Top News: Saudi Arabia deploys 30,000 soldiers to border with Iraq

Saudi Arabia deployed 30,000 soldiers to its border with Iraq after Iraqi soldiers abandoned the area, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said on Thursday, but Baghdad denied the report and said the area remained under its full control.


Bombs explode on anniversary of Morsi’s ouster
On Thursday, Egypt witnessed a series of small-scale bombings on the day that marks the one-year anniversary of former president Mohamed Morsi’s ouster. Two people were killed when a makeshift bomb blew up in the village of Kerdasa near Cairo. The bomb, which detonated almost an hour after dawn in Kerdasa, killed a man who was suspected to have been carrying it, while a suspect injured from the bombing died after his arrest Thursday morning. Hours before the Kerdasa bombing, two bombs went off in Giza’s Imbaba neighborhood. The bombs, which went off minutes apart and targeted police outposts in the neighborhood, caused no injuries. An improvised car bomb also exploded Thursday morning near the Air Force hospital in Cairo’s Abbasiya district. Two young men, suspected to be Muslim Brotherhood members according to preliminary investigations, allegedly drove the car. One of the men was injured in the blast and is currently being investigated by National Security while the other fled. Security sources later denied reports of another explosion at an Alexandria police station, saying that it was due to a short circuit. Security sources also denied reports of an explosion in Sharm al-Sheikh. [Aswat Masriya, DNE, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, AP, AMAY (Arabic), 7/3/2014]

“Catastrophic decline in human rights” after Morsi’s ouster, says Amnesty
Amnesty International announced Thursday that widespread arrests, deaths in detention, “harrowing” accounts of torture, and forced disappearances signal a “catastrophic decline” in human rights during the year after Mohamed Morsi’s ouster. The statement notes that at least 16,000 people have been detained, torture and ill-treatment remain “unabated”, and fair trial standards are routinely flouted. Amnesty also cited WikiThawra, an initiative run by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social rights, saying that at least eighty people died in custody over the past year and more than 40,000 people were detained or indicted between July 2013 and mid-May 2014. Amnesty also denounced Egypt’s “grossly unfair trials,” saying that Egypt’s criminal justice system has recommended the death penalty for 1,247 men and upheld death sentences against 247 individuals since January 2014. [Aswat Masriya, DNE, 7/3/2014]

Egypt starts implementing capital gains tax
Egypt started implementing a new capital gains tax on Wednesday in a bid to increase the country’s sources of revenue following more than three years of economic and political turmoil. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi passed the law on Tuesday, imposing a 10 percent tax on capital gains and stock dividends. The finance ministry had initially set an annual tax-free limit of 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,400) on cash dividend payments for individual residents in Egypt but the tax was watered down last month after news of it caused the stock market to record its biggest daily drop in almost a year. [Reuters, 7/3/2014]

Mahlab forms committee to demarcate governorate borders
Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab formed a committee on Wednesday tasked with modifying the borders of Egypt’s governorates, as proposed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during his presidential campaign. The committee will be headed by Local Development Minister Adel Labib and will include the Chairman of the General Organization for Urban Planning, the Director of the National Center for the State Land Utilization, the Director of the Military Survey and the Chairman of the General Survey Organization. It will be tasked with developing the proposed presidential decree regarding the division of governorates and the process of launching a new governorate and moving areas from one governorate to another. [Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, SIS, 7/2/2014]


Libya declares oil crisis over after state reclaims ports
Libya’s acting Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni declared the end of the oil crisis, saying the government had reached a deal with rebel leader Ibrahim Jadhran, who will hand over the last two oil terminals and end a blockade that has crippled the country’s petroleum industry. Jadhran told reporters that he had handed over the ports as a “goodwill gesture” to the new parliament. With the latest agreement, the two major eastern oil terminals could make around 500,000 more barrels a day of crude available for export, boosting the Libyan government’s revenues. Shipments may still face technical delays, but for the time being world oil fell below $112 a barrel on a possible substantial recovery in Libyan exports. [Reuters, 7/2/2014]

Government creates new department to counter illegal immigration
The government has established an anti-illegal immigration department within the interior ministry to deal with the problem of human smuggling and other related issues. The new department will be headquartered in Tripoli with branches in areas where illegal immigration is most prevalent. The government says the decision ensures a more coordinated policy in fighting illegal immigration. In addition to establishing a database of individuals currently held in illegal immigration detention centers, border patrols will be increased as a means to gather intelligence and crack down on organized criminal groups managing the trafficking. [Libya Herald, 7/2/2014]

Foreign ministry “in disarray”; Political infighting cited as the cause
The Libyan foreign ministry is said to be in disarray after an armed group took over last Thursday, ordering staff to go home. Top staff continue to stay away out of fear they will be attacked. It was initially reported that the gunmen were from the Libya Revolutionary Operations Room (LROR) and that their objective was to defend the Political Isolation Law, as the Supreme Court was due to rule on its constitutional validity. The LROR has denied occupying the ministry. It appears that there may have been a power struggle within the ministry, with the armed group supporting one official in a disagreement with another colleague. [Libya Herald, 7/2/2014]


ISIS seizes Syria’s largest oil field; Now controls key water supplies
Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS; also known as IS) seized control of Syria’s largest oil field al-Omar from rival rebel fighters at on Thursday, strengthening its advance across the eastern Deir Ezzor province. Nusra Front, Syria’s al-Qaeda wing, had previously been in control of the field. “All towns and villages on the route from Albu Kamal [on the Iraq border] to al-Bab [in Aleppo province], passing through Raqqa province [on the Turkish border], are now under ISIS control,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Powerful tribes in the border region have reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS. Influential jihadi thinkers expressed concern over ISIS’ overreaching. Perhaps more strategic than oil, ISIS now control most of the key upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates, the two great rivers that flow from Turkey and on which all Iraq and much of Syria depends for food, water, and industry. [Reuters, 7/3/2014]

Moderate rebels threaten to quit fight against ISIS unless support arrives
Rebels from northern and eastern Syria on Wednesday threatened to lay down their arms in a week if the country’s exiled opposition does not help them fight ISIS. “We, the leaders of the brigades and battalions… give the National Coalition, the interim government, the Supreme Military Council, and all the leading bodies of the Syrian revolution a week to send reinforcements and complete aid,” the statement said. “Should our call not be heard, we will lay down our weapons and pull out our fighters.” [AFP, 7/2/2014]

UN sees no let-up of refugees entering Jordan
The United Nations said Thursday that it sees no let-up in refugees fleeing war-ravaged Syria for neighboring Jordan, and appealed for funds to help the kingdom cope with the influx. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said it expects the number of refugees in Jordan to increase by as much as 33 percent to up to 800,000 by the end of this year. The agency said Jordan was in desperate need of $2.6 billion to care for the refugees. [AFP, AP, 7/3/2014]

Pentagon says transfer of chemical weapons complete
A specially equipped US vessel, the Cape Ray, loaded toxic chemicals from a Dutch transport ship at an Italian port on Wednesday for destruction at sea. It is the latest phase of an operation to remove and destroy about 1,300 tons of Syrian chemical weapons, including mustard gas and raw materials for the nerve agent sarin. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a statement that the “transloading took place without incident,” and that the neutralization of the material would take about sixty days. [Reuters, NYT, AFP, 7/3/2014]


Land mine kills four Tunisian soldiers
Tunisia’s defense ministry says four soldiers were killed by a mine in the mountainous northwest of the country near the Algerian border. Military spokesman Tawfik Rahmouni said the soldiers were pursuing radical Islamist militants on Mount Ouergha in the Kef region when the blast happened on Wednesday. On Tuesday, another makeshift bomb exploded, wounding four soldiers and two policemen. [AP, 6/2/2014]

UGTT protests unemployment and police violence in Skhira
The Skhira branch of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) organized a strike Wednesday in the city’s industrial zone. Initially planned as a three-day protest, the strike was ultimately limited to one day. “The strike aims to support the right to employment and to protest against the National Guard’s savage intervention to disperse the sit-in of unemployed people,” said Ali Zefzef, deputy secretary general of UGTT Skhira (Sfax governorate). On Wednesday, the industrial zone was nearly paralyzed, except for some shops, private organizations, and emergency services. [Tunisia Live, 6/3/2014]

Supplementary Finance Law 2014 adopted
The Supplementary Budget Law for the year 2014 was adopted at a cabinet meeting held yesterday evening. Government spokesman Nidhal Ouerfelli announced that the draft budget law will be submitted July 4 to the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) for adoption. Ouerfelli said the objective is to reduce the budget deficit from 6.9 percent to 5.2 percent, as well as accelerating the implementation of structural economic reforms. [L’Economiste Maghrébin (French), TAP, 6/3/2014]

Legal investigation into presumed involvement of Tunisians in crimes in Iraq opened
The public prosecutor at the Tunis Court of First Instance decided to initiate a legal investigation into the presumed involvement of Tunisians in crimes in Iraq, pursuant to provisions of article 31 of the code of criminal procedure. This announcement follows a call by international rights group Human Rights Watch for Tunisia to launch an investigation into allegations of war crimes committed in Syria and Iraq by Tunisian combatants. Lotfi Ben Jeddou, Tunisia’s interior minister, said there are at least 2,400 Tunisian jihadists fighting in Syria, most fighting with ISIS. [TAP, 6/2/2014]


Clashes in al-Dhale governorate result in six deaths
Clashes between Yemen’s army and armed militants in al-Dhale governorate resulted in six deaths. Local sources say the army shelled densely-populated civilian areas in Sanah, which resulted in the death of a child. Clashes erupted after armed militants targeted a vehicle belonging to the brigade. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 6/3/2014]

Local insurgents attack government complex in Rada’
Armed militants attacked a government complex in Rada’ district on Thursday, including the governors’ home. The defense ministry announced that it had killed two militants, but failed to capture the rest following the attack. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 6/3/2014]

Houthi rebel movements continue in Darwan governorate
Violent clashes erupted on Wednesday between Houthi rebels and the army after Houthi militants attempted to infiltrate an army post in Darwan. According to local sources, clashes lasted two hours, wounding three officers and killing six Houthi rebels. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 6/3/2014]


A new challenge to Maliki emerges from the Shia south
Security forces backed by helicopters battled supporters of a radical cleric in the Shia holy city of Karbala on Wednesday. The clashes erupted when the security forces tried to seize the offices of Shia cleric Mahmoud al-Sarkhi, who has sharply criticized the government. Separately, Maliki on Wednesday offered an amnesty to Sunni tribesmen who have joined the insurgency, illustrating his latest attempt to regain control. [Washington Post, 7/3/2014]

Saudi Arabia deploys 30,000 soldiers to border with Iraq
Saudi Arabia deployed 30,000 soldiers to its border with Iraq after Iraqi soldiers abandoned the area, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said on Thursday, but Baghdad denied this and said the area remained under its full control. The Iraqi prime minister’s military spokesman denied the forces had withdrawn stating that the claims were “false news aimed at affecting the morale of our people and the morale of our heroic fighters.” [Reuters, 7/3/2014]

Royal decree prevents religious leaders from participating in politics in Morocco
The king of Morocco has signed a royal decree preventing religious leaders from participating in any form of political activity. The decree calls on all those who work in Morocco’s religious institutions to display “characteristics of poise, righteousness, and prowess,” and prevents them from “practicing any activity” that seeks financial gain in the public and private sectors “unless there is a written license from the government.” [Al Arabiya, 7/3/2014]

Protests in Kuwait demanding the release of an opposition leader
Kuwaiti police fired teargas and stun grenades to disperse an opposition rally demanding the release of prominent dissident Mussallam al-Barrak, activists said on Thursday. Thousands of people gathered at Barrak’s residence southwest of Kuwait City on Wednesday night and marched toward the jail where the former opposition leader was detained. Smaller protests were also reportedly staged in other parts of the country. [Naharnet,7/3/2014]