Top News: Progress Made in Talks Between Government and Houthis

Reports Thursday afternoon suggested progress in talks between the government and Houthi protesters, with the government allegedly agreeing with the Houthi leadership to roll back fuel subsidy reform by twelve percent and to possibly form a new government.

Members of both sides have issued conflicting statements, with a government official claiming both sides had signed an agreement and Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdusalam writing on his Facebook page that no agreement had been signed. Abdulmalik al-Ijri, a spokesperson for the Houthi political bureau, said that some “small issues” require settling. A diplomatic source claimed that while neither side had signed an agreement, both were issuing statements to ease political tensions amongst their respective constituencies.



Seven Egyptian parties join hunger strike for release of political prisoners
Seven Egyptian political parties have said they will temporarily join an ongoing hunger strike by activists both inside and outside prison which demands the release of those detained in what they say is a bid to curtail freedoms won during the 2011 revolution. According to a statement published on the Facebook page of the Freedom for the Brave campaign, the Dostour, Karama, Social Democratic, Popular Socialist Alliance, Egypt Freedom, Popular Current and Bread and Freedom parties announced a symbolic nationwide hunger strike on Saturday. They are also calling for the amendment of the protest law. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, Shorouk (Arabic), 9/12/2014]

Egypt finance minister says funding gap estimated at $11 billion
Minister of Finance Hany Dimian noted that the Egyptian economy is suffering from a funding gap of around $10-11 billion necessary to increase the growth rate up to at least 5-6 percent in order to create enough jobs to reduce unemployment significantly. Dimian said the government working to bridge this funding gap through business and investment reforms to increase Egyptian exports and restore the flow of tourism to normal levels. [Al-Mal (Arabic), 9/12/2014]

Foreign minister says Egypt won’t be part of US alliance against ISIS
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Thursday that it is not logical to mobilize international resources to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) when Egypt is prevented from accessing these resources while fighting a similar enemy internally. Shoukry’s remarks came as a part of an international conference held in Saudi Arabia to discuss international and regional cooperation to combat terrorism in the Middle East. A statement issued after the conference, however, said “The participating states agreed to do their share in the comprehensive fight.” Egypt was mentioned in the final communique, whereas another participating country, Turkey, was not. Meanwhile, the Salafi Call issued a statement rejecting any form of foreign intervention in Arab nations, under what it described as a pretext of fighting terrorism. [DNE, Mada Masr, SIS, 9/12/2014]

Muslim Brotherhood’s lawyer sentenced to one year in jail
The Cairo Criminal Court sentenced on Thursday the Muslim Brotherhood’s lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maqsoud for insulting supreme constitutional court judges. Abdel Maqsoud was released on bail pending trial in another case two weeks ago. The court accused Abdel-Maqsoud along with lawyer Nasser al-Hafi of insulting the judges of the supreme constitutional court following the court’s verdict to dissolve the People’s Assembly in June 2012 after ruling that the election was unconstitutional, and one third of the winners were illegitimate. [Ahram Online, 9/12/2014]


Ansar al-Sharia withdraws from Benghazi positions as Operation Dignity forces enter
Ansar al-Sharia and its allies appear to be quietly withdrawing from a number of their positions in Benghazi in apparent anticipation of an imminent Operation Dignity counter-offensive. Similarly, Benghazi’s Revolutionary Shura Council, the coalition of Islamist and Islamist-leaning forces in the city, has vacated a defense ministry building in the eastern city, removing a banner proclaiming its presence. Operation Dignity troops are reportedly moving in, with a large convoy seen rolling into the eastern outskirts of Benghazi. A commander added that close to 1,000 Tebu troops had arrived from the south to bolster their forces, much higher than the originally reported 300. [Libya Herald, 9/11/2014]

GNC makes justification for forming government
The General National Congress (GNC) has released a statement attempting to justify the formation of a “national salvation” government, saying that “political and the on-the-ground realities” necessitated the move. It claimed the House of Representative meetings were against the constitutional declaration and that the handing-over of powers to the new authority had not been completed. The statement added that the House’s relocation from Tripoli to Tobruk left a vacuum in the country and that the GNC decided to respond to “calls from the public” and form a “national salvation” government. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 9/12/2014]

Algeria rejects intervention in Libya; Thinni denies Egypt, UAE behind airstrikes
The Algerian government has emphatically rejected international intervention in Libya but says it is working in partnership with Libya’s neighbors to launch a national dialogue between warring factions. According to reports, Algeria is looking to work with Turkey and Qatar to enable the Muslim Brotherhood to deal with more radical Islamists. France, the United States, and Egypt are also reportedly asking Algeria for help in cracking down on the militants. France’s chief of staff is due in Algiers on Saturday for talks, and it is widely believed that Libya will be a main subject of discussion, particularly after calls by the French defense minister for international action. Meanwhile, Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni rejected claims that Egypt or the UAE were involved in the recent Tripoli airstrikes, saying there was no evidence. [Libya Herald, 9/11/2014]

House of Representatives sacks ambassadors to Turkey and Jordan
The House of Representatives has dismissed Libya’s ambassadors to Turkey and Jordan and called seven others to Tobruk in what appears to be cleaning house as the loyalty of some of the diplomats has been called into question. The ambassador to Jordan accepted an appointment as foreign affairs minister in the rival cabinet of Omar al-Hassi, prompting Mohamed Abdulaziz, foreign affairs minister in Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni’s cabinet, to dismiss him from his post in Jordan and strip him of diplomatic immunity. The House has also reportedly summoned the ambassador to Egypt to hear from him about the thousands of Libyans stranded in Egypt. [Libya Herald, 9/11/2014]


Regime air raids near Damascus kill forty-two, including seven children
Syrian government air raids on a rebel-held area near Damascus killed forty-two people, including seven children, a monitoring group said Friday. Thursday’s air strikes were carried out in Douma, a satellite suburb northeast of the capital that has been under siege for more than a year. Among those killed were an unspecified number of rebels. Elsewhere, the army announced that it had taken control of the area of Halfaya in the central province of Hama. [Naharnet, 9/12/2014]

United States pledges nearly $500m aid for people, nations hit by Syria war
US Secretary of State John Kerry announced nearly $500 million in humanitarian aid for people and countries hit by Syria’s civil war. The aid package includes more than $250 million “to assist refugees and host communities in the neighboring countries affected by the crisis,” Kerry said in a statement released Friday. [Reuters, 9/12/2014]

Gen. Allen to coordinate effort against ISIS; CIA triples estimate on ISIS
John R. Allen, the retired Marine general who served as the top American commander in Afghanistan, has been picked by the Obama administration to coordinate the international effort against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or Islamic State). During the war in Iraq, Gen. Allen served as the deputy Marine commander in Anbar Province, strengthening relationships with Sunni tribes and nurturing the Awakening movement. On Thursday, the CIA said ISIS now has about 20,000 to 31,500 fighters on the ground, much higher than a previous estimate of 10,000. Among those in Syria are 15,000 foreign fighters including 2,000 Westerners, some of whom have joined ISIS. [NYT, 9/11/2014]


Electoral lists draw criticism ahead of legislative elections
As Tunisia prepares for the October 26 legislative elections, the small number of women at the head of electoral lists is drawing sharp criticism. Several female party leaders expressed concerns on the declining representation of women in the next parliament if their concerns are not addressed. The current number of women in parliament stands at sixty-six but female party leaders have in recent months pushed for an equal number of men and women in party leadership positions. [All Africa, 9/11/2014]

Trade deficits worsen in the first half of 2014
The National Statistic Institute (INS) released on Friday a new report indicating a worsening trade deficit in the first eight months of 2014. The report highlighted a drop in the coverage of imports by exports of about 4.5 points, dropping the coverage rate from 70.6 percent in 2013, to 66.1 percent in 2014. Tunisia’s trade deficit worsened to 9,408 million Tunisian dinars (MTD) in the first eight months of 2014, from 7,668.9 MD, in the same period of 2013.[All Africa, 9/12/2014]

Pope Francis praises new ratified constitution, defends religious freedom
President Moncef Marzouki traveled Friday to the Vatican where he met with Pope Francis and several other vatican officials. The Pope showed great interest in Tunisia’s social and political transition following its 2011 revolution, and praised the 2014 constitution. According to the presidential statement, Pope Francis praised Tunisia’s leaders for ratifying a constitution that protects the freedom of belief and conscience for all citizens. The Pope also condemned the attack on Iraqi Christians perpetrated by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), stressing that the group does not represent the teachings of Islam, which advocates coexistence between Muslims and Christians. [Tunisia Live, 9/12/2014]


Progress made in talks between government and Houthis
Reports Thursday afternoon suggested progress in talks between the government and Houthi protesters, with the government allegedly agreeing with the Houthi leadership to roll back fuel subsidy reform by twelve percent and to possibly form a new government. Members of both sides have issued conflicting statements, with a government official claiming both sides had signed an agreement and Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdusalam writing on his Facebook page that no agreement had been signed. Abdulmalik al-Ijri, a spokesperson for the Houthi political bureau, said that some “small issues” require settling. A diplomatic source claimed that while neither side had signed an agreement, both were issuing statements to ease political tensions amongst their respective constituencies. [Al Jazeera, 9/11/2014]

Seven killed in Amran blasts; US drone strike kills five al-Qaeda leaders
After an early initial blast reportedly killed two people at a protest march in Amran Thursday, Houthi protesters were targeted by two more explosions that killed an additional five people and injured twelve others. The explosions took place at different points along the protest route, and security forces are asking for help in locating and identifying the culprits. Elsewhere, reported US drone strike killed five Al-Qaeda leaders in Shabwa governorate, according to a military source. The leaders included a Saudi national called Saif al-Shihry, in addition to Abdullah Ahmed Salem Mobarak (also known as Abu Habbah), Abu Khalid al-Awlaqi, Abu Ka’ab and Sa’oud al-Daghary. A local source said that the strike killed the men as they traveled by car between the towns of Bihan and Asilan. [Akhbar al-Yemen (Arabic), 9/11/2014]

President Hadi meets with GCC envoy and members of Democratic Alliance
President Hadi met with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) envoy to Yemen Saleh Abdul Aziz al-Qanaeer and Director of the GCC Office in Yemen Saad al-Arifi on Thursday. President Hadi praised the GCC’s role in helping Yemen to navigate the challenges facing the country since 2011 and brokering the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) outcomes. However, he warned that Yemen now faces new challenges that can only be resolved through further dialogue. He also met with members of the Democratic Alliance, a political coalition that offered the president its continued support. The coalition members and the president discussed how implementation of the NDC outcomes is critical for Yemen’s unity and stability and violence, like that which forced the closure of a power plant in Marib on Thursday, must come to an end. [Marib Press (Arabic), 9/11/2014]


US, France announce additional humanitarian aid to Lebanon
The United States announced an additional $103.8 million in humanitarian aid for Lebanon to help the country cope with the impact of the Syrian crisis, while France committed 7 million euros to the International Support Group for Lebanon Fund. With this donation, Washington will have contributed $588.8 million to help Lebanon with the refugee crisis since 2012. Unlimited support for Lebanon’s security and humanitarian needs was also pledged by EU Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst, who led a delegation of EU envoys at a meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam. [The Daily Star, 9/11/2014]

France to join anti-ISIS air campaign in Iraq
French President François Hollande announced, Friday in Baghdad, that his country will join the US-led airstrikes targeting extremists in Iraq as part of an expanding international effort to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). French airstrikes would likely start in coordination with the United States, but would not include ground troops-a senior French official said Thursday. French government officials, however, insisted that any military action inside Iraq would be at the request of the Iraqi government. [The Daily Star, 9/11/ 2014]

US, Gulf and Arab allies agree on anti-ISIS strategy
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers, as well as representatives from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and the US, issued a joint communique highlighting their shared commitment to combating terrorism and battling the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The regional and international leaders hailed the formation of a new inclusive Iraqi government, vowing to back its efforts to unite the Iraqi people in combatting ISIS. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and US Secretary of State John Kerry held a joint press conference following the regional meeting in which they reiterated the global threat of terrorism and vowed to confront jihadist militancy and ideology throughout the region. [Asharq al-Awsat, 9/11/2014]

Morocco arrests seven jihadist recruiters for IS
Morocco’s interior ministry said on Friday that seven jihadists have been arrested for recruiting fighters to join the ranks of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The suspects were active in the central cities of Fez and Outat El Haj and in Zayou in the north and planned attacks against Morocco itself. The ministry identified the ringleader as a “teacher” and said they had already managed to send several fighters to Iraq and Syria. An independent newspaper reported, however, that nine suspects had been rounded up and that most were street peddlers. Morocco has frequently reported the arrest of jihadists and expressed deep concern about the number of its citizens fighting in Syria and Iraq and about those who have returned to prepare attacks at home. [AFP, 9/12/2014]