Top News: Riot Police Force Houthi Protesters Off Airport Road; Hadi Fires Head of Special Forces

Yemeni riot police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse Houthi protesters blocking the road between the capital and Yemen’s main airport on Sunday, in an escalation of weeks of protests. Warplanes also bombed armed Houthi rebels in al-Jawf province, killing thirteen, according to government sources.




Morsi and aides referred to trial on charges of spying for Qatar
The general prosecutor referred Saturday ousted president Mohamed Morsi and nine others to criminal court on new charges of endangering national security by leaking state secrets and sensitive documents to Qatar. The General Prosecution released a statement detailing the accusations. Morsi is accused together with several others, among them the head of his presidential office, Ahmed Abdel Atty, and his personal secretary, Amin al-Serafy, of leaking documents of national security importance to Qatari intelligence through the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news channel. According to the charges, the documents included information about the armed forces, the Egyptian General Intelligence, Egyptian Military Intelligence, the National Security Sector, and Administrative Control Authority. [Mada Masr, Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, The Guardian, Reuters, 9/6/2014]

Islamic State guides Egyptian militants, expanding its influence
The Islamic State has been coaching Egypt’s most dangerous militant group, Reuters reported on Friday. A senior commander from the Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis said the militant group has provided instructions on how to operate more effectively. “They teach us how to carry out operations. We communicate through the internet,” the commander, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters. “They don’t give us weapons or fighters. But they teach us how to create secret cells, consisting of five people. Only one person has contact with other cells.” [Reuters, 9/5/2014]

Ministry of endowments warns against politically affiliated religious NGOs
The Ministry of Religious Endowments said on Saturday that the presence of religious NGOs with a political agenda is considered a threat to the stability of the country. In a statement, the ministry said that the country is currently suffering from “the exploitation of religion for the purposes of political and electoral interests.” The ministry asserted that al-Azhar is the only religious institution, which is constitutionally responsible for Islamic affairs in the country, including Friday sermons, religious lessons in mosques, and “advocating a moderate Islamic rhetoric.” The ministry also advised that NGOs should focus on social, development, and humanitarian fields. [DNE, 9/6/2014]

Egypt to hold donor conference in February, says planning minister
Egypt will hold an economic summit in February to attract foreign investment in an economy battered by years of political turmoil. The unemployment rate in Egypt is 13.4 percent, up from 9 percent in 2010, and 60 percent of youth are unemployed. Officials forecast economic growth at just 3.2 percent in the fiscal year that began July 1, well below levels needed to create enough jobs for a rapidly growing population and ease widespread poverty. A successful conference might enable the government to push through reforms needed to reach agreement with the IMF, and an IMF deal could then improve confidence among foreign investors. [Reuters, 9/8/2014]


Twelve killed in clashes west of Tripoli, says doctor
Twelve people were killed and ten wounded in clashes between rival armed groups near Tripoli, a doctor said on Sunday. Operation Dawn, an alliance of armed groups mainly from Misrata, seized Tripoli last month and have been trying to capture the tribal Warshefana area that is allied to the Zintanis. Meanwhile, in Benghazi, clashes erupted between former general Khalifa Haftar’s forces and Islamist fighters, as the latter try to wrest control of Benghazi’s civilian and military airport. As violence escalates in Libya, the Vietnamese have evacuated nearly a hundred of their last remaining nationals. [Reuters, 9/7/2014]

Rights group says militias committed ‘war crimes’
In its report issued on Monday, Human Rights Watch accused warring militias in Libya of committing war crimes over the last few weeks during a battle to control the Tripoli airport. The violence has been the worst the country has seen since the 2011 civil war, displacing some 100,000 Libyans. The report said both sides have committed serious violations, including attacking civilians, indiscriminate bombardment, looting, and even carrying out reprisals against civilians backing their rivals after. [AP, 9/8/2014]

Sudan denies supporting any warring factions in Libya
Sudan has denied supporting any of the warring militias in Libya after forces there seized a Sudanese airplane loaded with ammunition. According to a statement, Libya’s government accused Sudan of supporting “terrorist groups” in Libya with weapons from the aircraft. They said the move “breached its national sovereignty.” A spokesman of the Sudanese armed forces told a local television station that the plane was meant to supply joint Libyan-Sudanese forces operating on the country’s shared border. [Ahram Online/AP, 9/8/2014]

Rival al-Hassi government sworn in
Libya now effectively has two governments—one in Tripoli and another in the east—as members of Omar al-Hassi’s cabinet were sworn in by the second deputy president of the resurrected General National Congress. It is unclear whether al-Hassi’s government can wield any effective power. It has the support of the Islamist Operation Dawn and the city of Misrata, as well as some other towns in the western part of the country. An Egyptian initiative to resolve Libya’s current crisis was on the agenda of the recent Arab League meeting, but the topic received little attention and the body did not issue a statement. [Libya Herald, 9/7/2014]


Obama to articulate strategy to defeat ISIS in national address Wednesday
President Barack Obama will lay out plans this week for expanding the US military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or Islamic State), including the possibility of air strikes inside Syria. In meetings with members of Congress on Tuesday Obama is expected to press for quick authorization for his proposed $500 million to arm and train Syrian rebels, and in a speech to the country on Wednesday the president plans to spell out action to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the militant group. He will also detail his plan for an international coalition that will include allies in Europe and the Middle East–to this end Defense Secretary Hegel was in Ankara on Monday. Obama specified that the coalition’s mission was only to target ISIS, not the Assad regime. US officials suggested the mission might take up to three years. [WSJ, NBC, NYT, 9/7/2014]

Arab states vow to confront ISIS, cooperate with international efforts
Arab League foreign ministers agreed on Sunday to take all necessary measures to confront ISIS and cooperate with international, regional, and national efforts to combat militants who have overrun swathes of Iraq and Syria. The Arab League also endorsed in the closing statement of its meeting in Cairo a UN Security Council resolution passed last month calling on member states to “act to suppress the flow of foreign fighters, financing, and other support to Islamist extremist groups in Iraq and Syria”. Despite expectations, the final text did not directly endorse either the Iraqi or US campaign against ISIS, but diplomatic sources said the wording clearly offered Arab cooperation to US and Iraqi efforts and could be read as a tacit agreement to back Washington’s campaign against the group. [Reuters, 9/7/2014]

Regime air strikes on ISIS positions kill at least sixty civilians
Government warplanes killed at least sixty civilians including a dozen children in two days of air strikes on ISIS-held territory over the weekend. The death toll included forty-one killed during air strikes on Saturday that hit a bakery run by ISIS in their stronghold of Raqqa city. Another nineteen civilians were killed in the eastern Deir Ezzor province, which borders Iraq. [Reuters, NYT, 9/8/2014]

New UN rights chief warns of “house of blood” in Iraq, Syria
Jordan’s Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, the first Muslim to serve as the UN human rights chief, urged world powers on Monday to protect women and minorities targeted by ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria. He said that the fighters were trying to create a “harsh, mean-spirited, house of blood, where no shade would be offered, nor shelter given, to any non-Takfiri in their midst.” [Reuters, 9/8/2014]


Tunisia’s main Islamist party to stay out of presidential election
Tunisia’s main Islamist party, Ennahda, said on Sunday it would not contest a presidential election in November, in the interest of ensuring an inclusive government for all Tunisians. “We want to send a positive message to the Tunisian people and politicians … We do not want to dominate all contests, especially since Ennahda will feature strongly in the parliamentary election next month,” party spokesman Zied Ladhari said. The decision not to contest the presidential election will reinforce speculation that Ennahda could try to form a coalition government with Nida Tounes – something that Nida Tounes head Beji Caid Essebsi has said he would be open to if the election fails to produce a clear winner. [Reuters, 9/8/2014]

Tunisia unveils economic program; promises subsidy, tax, and education reforms
Tunisia, on Monday, presented an ambitious but realistic and achievable economic program to its international donors and partners at the international conference “Invest in Tunisia: Start-up Democracy.” Officials expressed their commitment to reforming the tax system, consolidating budget revenues, fighting tax evasion, and improving governmental transparency. The 2014-2018 program is aimed at controlling public spending, reviving growth and employment, and improving regional and international cooperation on trade and investment. [TAP, 9/8/2014]

Foreign ministry welcomes release of Algerian diplomats kidnapped in Mali
The foreign ministry welcomed, Saturday, the release of the two Algerian diplomats kidnapped in 2012 in northern Mali. The ministry sent its condolences to the Algerian government for the death of two other hostages, and vowed to support all efforts aimed at fighting terrorism at the regional and international scale. [All Africa, 9/8/2014]


Riot police force Houthi protesters off airport road; Hadi fires head of special forces
Yemeni riot police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse Houthi protesters blocking the road between the capital and Yemen’s main airport on Sunday, in an escalation of weeks of protests. Warplanes also bombed armed Houthi rebels in al-Jawf province, killing thirteen, according to government sources. On Sunday morning, they set up tents blocking the main road to Sana’a airport and the interior ministry. The government’s use of tear gas is the most decisive response to the protesters. Houthi representatives said several protesters had suffered from tear gas inhalation. A video posted on YouTube appears to show armed Houthi protesters facing off with riot police. Iran’s foreign ministry denied a suggestion by President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi that Iran was helping to incite the turmoil. A security official said the action against the protesters was “flustered” and the move did not appear well coordinated with the government. Rebel leaders had criticized the decision to disperse their sit-in, calling the decision “foolish.” Hadi fired his head of special forces on Monday over the botched dispersal, replacing General Fadl al-Qawsi with acting commander Mohamed Mansour al-Ghadra. [Reuters, Yemen Post, Al Masdar, Marib Press (Video), AP, 9/8/2014]

Yemen’s main oil pipeline attacked, pumping halted
Tribesmen attacked Yemen’s main oil export pipeline on Monday, halting the flow of crude. Saboteurs blew up the pipeline near the Wadi Abida production field in central Marib province. The state-run Safer oil company owns the pipeline, which leads to the Red Sea. A Yemeni oil official speaking off the record said the line could be repaired in one or two days if tribesmen allowed it. In December, Yemen said oil was being pumped through the pipeline at a rate of around 70,000 barrels per day (bpd). The pipeline used to carry around 110,000 bpd of Marib light crude to Ras Isa on the Red Sea. [Reuters, Al Masdar, 9/8/2014]

Hadi meets Constitution Drafting Committee members
President Hadi urged on Sunday members of the Constitution Drafting Committee to accelerate drafting the initial formulation of the constitution to be put for a referendum in order to hold parliamentary and presidential elections. The president reviewed with them the latest developments on the ground along with efforts made to handle repercussions of the current crisis. [SABA, 9/7/2014]

Saudi mission leaves Yemen amid rebels’ escalation
Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Abdul Latif al-Zayani warned on Sunday against the continuation of the current escalation in the capital Sana’a that could hinder the political process in Yemen. The Saudi diplomatic mission left Yemen that day as Houthis escalated their protests inside Sana’a. Well-informed sources said Saudi diplomats were ordered by the Saudi foreign ministry to leave the country as a precaution amid fears of further chaos and Houthi escalation. The Yemeni government accuses Iran of attempting to derail the transition process and destabilize the country through supporting the Houthi rebels, who have been fighting the army and tribal foes for months, though they remain part of the political reconciliation. [SABA, Yemen Post, 9/7/2014]


Obama outlines strategy on crushing ISIS; Arab leaders extend their support
US President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with congressional leaders on Tuesday to outline his plan to combat Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham militants (ISIS). The meeting will follow a convention of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo where Arab League chief Nabil al-Araby said that what is needed from Arab countries is a “clear and firm decision for a comprehensive confrontation” with “cancerous and terrorist” groups. The decision comes after NATO leaders agreed on a joint coalition to confront and defeat the jihadist group during last week’s NATO conference in Wales. [Al Arabiya News, AP, 9/8/2014

Lebanese government talking with Hezbollah to ease tension
The Lebanese government is in touch with Hezbollah to ease tensions after the beheading of a second Lebanese soldier at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-sham (ISIS), the interior minister said. Dozens took to the streets in outrage after ISIS announced Saturday evening that it had executed a second Lebanese soldier, Abbas Medlej, a Shia from the eastern city of Baalbek. An additional twenty-two soldiers and a policeman remain in the custody of ISIS and Nusra Front militants after deadly clashes erupted between the Lebanese army and jihadist militants in the Bekaa Valley border town of Arsal. [The Daily Star, 9/8/2014]

Lebanon village asks Syrian refugees to evacuate camp in 48 hours
The municipality of Borj al-Shamali in the southern district of Tyre gave Syrian refugees on Monday a forty-eight hour ultimatum to evacuate their tents and leave the town or bear the consequences. Mayor Ali Dib said the measure was in light of health and security concerns, saying the municipality also sought to get rid of random refugee settlements. There has been growing resentment by the Lebanese people against the refugees given the recent developments in the country, most notably the abduction of a number of soldiers and policemen by Islamists from the northeastern town of Arsal in August. [The Daily Star, 9/8/2014]

Kurds to hold final meeting on joining new Iraqi government
Iraq’s Kurdish political bloc is heading back to Iraqi Kurdistan for a final meeting on Monday to decide whether to participate in the next national government, the Kurds’ top negotiator Hoshyar Zebari said. Zebari, who is also Iraq’s outgoing foreign minister, said the Kurds want to participate in the national government, but until now the National Alliance—the coalition of Iraq’s Shia political majority—has failed to make substantive concessions. Tensions between Baghdad and Irbil remain high as Kurdistan officials maintain the Kurdistan Regional Government’s right to export oil independently. [Asharq al-Awsat, Reuters, 9/8/2014]