A proposal for an international peace conference to end the brutal Syrian civil war could be revived if negotiations over ridding the country of chemical weapons succeed, top US and Russian diplomats said Friday. The remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were the first explicit indication that the diplomacy begun this week to resolve the immediate crisis of threatened US military strikes could be a gateway to a broader negotiation aimed at ending the broader conflict. Meanwhile, Syrian President Assad said Thursday that in exchange for relinquishing his chemical arsenal he will require that the United States stop arming the Syrian opposition. [Washington Post, 9/13/13/]


After the speech, back to the war: the battle for Qalamoun
World attention has been focused on the drama of the chemical attack near Damascus, Congressional debates surrounding the Obama administration’s stated desire to strike Syria, and a surprising twist in which Syria appeared to agree to get rid of its chemical weapons. But amid all this sound and fury, a critical battle is unfolding in central Syria. A coalition of rebel groups, composed mainly of forces from Liwa al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham, and Jabhat al-Nusra, is pushing government forces back in the Qalamoun region just north of Damascus. [War On The Rocks, 9/12/13]

Elite Syrian unit scatters chemical arms stockpile
A secretive Syrian military unit at the center of the Assad regime’s chemical weapons program has been moving stocks of poison gases and munitions to as many as fifty sites to make them harder for the United States to track, according to US and Middle Eastern officials. The movements of chemical weapons by Syria’s elite Unit 450 could complicate any US bombing campaign in Syria over its alleged chemical attacks and raises questions about implementation of a Russian proposal that calls for the regime to surrender control of its stockpile. [WSJ, 9/12/13]

Thousands of Syrians flee Egypt for Italy
Around 3,300 Syrians have arrived in Italy by boat over recent weeks, many fleeing troubled Egypt where they had first found a haven from war, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Friday. The UNHCR reported that the bulk of the refugees were families that arrived over the past 40 days, mostly in Sicily. Some 670 landed in the past week, the majority from Egypt. UNHCR estimates that 4,600 Syrians have arrived by sea in Italy since 2013 began, a massive increase on last year’s total of 369. [The Daily Star, 9/13/13]


Egypt’s Morsi slapped with fresh thirty-day detention
Morsi, who has been detained by the military since his ouster in July, was given a further thirty-day detention on Friday pending investigations into his suspected collaboration with Hamas to orchestrate his escape from Wadi al-Natroun prison in 2011 during the uprising against Hosni Mubarak, as well as accusations that he destroyed police records during the uprising. In addition, he faces charges of espionage and of attacking police stations with the intent to kill and abduct police officers and prisoners. [Ahram, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, SIS, 9/13/2013]

Pro-Morsi protesters hit streets out of “loyalty to martyrs”
Islamist protest marches were launched after afternoon prayers in Cairo and other cities on Friday, under the banner of “loyalty to the martyrs’ blood,” with supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi once again demonstrating against what they describe as a military coup. The Anti-Coup Alliance affirmed its “rejection of the bloody coup” and called for the “Egyptian people to gather in all streets of Egypt this Friday and Saturday.” The demonstrations come in the wake of a call by leading Muslim Brotherhood figure Essam El-Erian for supporters to hit the streets on Friday, Saturday, and beyond in order to “continue the revolution.” [Ahram Online, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, Aswat Masriya, 9/13/2013]

Cairo accuses Gaza’s Hamas of training Egyptian militants
Egyptian state television accused Palestinian Hamas on Thursday of training Egyptian Islamists on how to carry out bombings, putting more pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood, ally of Hamas. In neighboring Gaza, the ruling Hamas Islamists strongly denied the allegations. [Reuters, 9/12/2013]

State of emergency extension draws condemnation
Head of al-Nour Party Younes Makhioun said in a statement on Friday that the current laws are “adequate to cope with the incidents of violence and to hold accountable those who carried them out.” Makhioun underlined that his party does not believe “that the exceptional law will end the violence.” He added that violence could be stopped through working towards “freedom, respect for human rights, the rule of law and the realisation of the principles of justice and equality between Egyptians.” [DNE, Shorouk (Arabic), Ahram Gate (Arabic), ONA (Arabic), 09/13/2013]


Clash between tribesmen in western Libya kills eleven
Eleven people have been killed in fighting between members of two rival tribes in a southwestern Libyan town near the Algerian border, according to security officials. Several residents have been forced to flee the violence, which erupted late Thursday between border guards from the western tribe of Zintan and Garamna tribesmen following a personal dispute. [AP, 9/13/13]

Diplomatic protection unit will be effective soon: acting interior minister
Responding to media criticism that the diplomatic protection unit is ineffective in protecting diplomatic sites in Tripoli, acting interior minister and deputy prime minister Sidiq Abdelkarim said the unit “will be activated in reality and it must be an effective unit soon.” Prime Minister Ali Zidan, claiming personal responsibility for the delivery of one hundred vehicles to the unit, implied the problems were rooted in personnel. [Libya Herald, 9/13/13]

Protesters threaten to cut communications to the south
A small group of youth is protesting in front of the Ministry of Communications, threatening to force the ministry to cut communication to the south of the country over the water stoppage in the capital. The two southern towns of al-Shwairef and Gira cut water supply to Tripoli in response to the kidnapping of Anoud Senussi. The protesters also criticized Prime Minister Ali Zidan for saying the ministry had been “stormed by protesters,” insisting that they had used no violence. [Libya Herald, 9/12/13]

Tripoli residents express exasperation with politicians
In a series of interviews conducted with members of the public by the Libya Herald, citizens have expressed frustration with the power and water cuts experienced by the capital Tripoli. While there is great frustration with Prime Minister Ali Zidan’s government, citizens have mixed views of whether it should be sacked, as the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) Justice and Construction Party has increasingly been doing. Several respondents expressed they feel the MB is trying to manipulate public opinion to obtain support and sympathy. [Libya Herald, 9/12/13]


Moncef Marzouki visits southern Tunisia
Interim President of the Tunisian Republic and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces Mohammed Moncef Marzouki paid a visit on Thursday, September 12, 2013 to a buffer zone in the southern part of Tunisia to check on the work conditions and learn about the military and security updates in the region. [Tunisia Times, 9/13/2013]

Poll: Tunisians disillusioned with democracy
Tunisians, who kicked off the pro-democracy uprisings of the Arab Spring in 2011 by overthrowing their authoritarian president, now yearn for stability and have lost faith in democracy and their elected leaders, according to a poll published Thursday. The survey published by Pew Research Center shows dramatic drops from last year in favorability ratings of all prominent politicians as well as faith in most state institutions like the elected assembly and the judiciary. [Al Arabiya, 9/13/2013]

Human Rights Watch calls on the Tunisian authorities to “quash” the detention of two journalists
In a statement on Friday, the organization Human Rights Watch urged Tunisian authorities to release journalist Walid Zarrouk from detention and cancel the trials of journalists Ziad al-Heni and Zouhaer al-Jiss for expressing their opinions. The organization stressed that criminal defamation laws should be abolished, as they restrict freedom of expression. [Mosaique FM (Arabic), 9/13/2013]

The Benghazi link to Tunisia’s assassinations
Last year, Tunisian authorities released Ali Harzi, the only suspect arrested in connection to the 2012 attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi. Now, Harzi is wanted in connection to the assassinations of two Tunisian opposition politicians, Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahimi, and he remains at large. Harzi and others suspected for their involvement in the assassinations continue to evade Tunisian authorities, leading to questions both inside and outside the country about the government’s handling of growing insecurity [Al Jazeera, 9/13/2013]


United Nations calls for more aid to Yemen
Speaking on Yemen’s food crisis, UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos told reporters in Sanaa on Thursday that the international community would have to step in and increase their aid to Yemen if the cycle of hunger is to be broken. She noted, “The humanitarian situation in Yemen remains critical, despite positive political developments.” According to a UN survey there are now over 10 million Yemenis who remain at food risk, about 40% of the population. [Yemen Post, Saba News (Arabic), Al Masdar (Arabic), Gulf News, 9/13/13]

Qahtan: The southern issue subcomittee to continue meeting on Friday amid positive progress
Despite reports of trouble within the “8 + 8 Committee”, spokesman for the Southern Issue Working Group Mohamed Qahtan said that there have been positive developments in the discussions of the working group, pointing out that the team will continue its meetings on Friday evening. He added that all the members were committed to continuing discussions in order to agree on constructive and responsible solutions. [NDC (Arabic), 9/13/2013]

Two soldiers were killed in an attack by al-Qaeda in Hadhramout
Two soldiers were killed Friday afternoon in an attack on the thirty-seventh armored brigade in the Hadramout governorate in southeastern Yemen. Security sources said that they believe individuals belonging to al-Qaeda were behind the attack. [Hona Hadhramout (Arabic), 9/13/2013]

Judge exonerates Saudi nationals
Officials confirmed on Thursday that five Saudi nationals accused of plotting against Yemen with al-Qaeda have been cleared of all terror charges. The five Saudi nationals were arrested early in June after the police identified them as a security threat with potential links to al-Qaeda. Due to a lack of evidence, Judge Hilal Mahlaf decided to release all men, except for two, who will serve eighteen months in jail for forgery and unlawful entry into Yemen. [Yemen Post, Gulf News, 9/12/2013]


Morocco outlines ambitious judicial reform plan
After more than a year of dialogue, Morocco’s Islamist-led government has moved forward on a major campaign promise and unveiled a reform plan for the country’s much-criticized judicial system. The ambitious plan addresses many of the criticisms of Morocco’s justice system, including higher standards and more training for judges, prosecutors, and lawyers, as well as greater transparency in appointments and penalties on members of the judiciary. [AP, 9/13/2013]

King Hamad’s visit to boost Bahrain-China relations
Bahrain and China will this weekend sign major agreements on education, health, culture and investment, the Chinese ambassador in Manama has said. Ambassador Chen said trade volume between Bahrain and China has reached over $1.550 billion annually “with increasing areas of growth.” [Gulf News, 9/13/2013]

Sleiman, Mikati hail new initiative for dialogue in Lebanon
President Michel Sleiman and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati praised efforts Friday by Speaker Nabih Berri to renew dialogue and cooperation among rival Lebanese political parties. Sleiman stressed the need to implement previous decisions, most notably The Baabda Declaration that calls for distancing Lebanon from the Syria crisis. [Daily Star, 9/13/2013]