Top News: Obama Says He Doesn’t Have A Strategy Yet To Combat ISIS

President Barack Obama said on Thursday that he has not yet developed a strategy to combat Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. Obama said that he had asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to prepare “a range of options” for confronting ISIS, but at the same time he pushed back against speculations that he is preparing to bomb ISIS in Syria.





Minister of endowment emphasizes need to “purge” al-Azhar of Brotherhood members  
In comments to the state-run news agency, Egypt’s Minister of Endowment Mohamed Mokhtar Goma’a, stressed the need to “purge” al-Azhar of members of the Muslim Brotherhood. He said that the university needs to reconsider its regulations and curricula in order to deal with not only members of the Brotherhood, but militant extremists and so-called “supporters of the coup,” many of whom he says, are known by name. Goma’a called for their removal from the university, particularly those in positions of power, before the beginning of the academic year. [EGYNews (Arabic), Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 8/29/2014]

EU’s €500 million aid to Egypt still pending, awaits IMF’s credentials
The European Union’s €500 million financial aid package to Egypt remains pending, despite being formerly linked to electing a new president for the country. Ambassador James Moran, Head of the European Union Delegation to Egypt, clarified that the EU still awaits the International Monetary Fund’s support for the economic reform program made by the Egyptian government. [Amwal Al-Ghad, 8/28/2014]

Amnesty issues action alert on NGO bill
Amnesty International has issued an urgent action alert regarding Egypt’s draft NGO law, as the deadline for human rights organizations to register with the government as per the 2002 law’s stipulations draws closer. In the statement, Amnesty exhorted the authorities to lift the September 2 registration deadline, and to end its “crackdown on civil society. Non-governmental organizations that do not register by the deadline face closure and criminal prosecution. However, in its statement, Amnesty claimed the Ministry of Social Solidarity was refusing the applications of those groups that were trying to register. [Mada Masr, 8/28/2014]

Fifth decapitated body found in Sinai
A fifth beheaded body was found in Egypt by residents of the Sinai Naga Shabana village, south of Rafah, security sources said. The 23 year-old was kidnapped from his home on Thursday by armed assailants in a white SUV, they added. Sinai-based militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, had earlier claimed responsibility for the beheading of four Egyptians found last week, accusing them of providing Israel with intelligence for an airstrike that killed three of its fighters. [Shorouk (Arabic), 8/29/2014]


Libyan militia says it accepts UN call for truce
The Islamist militia in control of Libya’s capital, Tripoli, says it agrees with a UN call for a ceasefire in this North African country but vows to resist any foreign interference in Libyan affairs. Senior commander Ahmed Hadiya from Dawn of Libya, an umbrella of Islamist militias, says his group will “cooperate with the world” unless this violates Libya’s sovereignty. The remarks, which came in a statement late Thursday, are seen as a rejection of a recent appeal by a group of Libyan lawmakers for United Nations to intervene to stop ongoing militia battles. [AP, 8/29/2014]

Denials and confusion over ministerial resignations
The reported resignation of six cabinet ministers has been met with a strong denial from the government. The government said the reports are absolutely untrue and if such a wave of resignations were to take place it would have informed the public. Government spokesman and Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Al-Amin accused those media outlets which had published the story of bias. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni and his cabinet resigned on Thursday to pave the way to forming a new government after parliamentary elections in June, a government statement said. Thinni’s cabinet said it had resigned according to Libya’s constitutional rules to allow the House of Representatives to form a government based on all parts of society. The Libyan House of Representatives issued the names of five people who are on its shortlist for post of prime minister, with Thinni heading the list. The announcement came just three days after the General National Congress named the pro-Islamist figure Omar al-Hassi to form a new government. [Libya Herald, Reuters, DW/allAfrica, 8/29/2014]

Outside Tripoli and Benghazi local democracy continues to thrive
The national political crisis may dominate the news but, away from Tripoli and Benghazi and one or two other hot spots, local democracy continues to thrive in Libya. Yesterday, new municipal councils were sworn in and mayors elected for Khoms, Nisma, Zuwara, and Baten al-Jebel (Jebel Nafusa). It brings to sixty-four the number of mayors and working municipal councils throughout the country. Juma Ben Sasi was elected as mayor of Zuwara, Mohamed Ali Abu al-Rahmaan as mayor of Nisma, Khalifa Mohamed Khalifa mayor of Baten al-Jebel, and Bashir Mohamed Hanash mayor of Khoms. The swearing in ceremonies took place at the Crystal Hall in Suq al-Juma, with the oaths of office administered by the deputy minister of local government, Mohamed Al-Haji. [Libya Herald, 8/29/2014]

Libya’s Waha resumes small volume of Es Sider crude oil production
Libya’s Waha Oil Co. has resumed a small volume of Es Sider crude oil production, a senior Libyan oil official said on Thursday in the latest sign that output is improving despite unrest in the country. The oil grade will be exported through the Es Sider port, the country’s largest export terminal, which has reopened after being closed for a year due to protests and maintenance. Libya’s National Oil Corp has loaded two tankers of Es Sider this month after the resumption of exports from the neighboring Ras Lanuf terminal which has a capacity around 220,000 bpd. [Reuters, 8/28/2014]


Obama says he doesn’t have a strategy yet to combat ISIS
President Barack Obama said on Thursday that he has not yet developed a strategy to combat Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. Obama said that he had asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to prepare “a range of options” for confronting ISIS, but at the same time he pushed back against speculations that he is preparing to bomb ISIS in Syria. [The Guardian, 8/29/2014]

UN says forty-three Golan peacekeepers seized by Syrian rebels
Rebels fighting the Syrian army have detained forty-three UN peacekeepers in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and trapped another eighty-one in the region, the UN said on Thursday. The affected peacekeepers are from the Philippines and Fiji, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters. The United Nations announced that it is making every effort to secure the release of the detained peacekeepers, and to restore the full freedom of movement of the force throughout its area of operation. [Reuters, 8/29/2014]

Syrian refugees top three million
Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance of Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fighters or are having difficulty in reaching open border crossings, the United Nations said. Syrians leaving the country are forced to pay large bribes at armed checkpoints proliferating along Syria’s borders, or to smugglers, the UN refugee agency said. Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement, “The Syrian crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them.” [Reuters, BBC, UNHCR, 8/29/2014]


Tunisia cuts economic growth forecast
Tunisia reduced its forecast for economic growth for the third time this year from 3 percent expected to between 2.3 and 2.5 percent, the finance minister said on Thursday, due to slowing growth in the second quarter of this year. Tunisia’s economic growth slowed to 2 percent year on year in the second quarter, reflecting a broad-based slowdown, the state statistics institute said on Wednesday. [Reuters Africa, 8/28/2014]

Government set on finalizing tax reform project by end of 2014
The government intends to speed up the tax reform project launched in 2012 and finalize it before the end of the year, Economy and Finance Minister Hakim Ben Hammouda said. Tax revenues increased 16.1 percent in the first five months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013, according to data from the ministry of the economy and finance. [TAP, 8/28/2014]

Terror arrests spike in Tunisia
Tunisian security forces arrested more than 1,260 terror suspects in the last month. According to a statement from the interior ministry on Wednesday, more than 300 others were linked to terrorists in Syria and implicated in recruiting networks. The arrests occurred in Kef, Sidi Bouzid, Jendouba, and Kasserine. [Magharebia, 8/28/2014]

United States gives two coast guard cutters to Tunisia
The Tunisian navy on Thursday was given two 13.5-meter-long coast guard cutters worth $2 million by the United States as part of a first donation to support the Navy in surveillance operations of its seas and coasts. These two cutters bring up the number of boats provided by the United States to Tunisia to fifteen. The US assistance program provides for the donation of other ships in the coming months. [ASNAmed, TAP, 8/29/2014]


Yemen seeks economic reform following oil subsidy cuts
Supreme national anti-corruption commission member Hassan Shukri Ziwar says that the president issued twelve decisions to address some of the imbalances and areas of corruption, which will have a tangible impact on the treasury and will in turn help the state subsidize certain aspects of the economy to alleviate citizens’ suffering. These include issuing bonuses for the years 2012-2013 to state employees and the addition of 250,000 new social security cases. [Al-Shorfa, 8/28/2014]

Houthi rebels vow to continue protests
Thousands of Houthi rebels have promised to demonstrate in Sana’a on Friday, in a sign of the country’s growing sectarian divide. Yemen’s presidential commission has resumed efforts to reach a deal with the Houthis to end the ongoing protests following the negotiations that were conducted by United Nations envoy Jamal Benomar. On Thursday, Yemeni police shot a protester in Aden during a demonstration by secessionists for the formerly independent south. The demonstration came in response to a rally by government loyalists backing its defiance of Houthi demands in Sana’a. [Al JazeeraAsharq al-AwsatAFP, 8/29/2014]

US transfers over two Yemenis held in Bagram to Yemen
The United States has handed over two Yemeni detainees held at an Afghanistan-based US military prison to Yemen. The two detainees, Ameen al-Bakri and Fadi al-Maqaleh, have been transferred to Yemen from Bagram prison, north of Kabul. [Saba, 8/28/2014]


Iraqi aircrafts strike ISIS near besieged town
Iraqi aircraft carried out air strikes targeting Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fighters in the Amerli area on Friday. Iraqi security forces are preparing a major assault to break through to the besieged Shia Turkmen town, Iraqi security officers said. Amerli has been surrounded by jihadists for more than two months, and its residents face severe shortages of food and water, as well as the threat of the militants. Shia militia forces have been massing north of Amerli, while Iraqi troops will push towards the town from the south in a major operation to free it. [AFP, 8/29/2014]

Saudi crown prince to discuss ISIS threat on French trip
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince will next week visit France and hold talks with French leaders that will touch on the threat posed by Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. Salman bin Abdul Aziz, who is also deputy prime minister and defense minister of Saudi Arabia, will meet President Francois Hollande on Monday. The two are likely to touch on the three billion dollar package of French military equipment for Lebanon’s army that Riyadh has agreed to finance. [AFP, 8/29/2014]

Bahrain says State Department official still not welcome
Diplomatic tensions flared once again between the US and Bahrain, with the Gulf State denying a US claim that a top State Department official had been invited back to the country after he was ejected in a dispute last month. The State Department said earlier this week that Tom Malinowski, the assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor, had received an invitation to return to Bahrain after he was declared persona non grata there last month. Bahrain’s undersecretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abdulla Abdullatif Abdulla, said Bahrain didn’t invite Mr. Malinowski to return, according to Bahrain’s state news agency, BNA. [WSJ, 8/29/2014]