Top News: Pentagon Signals Need For Ground Troops in Iraq; Congress largely Backs Plan

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, raised the possibility on Tuesday that US troops might need to take on a larger role in Iraq’s ground war against Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The General explained that there was no intention to place military advisers on the ground to engage in direct combat, but shifting conditions might require further involvement by ground forces. Indications of additional ground involvement follow signs of congressional approval by US lawmakers on President Obama’s request for additional funding for military training and arms for moderate Syrian rebels.




Salafi Watan Party withdraws from pro-Morsi alliance
The Salafi Watan Party announced it is withdrawing from the pro-Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL), in a statement posted on its official Facebook page. The statement outlined what it described as the repression perpetrated since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, adding that it will continue its “political struggle” in a peaceful manner, from within the ranks of the Egyptian people. [EGYNews (Arabic), 9/17/2014]

Egypt summons EU ambassadors over “negative” statement
Egypt summoned on Tuesday European Union (EU) ambassadors commissioned to Cairo in expression of displeasure over the EU’s statement on the situation in the country before the 27th regular session of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council. In an official statement, the foreign ministry said, “Egypt rejects the EU statement that represents a negative message at a time when Egypt is fighting terrorism.”. The EU said in its statement earlier on Tuesday that it “continues to be worried about the deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt marked by indiscriminate detentions and disproportionate sentencing, including the death penalty.” The EU also called on the government “to fully respect human rights standards, including in the implementation of counterterrorism measures.” [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, DNE, 9/17/2014]

IMF Mission Chief says Egypt needs growth, jobs over economic stability
Egypt needs growth and job creation over economic stability, said Mission Chief of the IMF in Egypt Chris Jarvis during the Euromoney conference. According to Jarvis, there is a “long road” to economic progress; however, the IMF is willing to be a partner for the Egyptian government. [DNE, 9/16/2014]

Shoukry says Egypt’s military focus is at home, not on Islamic State
Egypt’s foreign minister has suggested his country might not provide military assistance to the United States for its battle against the Islamic State militant group, saying the army was focused on the home front. US Secretary of State John Kerry said last week he had won the backing of ten Arab states, including Egypt, for a “coordinated military campaign” against the Islamic State, which has grabbed territory in Syria and Iraq. However, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry appeared to throw cold water on the possibility of active Egyptian participation, saying, “We did not discuss this and no one asked this of us.” [Reuters, 9/16/2014]


Spain hosts conference on deepening Libya crisis
Spain’s foreign minister warned an international conference focusing on Libya that the North African country could slide into a civil war situation similar to Syria. Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said there is still time to prevent extremists from controlling the country. He is among officials from sixteen nations, the United Nations, and the Arab League attending the Madrid conference on the political crisis in Libya. UN Special Representative for Libya Bernardino Leon stressed that the country needs an immediate ceasefire. [AP, 9/17/2014]

Nine killed, thirty wounded in new Benghazi clashes, says medic
Heavy clashes broke out on Tuesday between Khalifa Haftar’s forces and Islamist fighters in Benghazi, killing at least nine people and wounding thirty others, according to medics. Armed Islamists are trying to wrest Benghazi’s civilian and military airport from government troops allied to Haftar. In Tripoli, where clashes have mostly ended, Misratan forces have been trying to surround the Warshefana tribal area. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the fighting there “has left many people dead or injured and has severely disrupted health care services.” [Reuters, 9/16/2014]

Combatants claim LROR leader captured in Warshefana clashes
Warshefana military sources claim that the leader of the Libyan Revolutionaries Operation Room (LROR) known as Abu Obeida, has been captured during fighting near Tripoli and two of his commanders killed. Obeida was implicated in the kidnapping of former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in October 2013. His own arrest by Egyptian officials over alleged links to al-Qaeda in January led to the kidnapping of five Egyptian diplomats who were then exchanged for his release. The LROR have been fighting alongside the Islamist-leaning Operation Dawn in the Warshefana area. Meanwhile, Sheikh Mohammed al-Kilani, the controversial Islamist congressman from Zawiya, was reportedly killed in fighting between Warshefana and Dawn forces. [Libya Herald, 9/16/2014]

Businessmen boycott Egyptian and Emirati products
A number of shop owners in Jalu in Libya’s Wahat region have reportedly stopped selling products imported from Egypt or the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in protest against those countries’ interference in Libyan politics. It is unclear how many businesses plan to join such a boycott or how long it may last. The state news agency said that local businesses were seeking alternatives to food products imported from Egypt, but given the reliance on produce from the neighboring country, that is unlikely to change in the short run. Meanwhile, shipping company Safmarine says it will no longer accept cargo heading from the UAE to Libyan ports. The logistics firm provided no reason, but it is possibly a response to the deteriorating security situation in Libya. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 9/17/2014]


Regime airstrikes kill nearly fifty in Homs
At least forty-eight people including rebel fighters have been killed in Syrian government air bombardments around a town in the central province of Homs. Around a dozen fighters and multiple rebel commanders were confirmed killed, in addition to dozens of civilians, including women and children. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the death toll is expected to rise due to the dozens listed as critically injured. [Naharnet, 9/17/2014]

Assad meets with Iraq’s National Security Adviser in Damascus
Iraq’s national security adviser briefed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on efforts to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) on Tuesday, in the first meeting since the United States launched air strikes on the radical group in Iraq. The meeting between Faleh al-Fayad, the Iraqi national security adviser, and Assad indicated that both governments aim to maintain ties, despite adamant opposition from the US government against cooperation with the Syrian regime. The Syrian president, however, affirmed that any anti-ISIS action in Syria must involve his regime, and confront countries that fund armed groups in Iraq and Syria. [Daily Star, 9/17/2014]

Pentagon signals need for ground troops in Iraq; Congress largely back plan
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, raised the possibility on Tuesday that US troops might need to take on a larger role in Iraq’s ground war against Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The General explained that there was no intention to place military advisers on the ground to engage in direct combat, but shifting conditions might require further involvement by ground forces. Indications of additional ground involvement follow signs of congressional approval by US lawmakers on President Obama’s request for additional funding for military training and arms for moderate Syrian rebels. [Asharq al-Awsat, WSJ, AP, 9/17/2014]

ISIS wins new recruits, goes underground in Raqqa
In one of the Islamic State’s first responses to President Obama’s declaration that he would “degrade and ultimately destroy” it, the group released a short video late Tuesday in which it appeared to say that its militants would kill American ground forces should President Obama deploy them. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 162 people had joined ISIS training camps in Aleppo province since September 10, when Obama said he would not hesitate to strike ISIS in Syria. Militants have gone underground in their Syrian stronghold since the speech, disappearing from the streets, redeploying weapons and fighters, and cutting down their media exposure. In the city of Raqqa, 450 km northeast of Damascus, residents say ISIS has been moving equipment every day since September 11. [NYT, Daily Star, 9/17/2014]


Tunisia Promises Secure Elections
Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou reassured Tunisians that there would be no disruption of the legislative vote slated for October 26 and the presidential election in November. The interior minister announced that threats from al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia were being taken seriously and that security forces were well prepared to confront and disrupt any plans to prevent a successful election. [All Africa, 9/17/2014]

PM raises security alert level, calls for heightened security nationwide
Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa raised the national security alert level Tuesday calling for higher vigilance as the country approached elections next month. The prime minister also hinted at the deployment of the national army in urban areas, if the need arises. According to a statement from the prime minister’s office, the decision to increase the security alert level was triggered by the arrest of two prominent terrorism suspects, Mohamed Kamel Gharbi and Khaled Chaieb, following clashes between militants and security forces on the Tunisia-Algeria border. [TAP, 3/14/2014]

Tunisian forces and militants clash near border, two killed
Tunisian police killed two Islamist militants in clashes near the Algerian border, the interior and defense ministries said on Wednesday, after Tunis raised the security alert level before elections next month. Since April, thousands of troops have been deployed in Tunisia’s mountainous Chaambi region on the border with Algeria, where Islamist fighters, some of them linked to al-Qaeda, have taken refuge. Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa said on Tuesday that Tunisian security forces were heightening security across the North African country with special focus in border areas monitoring arms smuggling and Islamist groups. [Reuters, 9/17/2014]


Clashes around Sana’a leave at least twenty dead
Tribal sources reported that at least twenty people were killed as Houthi rebels gained control of the Wadi Dhahr suburb outside Sana’a late Tuesday into Wednesday. Reports also indicated that intense shelling by Houthis in Hamedan continued Wednesday, with the government responding using airstrikes. The clashes on Sana’a’s outskirts took place near the historic Dar al-Hajjar site, a national tourist attraction. More fighting broke out following the airstrikes, and was expected to continue Wednesday. Houthi forces also attempted to deny military police forces entrance into the capital on Wednesday, opening fire on a transport passing through the Hezyaz district. Local sources estimated that four soldiers were killed and several others injured. The uptick in violence outside the capital came after twenty-two people were killed in clashes in Jawf province earlier Tuesday. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 9/17/2014]

Houthi militants prevent engineering teams in Jawf from repairing power lines
The ministry of electricity reported Tuesday that Houthi militants prevented engineering teams from repairing power lines that had been damaged in clashes between militants and government forces. Areas of Sana’a and other neighboring districts remained without power from Monday into Tuesday, as engineering teams were only able to complete an hour’s worth of work. Elsewhere, two suspected al-Qaeda members were reported killed by unidentified gunmen in downtown Rida in Bayda’ province yesterday. Two Houthi gunmen on a motor bike allegedly shot Abdurabbah al-Haddad and Saad al-Kumani and fled the central market. The killing comes two days after tribal leaders and sheikhs set an initiative in place to end violence between Houthi militants and al-Qaeda supporters in Rida.Marib Press (Arabic), 9/16/2014]

Benomar to meet with Abdulmalik al-Houthi
A source in the office of UN Special Adviser on Yemen Jamal Benomar said Wednesday that Benomar will leave the capital and head north to Sa’dah province to meet with Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi. Since last week, Benomar has attempted to negotiate an end to the recently escalated armed clashes between Houthi militants and government forces in Sana’a and around the country. It was believed that both sides were close to signing an agreement last Thursday, but since then fighting on the outskirts of Sana’a and in Jawf province has continued relatively unabated. Benomar’s visit will take place after al-Houthi threatened on Tuesday that the Houthis would set up more protest camps in north Sana’a if an agreement with the government was not reached. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 9/17/2014]


Gulf leaders hint at Qatari-Gulf rapproachment
Gulf states are confident that the diplomatic dispute between Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain will be resolved soon, due to the lead mediating role played by Saudi Arabia. Speaking on the sidelines of a two-day conference in Riyadh, UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Qarqash said that despite the tensions arising from the dispute with Qatar, the gulf states were committed to maintaining regional security and would not allow sectarian politics to endanger their stability. The dispute escalated with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain withdrawing their ambassadors from Doha in March. [Asharq al-Awsat, 9/17/2014]

Iraqi Bishop laments at international response to ISIS, faults leaders for ISIS expansion
A Roman Catholic bishop based in Iraq on Tuesday said international mobilization against Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants in Iraq and Syria had come too late. The Bishop expressed deep frustration in the international response to the militant group saying that ISIS was not a major threat a few months ago but a slumbering international community allowed the organization to grow in strength, and expand its brutality throughout Iraq and Syria. [Naharnet, 9/17/2014]

Emir assures Merkel Qatar doesn’t fund extremists in Syria, Iraq
Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday that his country does not finance any terrorist organizations in Syria or Iraq and has never done so. Merkel said the Emir had assured her his country’s security was also at stake in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants and she had no reason not to believe the Emir. [Reuters, 9/17/2014]

Saudi Arabia’s top clerics speak out against militancy
Saudi Arabia’s top clerical council, the only body in the country authorized to issue fatwas or Islamic legal opinions, declared on Wednesday that terrorism is a heinous crime under sharia, and perpetrators should be aggressively dealt with. The statement, days after Saudi Arabia and other Arab states pledged in Jeddah to combat militant ideology, was the most comprehensive attack the kingdom’s conservative clergy have made so far on Islamist radicalism and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). [Reuters, 9/17/2014]