Top News: Sisi Highlights Egypt’s Progress at UNGA; Signals Interest in the Security Council

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a United Nations speech on Wednesday that he aims to build a state that respects “rights and freedoms” and “ensures the coexistence of its citizens without exclusion or discrimination.”

He added that, since his election in June, he has sought to build a “civil democratic state,” by following a national roadmap agreed upon by the military. Sisi reflected his country’s aspiration to win a seat within the United Nations’ Security Council. He said Egypt would look out for the interests of developing countries as a Security Council member during the 2016-2017 term, especially the interests of African countries. In his speech, he also spoke of Egypt’s fight against terrorism, confronting extremism in the region, and Egypt’s development plans. Following his speech, Sisi attended a series of meetings, with leaders from Palestine, Iraq, Kuwait, Mauritania, South Sudan, and Uganda. Presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said Sisi is expected to discuss the country’s “real” situation with US President Barack Obama in New York on Thursday.




Egypt courts jails nearly 100 Morsi backers
On Thursday, a court in the Nile Delta province of Kafr al-Sheikh sentenced eighty-six people to up to fifteen years in jail for a violent protest in January. The defendants, including four minors, were tried for clashes with security forces, which had caused no casualties. The clashes erupted when security forces cracked down on the pro-Morsi protest outside a police station in Kafr al-Sheikh. The defendants were found guilty of illegal assembly, attempted murder, vandalism, stealing a gun from a policeman, and possessing illegal arms. In a separate case, four defendants were sentenced to ten years in jail, another six to seven years in prison and a minor was given one year suspended sentence for causing violence outside Cairo in December. In a third case, two supporters of Morsi were sentenced to life imprisonment for violence that left two dead in July 2013. They were sentenced during a retrial in a case in which Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie was served a life sentence. [AFP, EGYNews (Arabic), 9/26/2014]

Egypt says Saudi Arabia has sent $3 billion oil products
Saudi Arabia sent Egypt $3 billion worth of refined oil products from April up to the first week of this month, an official from Egypt’s state oil company said on Thursday. The petroleum aid has not, however, managed to noticeably ease Egypt’s energy frequent power cuts, even in upscale areas. [Reuters, 9/25/2014]

Private security companies to guard nine Egyptian universities
Minister of Higher Education Sayed Abdel Khalek hired a private security company to guard nine public universities during the coming academic year, the cabinet announced on Wednesday. The cabinet discussed measures to be adopted in preparation for the new academic year, due to begin on October 11. Abdel Khalek said that only students and university faculty and staff would be allowed into university campuses, after verifying their identities. The cabinet also approved during its meeting a presidential decree amending a law in a manner which allows university chairmen to expel faculty members who “commit crimes which disturb the educational process,” according to a cabinet statement. [Aswat Masriya, 9/24/2014]


Warplane attacks Libya’s Benghazi port after threats by ex-general
A war plane attacked a Benghazi port on Wednesday in a strike claimed by forces loyal to former general Khalifa Haftar. It was unclear whether any harbor facilities were hit, but the port is the main gateway for wheat and fuel imports into eastern Libya. The head of Haftar’s air defense unit said an umbrella group of Islamist fighters, Majlis al-Shura, was using the port to bring in supplies and weapons. Meanwhile, in Tripoli, unidentified warplanes carried out further airstrikes in areas under control of the Islamist-leaning Operation Dawn. [Reuters, 9/24/2014]

Eight more people killed in targeted assassinations in Benghazi
In another string of brutal assassinations, eight individuals, including civil society members and security services personnel, have been murdered in Benghazi. Among the victims were activists Ali al-Misrati, Ezzedine al-Badri, and Sheikh Salim Bayu. The violence-ridden city is still reeling from the deaths of teenage bloggers and activists Tawfiq Ben Saud and Sami al-Kwafi, who were killed along with eight others last week. The events appear to be part of a campaign orchestrated by extremists to intimidate and terrorize residents. [Libya Herald, 9/24/2014]

New interior minister’s property torched
Property in Tripoli and Misrata connected to a newly appointed minister in Abdullah al-Thinni’s new Tobruk-based government has been looted and burned. Interior Minister Omar al-Sunki, from Misrata, just began his job when the House of Representatives finally endorsed al-Thinni’s cabinet. This is the latest in a series of attacks on the property of political rivals since Operation Dawn took control of Tripoli. Meanwhile, new members of the rival National Salvation Government were sworn into office in Tripoli. [Libya Herald, 9/24/2014]

Oil output up to 900,000 barrels per day
Crude production has now reached 900,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to the National Oil Corporation (NOC). Production at the Sharara field is now up to 200,000 bpd. Sharara, which is in Libya’s southwest, saw its output fluctuate in the previous week due to nearby clashes, as well as disruption at the connected Zawiya refinery. An NOC spokesman confirmed that both sites are now “operating normally.” The NOC aims to reach an output of one million bpd by the end of the month. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 9/25/2014]


At United Nations, Obama vows to fight ISIS “network of death”
President Barack Obama unleashed a barrage of diplomatic pressure on world leaders gathered in New York, imploring them to join an international coalition against Islamic extremism in general, and ISIS in particular (full text of speech). Obama then led a special session of the Security Council which unanimously approved a resolution requiring countries to pass laws against traveling abroad to join terrorist groups or financing those efforts. As international support for the campaign against ISIS grows, British Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to a hold a parliamentary debate on Friday to determine whether Britain will join the air campaign inside Iraq. [WSJ, NYT, 9/25/2014]

Kurdish forces push back ISIS in northern Syria
Kurdish forces in northern Syria pushed back an advance of ISIS fighters towards a strategic town on the Turkish border as US airstrikes resumed Thursday. ISIS militants launched an offensive to capture the border town of Kobani more than a week ago, besieging it from three sides. At least 140,000 Kurds have fled the town and surrounding villages since Friday, crossing into Turkey. The town’s location has been blocking the extremist insurgents from consolidating their gains in northern Syria and has been the site of repeated skirmishes between militants and Kurdish fighters from both Syria and Turkey. [Reuters, 9/25/2014]

France opens door to possible Syria strikes after tourist killed
France opened the door to joining air strikes in Syria on Thursday, just hours after an Algerian Islamist group beheaded a French tourist in retaliation for French military action against ISIS militants in Iraq. The death of the French tourist, Herve Gourdel, beheaded just twenty-four hours after an ultimatum was given to France to halt attacks in Iraq, appeared to toughen Paris’ resolve. French fighter jets continued to strike targets in Iraq on Thursday as the United States and its allies stepped up air raids against ISIS and al-Nusra Front militants inside Syria. [Reuters, 9/25/2014]


NCA approves new articles for counterterrorism law
Four new articles were approved yesterday by the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) to become part of Tunisia’s draft counterterrorism law, bringing the total number of approved articles to thirty-six. The NCA has been under pressure to accelerate legislation since the July 16 terrorist attack that killed fifteen Tunisian soldiers at military checkpoints on Chaambi Mountain. The attack drew intense public criticism of the government’s perceived inability to counter terrorism threats, resulting in the subsequent approval of fifteen articles of the draft law. With a hundred articles left to vote on and a majority of deputies invested in their pre-election campaigns, the NCA is divided over whether to complete the drafting process, or to pass it on to the next parliament, which will be elected in October. [Tunisia Live, 9/25/2014]

Ansar al-Sharia to hold protests on the third anniversary of the revolution
In a statement issued on Twitter, Ansar al-Sharia announced plans to join protests tomorrow in Kasbah Square to mark the third anniversary of Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation. The group has refrained from public appearances since it was declared a terrorist organization by the government in August. Security forces have since raided houses of alleged Ansar al-Sharia members, and many are still detained. The group has been implicated in militant activities on Chaambi Mountain and the assassinations of key opposition figures, Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi. [Tunisia Live, 9/25/2014]

President Marzouki meets with Palestinian President
Interim President Moncef Marzouki met, on Wednesday morning in New York, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, on the sidelines of the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly. President Marzouki expressed Tunisia’s support for the Palestinian cause, stressing the need to provide Arab and international support to the Palestinian people, particularly the reconstruction efforts in Gaza, and the permanent to hostilities. [TAP, 9/24/2014]


New prime minister not appointed three days after agreement
As part of the peace and partnership agreement signed Sunday between the government, Houthis, and other political factions, Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa was to be replaced and a new government formed within three days after its signing. As of Thursday, a new prime minister had not yet been appointed nor a new government formed. Only one part of the agreement has apparently been implemented to date: the appointment of two new advisers to President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi. One of these advisers, Saleh Ali al-Samad, represents the Houthis and the other, Omar Makkawi, represents the Southern Movement. The implications of the government’s failure to replace the current prime minister are not yet evident. [Aden al-Ghad, 9/25/2014]

UNSC praises Yemen peace agreement
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) praised the peace and partnership agreement reached between Yemen’s various political factions. In a press statement issued late Tuesday, the members of the Security Council emphasized “that any actions disrupting security and the carrying out of attacks and threats against political opponents are unacceptable and threaten the peace and security of the whole country.” The UNSC statement also called for an end to violence, the formation of the new government, and for medium and heavy weapons to be delivered to the legitimate state security forces. [Marib Press (Arabic), 9/25/2014]

Rouhani says “brilliant and resounding victory” in Yemen; Iranian prisoners freed
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani claimed that the latest political developments in Yemen represented a “brilliant and resounding victory” for forces backed by Iran. The Yemeni government interpreted the statements as confirmation from the highest possible source that Houthi militants received backing from Iran. In 2007, the Yemeni ambassador to Iran left Tehran after accusing the government of providing funding and materiel to the Houthis. Sana’a has since continued to protest perceived Iranian interference. Nonetheless, two Iranians accused of belonging to the Revolutionary Guard corps and aiding Houthi militants were released by the Yemeni government on Thursday following an Omani-mediated agreement. The two men were flown from Sana’a to Oman to be returned to Iran, though three other Iranians remain in Yemen’s custody. [Naharnet, 9/25/2014]


Lebanese army expands raids in Tripoli and Arsal as clashes escalate
The Lebanese army arrested on Thursday twenty suspected terrorists during raids carried out on Syrian refugee encampments and residences in the northeastern border town of Arsal and the northern city of Tripoli. The military arrested scores of Syrians and Lebanese, including four gunmen belonging to al-Nusra Front. The raids came one day after several gunmen opened fire at three army stations in Bab al-Tabbaneh, Syria Street, and Brad al-Bisar in Tripoli. Security sources said the number suspected militants detained in the past two weeks had reached about 450 in both cities. Arsal has been the battlefront of the Lebanese army in its fight with jihadists since they crossed the border from Syria and overran the town in early August. [Naharnet, Reuters, 9/25/2014]

Saudi court sentences three to death on terror charges
Riyadh’s specialized terrorism court sentenced three Saudis to death on Monday and handed down prison terms to twenty more on charges related to terrorism. The twenty-three men were convicted of a variety of charges, including belonging to terrorist groups operating both within and outside the Kingdom. One of the suspected terrorists, who was sentenced to fifteen years in prison, pled guilty to charges of meeting with members of terror groups, operating inside the Kingdom, and using his position as a teacher to distribute pamphlets encouraging students to fight in Iraq. [Asharq al-Awsat, 9/25/2014]

Saudi defense minister praises pilots who flew successful Syrian sorties
Saudi Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud praised his country’s air force pilots who bombed targets in Syria. The defense minister stated that the Saudi pilots had done their duty for their “religion and their kingdom” in assisting in the campaign against ISIS. Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal placed Saudi participation in the coalition against ISIS in context Wednesday, stating that Saudi Arabia “always stands against terrorism that distorts the image of Islam” and that Saudi interests “required” the kingdom’s participation. [Al Hayat (Arabic), 9/25/2014]