egypt’s economic and workforce development is something that can help the people of Egypt,” State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki told a regular press briefing Wednesday. “It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to continue to have, at the diplomatic level, a conversation about our concerns about their human rights record,” Psaki added when asked about what the visit indicates. [Ahram Online, 11/13/2014]

Egypt’s Sisi decrees law on repatriating foreign prisoners
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi issued a decree on Wednesday giving him the authority to transfer non-Egyptian defendants on trial or already convicted to be sent to their countries to be tried or serve their sentences. The new law stipulates that the general prosecution has to request the transfer of the prisoners and the cabinet has to approve the request. The law might be utilized in the highly publicized case of Al Jazeera journalists as two of the three detained defendants, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, are foreigners. The Australian government is seeking verification from Egyptian authorities of whether this new presidential decree could mean the release of Peter Greste. [Ahram Online, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, The Guardian, 11/12/2014]

Eight Egyptian navy personnel missing after militant attack
Eight Egyptian navy personnel are missing following an attack by militants on an armed forces boat in the Mediterranean, the army has said. Five injured navy personnel have been transferred to hospital, while searches are ongoing to locate another eight, a military spokesman said late on Wednesday. Military forces destroyed four boats used by the assailants and arrested thirty-two suspects, he added. Four of the attackers were killed during the clashes. A military naval boat was performing a combat exercise in the Mediterranean, forty nautical miles north of Damietta port, when a number of boats fired at it on Wednesday. This is the first attack on naval forces. [Ahram Online, DNE, SIS, Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 11/12/2014]

Prisoner died due to inadequate prison healthcare, says lawyer
A prisoner died in Mounifeya on Wednesday due to inadequate healthcare in prison, claimed his lawyer. Tarek al-Ghandour suffered from liver dysfunction and was imprisoned in Abu Zaabal and then Wadi al-Natrun prisons. On Saturday, he was transferred to a general medical center in the city of Shebin al-Kum in Menufiya; four days later, he reportedly encountered bleeding from esophageal varices, and died after six hours. His lawyer, Huda Abdel Moneim said, “We sent several official requests to the prisons’ department to provide him with doctors and the medicine he needs, but no response was made.” She also added that Wadi al-Natrun prison lacks the minimal healthcare requirements for any prisoner. [DNE, 11/12/2014]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Car bombs target Egyptian and Emirati embassies in Tripoli
Bombs have exploded near the Egyptian and United Arab Emirates embassies in the capital Tripoli, with no immediate reports of casualties or major damage in the attacks. Both diplomatic missions are among the many that have been closed for months as Islamist-allied militias seized Tripoli after weeks of fierce fighting. Egypt condemned the attack, accusing “terrorist groups [of] using violence to reach political goals.” The Islamist-allied militias accuse the UAE and Egypt of backing their rivals. [AP, Reuters, Libya Herald, 11/13/2014]

Possible suicide attack near Labraq airport in eastern Libya
A bomb attack, reportedly carried out by a suicide bomber, has reportedly killed four people near Labraq airport. According to LANA, the news agency run by the Tripoli government, the attack also damaged parts of the entrance. In recent months, Labraq has been the only airport in the east running services. Services do not appear to have been affected as the incident was close to the nearby military base. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 11/13/2014]

Sudan says its Libyan peace initiative well received
The Sudanese government says it is pleased with progress on its initiative for an inclusive Libyan dialogue, announcing that a December 1 conference in Khartoum will include all of Libya’s neighbors. Sudan’s foreign minister was recently in Libya, visiting leading officials from both the Tobruk-based government and the rival Tripoli-based one. Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni visited Khartoum last month, where he reportedly initially accepted the proposed peace plan despite earlier having accused Khartoum of arming terrorists in Libya. [Libya Herald, 11/12/2014]

Marzouki advances anti-terrorism agenda ahead of presidential elections
Interim President Moncef Marzouki on Wednesday pledged his commitment to working with the newly elected parliament to confront and defeat the growing threat of terrorism. Marzouki stressed his commitment to inclusive governance and vowed to strengthen Tunisia’s security forces as they battle militant groups in the restive border region with Algeria. Earlier this week, he received endorsements from six political parties representing a total of seven seats in the new parliament. [TAP, Tunisia Live, 11/12/2014]

Tunisian authorities, aid organizations prepare for influx of Libyan refugees
Government authorities and aid agencies in Tunisia say they are prepared for a sudden influx of Libyan refugees despite public hostility to rising refugee figures. According to a crisis plan drafted by Tunisian authorities, local civil society organizations, UN agencies and international NGOs, governorates along the Libyan border have created emergency response plans to accommodate the growing number of Libyan refugees inside the country. Tunisian politicians have been increasingly critical of the growing refugee presence citing concerns with border security and the undetected entry of armed militants ahead of presidential elections. [All Africa, 11/12/2014]


Opposition groups form coalition in Aleppo
Fourteen armed opposition groups in Aleppo have signed an agreement to form a unified Revolutionary Council in what may be a signal they are ready to hold talks over a UN-sponsored ceasefire plan. The UN plan proposes the creation of a safe zone in Aleppo after cessation of hostilities by both government and opposition forces, but has faced substantial resistance from opposition groups. A representative from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) indicated that the FSA had rejected the ceasefire plan due its limited application in Aleppo. The representative explained that a limited ceasefire would allow government forces to consolidate gains and reassert control as opposition groups withdrew. [Asharq al-Awsat, 11/12/2014]

Iraq’s PM sacks twenty-six military commanders, citing graft and incompetence
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Wednesday relieved twenty-six army officers of their commands and retired ten others after a month-long probe revealed widespread corruption within Iraqi military ranks. The prime minister stressed that Wednesday’s dismissals were not retributive but instead aimed at restoring the professionalism and candor needed to operate an effective fighting force. This move comes as government security forces and Shiite militias have largely halted the Islamic State militants’ advance, even rolling them back from some areas with the help of coalition airstrikes. [AP, Jordan Times, 11/12/2014]

Turkey to grant Syrian refugees work permits
Turkey is to issue work permits for some of the 1.5 million Syrian war refugees it is hosting, its labor minister said on Thursday. “We will grant a certain number of our Syrian brothers work permits to allow their employment within a legal framework, without hurting the local workforce,” Faruk Celik told private NTV television. Celik said the measures are aimed to crack down on black market practices, which force Syrians, including children, to work as cheap labor with no social protection. Celik did not clarify exactly how many refugees would have the right to work, but said, “There are vacant positions in every province affected by labor shortages.” He said the proportion of Syrian refugees in any given workplace would not be allowed to rise higher than 10 percent. [Naharnet, 11/13/2014]

UN Security Council calls for urgent resolution of the political impasse in Lebanon
The UN Security Council on Wednesday urged Lebanese lawmakers to resolve swiftly the political deadlock that has left the country without a president since May. The current president of the fifteen-member body, Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan, noted that prolonged vacancy in the nation’s top elected position would only further threaten the nation’s security and stability. Lawmakers last week voted overwhelmingly to extend their mandate, skipping scheduled elections for the second consecutive time. They have since claimed that Lebanon’s security situation is too fragile to allow elections amid rising sectarian tensions exacerbated by the ongoing Syrian conflict. [AP, Naharnet, 11/13/2014]

France mulls military deployment in Jordan to combat ISIS
France will decide in the coming weeks whether to send fighter jets to Jordan to strike ISIS militants in Iraq in an effort to increase the number of missions and reduce the cost, the army spokesman and officials said on Thursday. France was the first country to join the US-led coalition in air strikes on ISIS insurgents in Iraq. “We are thinking about a deployment in Jordan,” Army spokesman Gilles Jaron said, adding that it was being discussed with authorities in Amman. [Reuters, 11/13/2014]


GPC in Aden demands reinstatement of Hadi as party leader
Officials from the General People’s Congress (GPC) party in Aden and students at Aden University called on the GPC leadership to reinstate President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi as head of the party. They also demanded that Dr. Abdulkarim al-Iryani, vice president of the party, be reinstated to his position. The Aden GPC members said Friday’s proceedings that stripped Hadi and al-Iryani of their positions violated the party’s “rules of procedure” and demanded the party issue an apology. The statement came as details emerged that Hadi and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh struggled for control of GPC funds over the weekend. [Aden al-Ghad, Al Masdar (Arabic),

Hadi says he will not let Yemen slip into chaos
President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi said that he would not accept the deterioration of the state’s political, economic, and security situation and that he carries a complicated responsibility for a weak state. Hadi made this statement during a meeting with the members of his new government, the House of Representatives, and the Shura Council on Thursday. Hadi added that there were elements in the country seeking “to take advantage of the situation to serve their own objectives and weaken the state’s position,” but that “there would be no winner” in the collapse of the state. The president’s statement came as citizens protested in the western port of al-Hudaydah for Houthi withdrawal. Hadi also informed the governor of Marib Thursday that he was responsible for the protection of the province. This was in response to a letter from local tribesman, who attacked Marib’s pipeline last week in protest against the central government. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/13/2014]

Protests continue in Yemen’s Khormaksar Square
Protests for independence in Aden’s Khormaksar Square continue to attract citizens demanding the restoration of the southern state and calling for an end to national unity with the north. Hundreds of tents have popped up in the square, located in east Aden, since protests began October 14. Various civil society and governmental groups have joined the protests, with protesters waving southern flags, chanting the southern anthem, and recently burning pictures of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Some separatist actions have taken place beyond Aden, with students and administrators at one school in Lahj province singing the southern song and flying the flag. Activists in Shabwa flew the southern flag over the province’s ministry of youth and sport, which sources say has occurred at other government buildings in the province. [Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), 11/13/2014]

Saudi Arabia to open embassy in Baghdad soon
Saudi Arabia will reopen its embassy in Baghdad “sooner than you imagine,” the Kingdom’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters after meeting with Iraqi President Fouad Masoum in Riyadh on Wednesday. Prince Faisal, who met Masoum at his residence in Riyadh, said he was keen to visit Iraq, and emphasized the Kingdom’s efforts to maintain national unity and stability in the neighboring country. The foreign minister said he hoped to see “the Iraqi brothers unite their words and support each other,” adding that the Kingdom “supports [Iraqis] and Iraq’s national unity and stability.” [Asharq al-Awsat, 11/13/2014]

UAE funding projects in Egypt worth $10 billion
The Director of the Coordination Office of the UAE-funded Development Projects in Egypt, Rashid al-Dhaheri, has revealed that the UAE is implementing a number of development projects worth more than US$10 billion in eighteen governorates. These projects cover key sectors including energy, housing, urban development, food security, health, public transport, and education. Al-Dhaheri said that these projects would accrue far-reaching economic benefits to Egypt, as they would generate 600,000 jobs and serve 10 million people. He was addressing a special orientation session jointly organized by the Coordination Office and the Dubai Press Club to brief the visiting UAE delegation on the progress of these projects. [Gulf News, 11/13/2014]

Bahrain drops case against opposition group; 419 candidates registered for elections
Bahrain’s justice ministry dropped a case filed four months ago to suspend the activities of the National Democratic Action Society, known as Waad, in a move to ease tensions ahead of general elections. In July, the Justice Ministry asked a court to suspend Waad and two other groups, including Al Wefaq, for three months. The ministry told the court it decided to drop the case against Waad because the group had held its annual general conference and legally elected a new secretary general. Meanwhile, 419 candidates will stand for parliamentary and municipal elections in Bahrain on November 22, with runoffs to be held November 29 if necessary. “The number of candidates seeking to become members of parliament stands at 266, while the number of postulants for a municipal council seat is 153,” Abdullah Hassan Al Buainain, executive director of the elections, said. [Gulf News, 11/13/2014]


Egypt’s gas exports fall 81.4 percent
According to the Egyptian Information and Decision Support Centre, Egypt’s exports of natural gas in September declined by 81.4 percent compared to the same period last year. The exports amounted to $18.1 million. The reason for the drop is attributed to Egypt’s rising electricity demands. Electric power generation accounted for around 68.7 percent of natural gas consumption, up from 59.6 percent a year before. [Ahram Online, 13/11/2014]

No renewed oil production at Libya’s Sharara field
According to the Libyan National Oil Corporation, production at Libya’s Sharara oil field in the southwest of the country has not started yet. While it was believed that the situation at the field was under control the area appears to have turned into a battleground between rival militias. The oil field was producing more than 200,000 bpd before it was forced to close early this month. [Libya Monitor (Subscription), 13/11/2014]

Algerian firms greenlighted to invest abroad
After a decision by the Council of Money and Credit in Algeria, a Central Bank directive was passed allowing firms to invest internationally. Until now only Sonatrach had been authorized to invest internationally. The main effect of this new directive will benefit the domestic market by allowing companies linked to vital sectors of the economy to create interest abroad. [ANSAmed, 12/11/2014]