Top News: Saudi King Dies

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud died at the age of 90 after suffering from pneumonia. Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, his 79-year-old half-brother, has been confirmed as the new king.

Within hours of his accession to the throne of the oil-rich kingdom, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud vowed to maintain the same policies as his predecessors. [BBC, Al Arabiya, Asharq al-Awsat, Reuters, 1/22/2015]



Egypt announces week of mourning over death of Saudi monarch
The Egyptian presidency declared seven days of mourning over the death of Saudi King Abdullah, who passed away at the age of 91 early Friday. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi praised the king as a just leader who had defended pan-Arabism and Islam. Sisi cut his visit to Switzerland to fly to Saudi Arabia to participate in the funeral procession, but was unable to attend the Friday funeral after bad weather grounded his helicopter in Davos. Meanwhile, Egypt’s government postponed celebrations marking the January 25 revolution in mourning for Abdullah, a cabinet spokesman said on Friday. Similarly, the interior ministry said it would call off its celebrations of police day on January 25. Egypt’s ministry of foreign affairs lowered the flag to half-mast on Friday. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Mada Masr, DNE, SIS, 1/23/2015]

Alaa and Gamal Mubarak leave prison
The sons of former president Hosni Mubarak were freed from prison on bail in the early hours of Friday pending retrial in a corruption case, a prison source said. Alaa and Gamal Mubarak left jail at dawn after the Cairo criminal court ordered their release a day earlier because they had already served the maximum period of eighteen months in pretrial detention. [Ahram Online, AFP, 1/23/2015]

NCHR asks HEC to extend registration period for NGOs to monitor elections
The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) has asked the High Elections Committee (HEC) to extend the period for receiving requests from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) wishing to monitor the upcoming parliamentary elections. The NCHR said in a statement on Thursday that it has received a number of requests from NGOs calling on the HEC to extend the registration period. [SIS, 1/23/2015]

Woman shot dead in Alexandria protests; Students arrested in Gharbeya
A young woman was shot dead and another injured on Friday amid clashes between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and residents in east Alexandria, a health ministry official said. On Thursday, dozens of Brotherhood supporters in Alexandria also set tires on fire and blocked roads as they clashed with security forces. Islamist protesters threw Molotov cocktails at a police post in the Camp Chezar district in central Alexandria. Demonstrators also used fireworks and set tires on fire on a seafront road in the city. Elsewhere, protesters in the nearby Mahatet al-Raml district set alight an armored vehicle parked on the side of the road. Meanwhile, six pro-Muslim Brotherhood students were arrested in the Gharbiyya governorate over charges of protesting and inciting violence. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, 1/22/2015]

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Gunmen kill security chief in Sirte, Libya
Senussi Kaiba, the chief of security for Sirte, and his driver were killed after gunmen attacked his car in a residential neighborhood on Thursday. This comes days after a similar attack on another local official who escaped unharmed. The city of Sirte is under the control of Islamist factions such as Ansar al-Sharia and members of Operation Libya Dawn. [The Daily Star, 1/22/2015]

UN condemns attack on Libyan central bank, demands inquiry
The United Nations condemned the attack on the Benghazi chapter of the Libyan Central Bank and demanded an inquiry into the incident. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) stated the attack has complicated efforts to bring the warring parties together for dialogue. UNSMIL also called for all parties to do more to keep the truce that was agreed to last week by both the Tobruk-based House of Representatives and the Tripoli-based General National Congress intact. [Reuters, All Africa, 1/22/2015]

Jihadists claim to set up base in Beida
Ansar al-Sharia claims to have established a shura council of revolutionaries in the town of Beida, the current seat of the internationally recognized government of Abdullah al Thinni. Ansar said that the recent wave of kidnappings, theft, and crime were due to former regime figures, however reports indicate the contrary that Beida is a relatively peaceful area by Libyan standards. Ansar al-Sharia also stated that the area had been taken over by old regime figures and that the people of Beida must stop supporting Operation Dignity, a fighting force loyal to the Tobruk-based House of Representatives. [Libya Herald, 1/22/2015]

Tunisia announces composition of new government; three ministries for UPL
Tunisia has announced the composition of the new government, which will now require confirmation by parliament. The Union Patriotique Libre (UPL) will be included in the new Tunisian government and charged with overseeing three ministries. Mohsen Hassan is proposed to be the head of the ministry of tourism. Nejib Derouich will be the next minister of investment and economic development. Maher Ben Dhia will be the minister of youth and sport. [L’Economiste Maghrebin (French), 1/23/2015]


Iraqi prime minister warns falling oil price could hurt fight against ISIS
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Thursday he feared lower revenues from falling global oil prices could hurt his country’s military campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). Abadi said allies could help by potentially allowing Baghdad to defer payment for ammunition and weapons. He added, “Oil prices have dropped to about 40 percent of their level last year. Iraq’s economy and budget relies 85 percent on oil and this has been disastrous for us,” and that Iraq does not want to reverse its military campaign against ISIS due to the country’s fiscal and budget problems. [Reuters, 1/23/2015]

UN approved cross-border aid helps 600,000 Syrians in six months
The United Nations said on Thursday that fifty-four aid shipments to Syria had been made since the UN Security Council authorized some cross-border routes in July, supplying food to 600,000 people, along with water and medical supplies. The Security Council approved humanitarian access, without Syrian government consent, into rebel-held areas at four border crossings from Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan. Deliveries at those four border crossings added to existing efforts in coordination with the Syrian government, which reach several million people a month. [Reuters, 1/22/2015]

Denmark’s foreign minister says the West should start talking to Syrian president
Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard says the West should start talking to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but “it has to be an absolute condition that Assad must not be part of Syria’s future.” Lidegaard says that stopping the nearly four-year-old civil war requires that “we then must talk with the present regime, and accept Assad as a negotiating partner in order to reach a peace agreement.” [AP, 1/23/2015]

US-led forces launch thirty-one airstrikes in Iraq and Syria
US-led forces attacked ISIS targets with twenty-one air strikes in Iraq and ten in Syria since Wednesday. Sixteen of the airstrikes in Iraq centered around Mosul, where they hit tactical units, vehicles, bridges, artillery systems, and destroyed six culverts. Nine airstrikes targeted ISIS militants near Kobani in northern Syria. The strikes comes as the US and Iraq have begun preparations for an assault by summer to retake Mosul. [Al-Arabiya, Naharnet, 1/22/2015]


Saudi king dies
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud died at the age of 90 after suffering from pneumonia. Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, his 79-year-old half-brother, has been confirmed as the new king. Within hours of his accession to the throne of the oil-rich kingdom, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud vowed to maintain the same policies as his predecessors. [BBC, Al Arabiya, Asharq al-Awsat, Reuters, 1/22/2015]

Yemen’s government resigns en masse
Yemeni President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi and the rest of his cabinet resigned on Thursday, just days after Houthi rebels battled their way into his presidential palace. However, parliament refused the president’s resignation. According to the Yemeni constitution, the president must wait three months before submitting a second resignation, which the parliament cannot reject, leaving Hadi in power until April 22. A special session of parliament will convene on Sunday to address the power vacuum left by the resignations. [Reuters, New York Times, Al Masdar, Yemen Times, 1/23/2015]

Protests break out across Yemen
Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets to protest the ongoing crisis in the country. After pitching tents in Change Square, armed Houthis dispersed the group. In Taiz, groups gathered after Friday prayers calling for the Houthis to leave the capital. In Ibb and Hodeidah, similar protests took place rejecting the government’s resignation. [Al Masdar, AP, 1/23/2015]

Southern movement figures call for taking steps toward independence
Thousands of people from the southern provinces rallied after Friday prayers before marching to Aden airport in a large peaceful protest. Friday preacher Sheikh Hussein bin Sha’ib called on southerners to unite and their leaders to play their rightful role toward independence. National Dialogue Conference member and professor at Aden University, Dr. Mohammed Massad al-Audi, said that restoring the southern state has now become an urgent necessity. He added that the Houthi overthrow of the government gave southerners the legal right to restore the state. Four southern provinces have already announced on Thursday their rejection of any military orders coming from Sana’a. [Aden el Ghad, 1/23/2015]


IMF revises upward its 2015 GDP growth forecast for Egypt to 3.8 percent
In its regional economic outlook update, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has revised its 2015 GDP growth forecast for Egypt 30 bps to 3.8 percent from the 3.5 percent announced in October. The reassessment is due to the sharp drop in oil prices reducing energy import bills for oil importers in the MENA region. According to Egypt’s finance minister, Egypt can expect economic growth “easily north of 4 percent” in the fiscal year 2014-15, boosted by rising confidence and a windfall from lower oil prices. [Egypt Independent, 1/22/2015]

Yemen declares force majeure on LNG exports
Yemen has declared force majeure on liquefied natural gas (LNG) deliveries from its Balhaf plant due to deteriorating security following the collapse of the government. The 6.7 million tonne per annum Balhaf gas export terminal is run by France’s Total and ships LNG, primarily to Asia and to some European countries. [Reuters, 1/23/2015]

Impact of lower oil prices on Jordan ‘neutral’
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects Jordan’s gain from lower oil prices in 2015 to be only two percentage points of the gross domestic product. Officials from the IMF declared that the impact on the budget would be “neutral.” Jordan and other oil importing countries in the region, where remittances represent a major source of liquidity, could experience tighter liquidity conditions if cash transfers by expatriates decline. [The Jordan Times, 1/23/2015]

Algeria preserves subsidies despite revenue drop
As falling oil prices hurt Algeria’s financial equilibrium, the government is trying to reassure nervous citizens that social programs will remain intact. For now, members of the government say there will be no backtracking on social progress: programs covering housing, help for young entrepreneurs, and subsidies for mass consumption goods are safe. There are still 163.5 billion euros (16.8 trillion dinars) of foreign exchange reserves and a 4.8 billion euro (500 billion dinar) Liquidity Fund, providing a cushion for the economy even if only in the short term. [Magharebia, 1/23/2015]