Top News: Russian Jet Shot Down Near Syria-Turkey Border

On Tuesday, Turkey shot down a Russian fighter plane it claims violated its airspace. Russian President Vladimir Putin called Turkey’s action a “stab in the back by the terrorists’ accomplices,” and warned of “significant consequences.” Russia insists the plane stayed over Syria, where it was supporting ground action against rebels over the Turkmen Mountain region in Syria’s Latakia province. At Turkey’s request, NATO’s governing body called an emergency meeting. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu insisted his country has the right to take “all kinds of measures” against border violations and called on the international community to work toward “extinguishing the fire that is burning in Syria.” Dozens of people have gathered outside the Russian consulate in Istanbul to protest Russian operations in Turkmen regions of Syria. The protesters chanted, “Turkmen brothers are not alone” and “Killer Russia, get out of Syria.” [AP, 11/24/2015]



Russian Defense Minister heads delegation to Cairo to discuss military cooperation
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived in Cairo Monday night for a two-day visit to discuss military cooperation with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Shoigu is heading a delegation of twenty-six officials who were welcomed by Egyptian Minister of Defense and Military Production Sedki Sobhi. The delegation will discuss developments in the region concerning Yemen, Libya, and Syria where Russia is now conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). Also on Monday, Egypt’s Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal met with the chairman of Russia’s investigative committee Alexander Bastrykin and the head of the international committee tasked with the investigation of the crash of a Russian airliner in central Sinai on October 31. According to a Civil Aviation Ministry statement, the two sides discussed how to best proceed with the investigation while exchanging technical information relating to the crash. The statement also said Bastrykin praised the efforts to step up security procedures at all Egyptian airports. [Ahram Online, DNE, AMAY, SIS, 11/24/2015]

Four dead in North Sinai militant attacks on hotel hosting judges
Four people—a judge, a prosecutor, and two security personnel—were killed Tuesday, and fourteen injured in North Sinai’s al-Arish during attacks on a hotel where judges supervising the ongoing parliamentary polls were residing. The Armed Forces confirmed in a statement that a judge and two police conscripts were killed; the Justice Ministry said that prosecutor Amr Mostafa was also among those killed. The injured included twelve policemen and two civilians. Sinai State, Egypt’s Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) affiliate, claimed responsibility for the attacks. According to a statement from the Egyptian military, a militant tried to drive a car bomb into the hotel before security forces opened fire on him, causing the car to explode. A suicide bomber got inside the kitchen and blew himself up while a gunman got into a room before firing randomly and killing a judge. The statement added that another three militants were killed. Earlier reports stated that three policemen were killed in the attack. On Monday, a woman and a child were also killed in al-Arish, after a bomb, seemingly planted to target police and army forces, exploded as the victims’ donkey cart passed by. [Ahram Online, Reuters, DNE, DW, AMAY, AP, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, Video, The Guardian, 11/24/2015]

Preliminary results: For the Love of Egypt wins all party-based seats
As preliminary results in the second stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections emerge, it appears that the For the Love of Egypt electoral list secured fifteen seats in the East Delta constituency with no competition. It will also likely win forty-five seats belonging to Cairo, Middle and South Delta constituency. For candidates running on an individual basis, most constituencies are witnessing run-offs between candidates. Run-offs are due to take place on December 1 and 2. The Wafd Party secured five seats in the second stage of the parliamentary elections, one seat contested on an individual basis and four seats for Wafd candidates in ‘For the Love of Egypt’ list. Forty-three Wafd candidates will face run-offs on individual seats. The Free Egyptians Party did not secure any seats in the first round, but over forty-candidates are participating in the runoffs. The Nour Party, which continues to blame state tactics for its dismal performance in parliamentary elections, will compete for eight seats. Turnout remained below average on the second day of polls in the second phase of elections, but the cabinet announced it was higher than the first phase. Over 38,000 Egyptian expatriates, or 5.5 percent of eligible voters, cast their votes in the second round of the elections, High Elections Commission (HEC) Spokesperson Omar Marwan announced Monday. The HEC also said it received a total of 212 complaints during the second day of voting, while the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) issued a statement Sunday saying it recorded eighty-nine violations during the first day. [Ahram Online, 11/24/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Warring tribes in southern Libya sign peace deal
Representatives of the Tebu and Tuareg tribes of southern Libya signed a peace agreement in Qatar on Monday, a Qatari official said. The two tribes agreed to a ceasefire and to withdraw armed forces from the flashpoint town of Ubari, the Qatari foreign ministry official said. In July, clashes between the two tribes reached Sebha, the biggest city in southern Libya, forcing hundreds of families to flee their homes. Efforts to negotiate a truce in September were halted because of ceasefire violations. Both sides accuse each other of using mercenaries. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 11/23/2015]

Car bomb kills five at checkpoint east of Libya’s Tripoli
At least five guards allied with the Tripoli-based government in Libya were killed and sixteen others wounded when a car bomb exploded at a checkpoint east of Tripoli, a security source said on Tuesday. There have been no claims of responsibility for the bombing. The source said the bomb targeted the Mislattah checkpoint near Khoms, on the coastal road between Tripoli and Misrata. [Reuters, 11/24/2015]

Tunisian President Essebsi to make state visit to Switzerland November 25-26
President Beji Caïd Essebsi will visit Switzerland on November 25 and 26. During the visit, Essebsi will deliver an address to the Swiss Federal Council and meet with Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga and other high-level Swiss officials. Tunisia and Switzerland will sign a series of bilateral agreements in the areas of political consultation, higher education, the fight against extremism, and the recovery of Tunisian stolen assets frozen in Switzerland. Essebsi will also co-chair with Mrs. Sommaruga a meeting with economic stakeholders and businessmen of both countries with the aim of “developing investment projects and strengthening cooperation in vocational training,” a statement from the Tunisian presidency said. [TAP, 11/23/2015]

Italy expels four Moroccan suspected jihadists
Italy said on Monday it is expelling four Bologna-based Moroccans suspected of promoting jihadism, days after raising its security alert level following the November 13 attacks in Paris. Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano signed expulsion warrants for the four, who he said had been under surveillance for some time. They allegedly used the Internet to circulate jihadist propaganda, manuals on carrying out attacks, and songs celebrating acts of martyrdom. [Reuters, 11/23/2015]


Russian ground troops engage in Syria; Syrian troops seize territory from ISIS
For the first time, Russian ground troops participated in fighting against Syrian opposition forces in the area between the countryside of Latakia and Idlib, capturing a strategic hill without sustaining any injuries or losses, Syrian military sources revealed. According to the sources, “the Kremlin has made a decision to interfere strongly in Syria, a real training arena, to show the Russian strength and weaponry, as [Russian] soldiers have not participated in a real battle for many years.” The sources explained that the Assad regime provided logistical support to Russian forces for the first time in Syria, without the participation of the Syrian army or its allies. In related news, Syrian troops backed by the Russians captured areas from ISIS in the province of Homs. [Syrian Observer, 11/24/2015]

Global watchdog slams ongoing chemical arms use in Syria
The Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) watchdog Monday voiced “grave concern” at the continued use of toxic arms in Syria, calling for those behind such attacks to be held accountable. A special meeting of the UN-backed OPCW met to discuss the findings of three reports after investigations in Syria. The body expressed “grave concern regarding the findings … that chemical weapons have once again been used in the Syrian Arab Republic,” the OPCW said in a statement. The use of such weapons by anyone “is unacceptable and would violate international law … Those individuals responsible for the use of chemical weapons should be held accountable.” The OPCW investigations did not directly blame any of the parties in the four-year civil war. [AFP, 11/23/2015]

US warplanes destroy 283 fuel trucks in Syria
US warplanes have destroyed 283 fuel tankers that were being used to transport oil to fund ISIS in eastern Syria, officials said Monday. The huge air raid is another milestone as the US-led coalition intensifies its campaign against the jihadists and focuses on their oil-smuggling infrastructure, estimated to net the group some $500 million a year. Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said the strike occurred Saturday between Hasaka and Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria. It came less than a week after a similar strike destroyed 116 ISIS fuel trucks. Just as in that earlier case, US jets first conducted a low-flying “show of force” over the trucks, then dropped leaflets telling drivers to flee. The Pentagon says that while the trucks were being used to support the ISIS group, the drivers themselves were not thought to be jihadists. [AFP, 11/23/2015]

Turkey’s new government announced
On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approved a new government led by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, which is composed of several names close to the president including his son-in-law. Davutoglu announced in a news conference after his meeting with Erdogan that Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, was appointed Energy and Natural Resources Minister. The Cabinet includes other politicians known to be close to Erdogan, in a clear indication that the president would retain influence over the government. Mevlut Cavusoglu was re-appointed to the post of foreign minister. The new Cabinet includes only two women who are in charge of the environment and of family affairs. [AP, 11/24/2015]

Iran says US plans to divide Iraq
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday accused the United States of trying to divide Iraq along sectarian and ethnic lines and urged Iraqis to withstand any such plans. Iran’s military advisers are helping direct Baghdad’s campaign against ISIS, while the country has reportedly also provided a number of weapons and funding to Shia militias. It was not clear if Khamenei was referring to a specific incident, but Iran has protested about US policy in Iraq several times this year. Khamenei accused the United States of trying to amplify differences between the Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, and Arabs who “have been living together peacefully.” However, Iran’s backing of Shia militias fighting ISIS has also added to sectarian divisions, as there have been reports of militias looting and attacking Sunni residents in Tikrit. [NYT, 11/24/2015]

For more in-depth Syria news and analysis, please visit SyriaSource.


John Kerry remarks with United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Al Nahyan
In a meeting with Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, John Kerry expressed US respect for the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) significant progress in Yemen. He also said that the United States supports the reasons why Saudi Arabia and the UAE felt compelled to take acts of self-defense and to protect the security of this region. Kerry acknowledged the UAE has made sacrifices in their efforts and respects “what has been achieved, and the values that the UAE is standing up for.” [US State Department, 11/23/2015]

UAE blames Islamists for delay in anti-Houthi operations
UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash blamed Sunni Islamist group al-Islah and the Muslim Brotherhood for the delays in its military operations to expel Houthi rebels from the key southwestern province of Taiz. Gargash tweeted on Sunday that had it not been for the failure of al-Islah and the Muslim Brotherhood to act, Taiz would already have been liberated. The Islamist party al-Islah is a main component of the Popular Resistance which also groups tribesmen, soldiers and southern separatists. The party, highly influential in Taiz, is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which the UAE has banned as a “terror” group. The coalition on Monday intensified airstrikes against the Houthis and coalition jets carried out several strikes against rebels on the outskirts of al-Rahida. Loyalist troops and allied Popular Resistance fighters fired Katyusha rockets and mortar rounds at rebel positions. Pro-government forces have retaken nineteen military positions from the rebels in areas surrounding al-Rahida since the offensive began a week ago. [The Daily Star, 11/24/2015]

Yemeni Foreign Minister says creation of a new Yemeni government “imminent”
Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassin, in an interview with Al Jazeera, said that President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi is considering forming a new Yemeni government. Hadi returned to Yemen last week and met regularly with ministers to try and rebuild his government from the coastal city of Aden. Yassin did not confirm the date for the cabinet change, but said it was imminent as many of the ministers are loyal to the Houthi rebels. He added that of the thirty-six members in government, only seven of them are still working for Hadi. Yassin also said that the opening of the Foreign Ministry in Aden marks the first step of Yemen’s return to normal life. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/24/2015]

Bahrain responds to HRW reports that Bahrain tortures detainees
Bahraini security forces are torturing detainees during interrogation, according to a Human Rights Watch report (HRW). The report also said that institutions set up after 2011 to receive and investigate complaints lack independence and transparency. It concludes that security forces have continued to use torture methods on detainees and Bahraini authorities failed to implement the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI)’s recommendations on torture. The Bahraini government responded that the report was based on a limited number of interviews, including some activists with a political agenda. Bahrain said it was committed to the protection of human rights and that HRW should lodge complaints with the police and Special Investigations Unit, providing them with sufficient information to conduct effective investigations. [HRW, Bahrain News Agency, [11/24/2015]


Former Finance Minister to take charge of economy in new Turkish cabinet
Former Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek will be in charge of the economy as Deputy Prime Minister in a new cabinet in which allies of President Tayyip Erdogan took key posts. “This cabinet has the mission of taking Turkey to a new horizon. This is a heavy responsibility but it has the support of an election victory with an 85 percent participation rate,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Tuesday. A senior Turkish official said that Simsek would take over management of the economy, a post held in the past by Justice and Development Party (AKP) stalwart Ali Babacan. Both men are highly regarded by investors and viewed as counterweights to Erdogan, who has railed against high interest rates and alarmed markets wary of political interference in monetary policy. Media outlets report that the decision to leave Babacan out of the cabinet indicates that “Erdogan [has] put his stamp on the new government.” Former Finance Ministry Undersecretary Naci Agbal and Economist Mustafa Elitas, who are both close to Erdogan, were named Finance and Economy Ministers, respectively. Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, was appointed Energy and Natural Resources Minister. [Reuters, 11/24/2015]

Libya’s Eastern NOC threatens to stop tankers if rival sells through Glencore
The National Oil Corporation (NOC) set up by Libya’s internationally recognized government in Tobruk has threatened to stop any tanker operating on behalf of trading firm Glencore from loading oil at the nation’s ports if the company does business with the rival NOC in Tripoli. Chairman of the eastern NOC Nagi Elmagrabi said that a letter was sent to Glencore seeking confirmation of an agreement for oil sales with the western NOC. Glencore has not responded. Elmagrabi said if Glencore has signed an agreement with the Tripoli NOC, the eastern government could physically prevent Glencore-chartered tankers from using Libyan ports. Spokesman for the western NOC Mohammad Elharari confirmed that a deal had been made with Glencore to help market oil. Under the arrangement, Glencore will load and source buyers for all the Sarir and Messla crude oil exported through the Hariqa terminal. Elmagrabi claimed in October that the Hariqa port was under full control of the Tobruk government. [Bloomberg, The Guardian, Libya Herald, Libya Monitor (subscription), 11/23/2015]

Egyptian businesses urge end to capital controls to ease forex pressures
Businesses say that Egypt’s hard currency shortage is choking trade and industry, spooking foreign investors, and hurting growth. They are urging the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to end restrictions on dollar deposits and move closer to a market exchange rate. In February, outgoing CBE Governor Hisham Ramez imposed restrictions on the amount of dollars companies could deposit in banks to crush a burgeoning black market. Businesspeople say that policy has backfired, making it difficult for companies to open letters of credit to finance imports and worrying potential foreign investors concerned they will be unable to repatriate profits. Incoming CBE Governor Tarek Amer has yet to spell out his plans, but bankers credit him with supplying $1.8 billion in recent weeks to clear a backlog of imports at the country’s ports and with an increase in yields on certificates of deposit in the Egyptian pound. [Reuters, 11/23/2015]

Gulf banks rush to loan market to cope with liquidity squeeze
Gulf banks are rushing to raise money through the loan market by the end of the year as low oil prices squeeze liquidity. At least nine institutions, including from Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Kuwait, are said to be speaking to other banks about raising cash. “It’s gone crazy,” said one source who heads loan syndications at a bank in the region. “It’s not surprising with all the pressure on liquidity but I can’t remember a market like this.” Having enjoyed strong growth on the back of cheap liquidity from governments depositing oil revenues in their accounts, Gulf banks now have to cope with government withdrawals of cash to plug soaring budget deficits. The banks are seeking alternative funding routes, such as the loan market, to fill the gap, but the rates at which they are borrowing are higher than the near-free deposits they received previously. The effect will be more expensive loan rates for retail and corporate borrowers in the Gulf region, which are already showing signs of struggling with existing debts. [Reuters, 11/24/2015]

Egypt to control prices of ten commodities as inflation rises
Egypt will control the prices of ten essential commodities as the country works to keep inflation in check amid a shortage of foreign currency. The list includes livestock and frozen meat, poultry, fish, oils, sugar, rice, beans, corn, soybean, and wheat. A statement from the office of Prime Minister Sherif Ismail did not specify what measures would be taken to keep prices under control. The decision follows a speech earlier this month by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi promising greater state intervention in curbing price rises. The Ministry of Supply recently said Egypt’s grain buyer, the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC), would begin importing a broader array of essential goods to push down prices. GASC launched its first international tender for poultry earlier this month, but pressure from the local poultry industry has made it backtrack on plans to continue tendering, according to traders. [Reuters, 11/23/2015]