Top News: Obama Presents ISIS Strategy; Allies Balk at Airstrikes

In a nationally televised address. President Barack Obama on Wednesday laid out his four-point strategy to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or Islamic State). (Full text here.) While ruling out the deployment of US combat troops, the president has authorized US airstrikes for the first time in Syria. The President’s announcement follows two weeks of concerted efforts to create a broad coalition of European and Arab actors to confront ISIS. Britain and Germany stated they would not participate in airstrikes, and Turkey said it would refuse the use of its air bases for conducting any strikes inside Syria. Syrian and Russian officials announced that any such airstrikes would be viewed as “an act of aggression”.




Leading Muslim Brotherhood member ready to testify about Raba’a dispersal
The fact-finding committee assigned to investigate the events following the mass June 30 demonstrations announced on Thursday that Mohamed Ali Bishr, a leading Muslim Brotherhood figure was going to testify about the August 2013 dispersal of the sit-ins at Raba’a al-Adaweya next Monday. In a statement issued Thursday afternoon the committee stated that Bishr said he was ready to testify alongside other Brotherhood members after an initial rejection to testify a couple of weeks ago. Bishr also told Riyad that he asked the wife and son of Mohamed al-Beltagy, a leading Muslim Brotherhood figure to testify. [Ahram Online, 9/11/2014]

On-campus political activities banned, says Education minister
Students are banned from practicing political activities inside universities, said Minister of Higher Education Al-Sayed Abdel Khaleq. He added that he will not allow for any partisan or political agendas on university campuses. Abdel Khaleq is due to meet with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to discuss issues regarding education in Egypt, including how to “bring back stability” to the universities before the beginning of the new academic year. [DNE, EGYNews (Arabic), 9/11/2014]

Egypt signs $500 million World Bank gas loan
Egypt has signed a $500 million loan with the World Bank to provide natural gas to Egyptian households. The loan will help fund a Petroleum Ministry plan to connect 850,000 Egyptians, particularly in largely rural Upper Egypt, to a natural gas grid, according to the minister of international cooperation. [Reuters, Egypt Independent, 9/11/2014]

Militant group leaves signed note on eighth decapitated body found in Sinai
Residents in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula said on Wednesday they found a beheaded corpse bearing a note signed by an Islamist militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, linked to the Syria and Iraq-based Islamic State in Syria and al-Sham (ISIS), accusing the victim of being an Israeli spy. The beheading is the eighth claimed by the group in Sinai in under a month in a surge of brutal killings seemingly inspired by ISIS. The note said the man was an agent for Israeli spy agency Mossad. [Reuters, 9/10/2014]


Islamists kidnap twenty-five Libyan soldiers, army says
Islamists militants have probably kidnapped up to twenty-five soldiers and killed five others in Benghazi, an army commander said as Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni travelled to the United Arab Emirates to seek support for his government. In addition to the five soldiers killed, seven others wounded on Tuesday when Islamist fighters belonging to a group called Majlis al-Shoura attacked an army checkpoint in Benghazi. Majlis al-Shoura is an alliance of Islamist fighters in the eastern city that includes Ansar al-Sharia. [Reuters, 9/10/2014]

Tebu troops head to Benghazi to reinforce Operation Dignity
Militia units from the southeast and southwest are heading to Benghazi to join Khalifa Haftar’s Operation Dignity forces in the battles against Ansar al-Sharia and the Libya Shield brigades. The deployed army units are mostly Tebus from Kufra and the southwest of the country, but also include Arabs from Murzuk. It is unclear how many fighters are joining the operations in Benghazi, but the Tebu brigades wield considerable practical power given their role as protection forces for a number of oil fields. [Libya Herald, 9/10/2014]

Constitutional Assembly sets charter vote for March
Libya’s state-news agency LANA reports that a referendum on the draft constitution will be held in March, a possible breakthrough for the country in conflict. The agency quoted the Constitutional Assembly’s Abdel-Moneim al-Sherif as saying that an initial copy will be released for public debate in late December. Tasked with writing the constitution, the sixty-member assembly is based in the eastern city of Bayda. [AP, 9/11/2014]

Oil output passes 800,000 bpd mark
The National Oil Corporation (NOC) says Libya’s total oil production has now reached 810,000 barrels per day (bpd). A spokesman said they expect daily output to reach one million bpd by the end of September, adding that the sector was now “recovering from the crisis” of oil export blockages in the eastern part of the country. According to the NOC, if the situation in the oil sector continues to improve, output could reach pre-crisis levels–around 1.4 million bpd–by the end of the year. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 9/11/2014]


Obama presents ISIS strategy; Allies balk at airstrikes
In a nationally televised address. President Barack Obama on Wednesday laid out his four-point strategy to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or Islamic State). (Full text here.) While ruling out the deployment of US combat troops, the president has authorized US airstrikes for the first time in Syria. The President’s announcement follows two weeks of concerted efforts to create a broad coalition of European and Arab actors to confront ISIS. Britain and Germany stated they would not participate in airstrikes, and Turkey said it would refuse the use of its air bases for conducting any strikes inside Syria. Syrian and Russian officials announced that any such airstrikes would be viewed as “an act of aggression.” [Reuters, NYT, Washington Post, WSJ, 9/11/2014]

KSA agrees to host training of Syrian rebels
Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday as part of a whirlwind trip through the Middle East to galvanize support for the US-led plan to confront ISIS. Talks between Kerry and Saudi officials concluded with an agreement that the kingdom would host the US-backed training effort of rebel forces. [WSJ, Al Arabiya News, 9/11/2014]

Syrian opposition says Washington’s ISIS strategy lacks Assad plan
The Syrian National Coalition welcomed on Thursday a US plan to tackle ISIS militants, but urged further action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The group said it backs the US plan for airstrikes in Syria and training of rebel forces, but emphasized that a stable and extremist-free region requires the degrading and removal of the Assad regime. [The National, The Guardian, 9/11/2014]

Nusra Front releases UN peacekeepers
The Nusra Front has released UN peacekeepers it seized two weeks ago in the Golan Heights. On Wednesday the group posted a video online in which the hostages, all Fijian nationals, announced that they expected to be freed soon. Nusra Front leaders had originally demanded the delivery of aid to areas besieged by the Syrian government, the release of prisoners, and the group’s removal from a UN terror blacklist as preconditions for the release of the captured peacekeepers. [The Daily Star, NYT, 9/11/2014]


NCA Approves New Articles to Counterterrorism Law
Tunisia’s National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) voted to approve four new articles to its draft counterterrorism law, which has been the subject of wide public debate and anticipation since last January.The NCA has been under pressure to accelerate legislation since the July 16 terrorist attack that killed fifteen Tunisian soldiers at military checkpoints on Chaambi Mountain. The attack drew intense public criticism of the government’s perceived inability to counter terror threats, resulting in the subsequent approval and adoption of the new articles into the draft law [Tunisia Live, 9/11/2014]

Marzouki meets with Italian PM
President Moncef Marzouki met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome on Wednesday, where the leaders discussed regional security issues and affirmed their commitment to economic cooperation. The two leaders expressed growing concerns with the current situation in Libya and emphasized the importance of a political resolution to the conflict without military intervention. Both leaders underscored the need for a cooperative approach to dealing illegal migration. [All Africa, 9/11/2014]

Tunisian and Libyan NGO’s join forces to address displaced refugees
Tunisian and Libyan civil society groups announced the formation of a joint organization aimed at tackling regional crises and coordinating humanitarian relief for the rising number of displaced Libyan citizens. The announcement followed the conclusion of a seminar organized by the Arab Institute for Human Rights. [Maghrebia, 9/11/2014]


Houthi spokesman discusses developments
Official Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdulsalam said Wednesday that Houthi militants destroyed three armored cars, three patrols, and a dozen machine guns in Tuesday’s clashes with government forces in Sana’a. He also claimed that the clashes, which resulted in the deaths of both security forces and protesters, stemmed from the protesters’ efforts to protect themselves. Abdulsalam added that no agreement had been reached between the Houthis and the government as of Thursday morning. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 9/11/2014]

One killed in attack on power plant; Air strikes continue in Jawf
The Supreme Security Council confirmed that one person was killed in Monday’s Houthi attack on a military checkpoint and electrical power plant in Hezyaz, and air strikes against Houthi military bases continued Thursday morning in Jawf province. A source said the three strikes achieved their objectives against targets in the Ghayl and Ardi districts. [Saba, 9/10/2014]

Government reaches out to United States, Kuwait for support
Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Hisham Sharaf and US Ambassador Matthew Tueller met to review cooperation measures in higher education between their respective countries. A plan is currently in place that would send the top ten Yemeni high school students to US universities, and the pair also discussed facilitating study for post-graduate students through the US Fulbright program. Meanwhile, the Parliament Deputy Speaker delivered a letter from President Hadi for Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah on bolstering cooperation between Kuwait and Yemen. Speaker Mohammad al-Shaddadi presented the letter to Kuwait’s Deputy Emir and Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah during a meeting to discuss ongoing efforts to implement the outcomes of the GCC-brokered transition deal. [SABA, 9/10/2014]

United Nations envoy discusses importance of harmony as bomb kills two in Amran
President Hadi met with UN Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar and his delegation Thursday. The president provided Benomar with an overview of recent developments in the country, while Benomar communicated the importance of an inclusive implementation process of the outcomes of the National Dialogue Convention. He conveyed the international community’s support for Yemen’s march toward peace, harmony, and all the country’s groups. Meanwhile, at least two Houthis participating in a march were killed by a roadside bomb in Amran Thursday morning. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Houthis have not yet issued any comments. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 9/11/2014]


Four Hezbollah fighters killed near Lebanese border village
At least four Hezbollah fighters were killed on Wednesday night during clashes with jihadists on the outskirts of Ras Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley. Sources indicated that a total of seventeen people were either killed or wounded but only four men were identified as Lebanese resistance fighters. Syrian troops, backed by Hezbollah, have been battling rebel and jihadist groups along the Syrian-Lebanese border in order to root out opposition fighters who have infiltrated the eastern frontier. [The Daily Star, 9/11/2014]

New Iraqi PM faces tough choices filling key government posts
After successfully forming an inclusive government on Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi faces a difficult week of talks with the Shia National Alliance and Sunni Iraqi Forces Alliance to agree on names for the interior and defense minister positions. Abadi declared in his first speech in parliament as premier that if an agreement was not reached, he would select two independent figures for the two posts and present them to parliament for a vote of confidence. Abadi is reluctant to assume the interior and defense portfolios to avoid raising fears he intends to monopolize power. [Asharq al-Awsat, 9/11/2014]