Top News: Turkey’s Erdogan Urges United Muslim Front Against Terror

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a united front by Muslim leaders to fight extremism after the Paris attacks, warning that otherwise jihadists will commit further atrocities. Erdogan warned that “calamities will happen again” if the rise of radical Islam is not halted in Europe. “We are at a crossroads in the fight against terrorism after the Paris attacks,” he said at the Atlantic Council’s Istanbul summit. Erdogan has long angrily dismissed suggestions that Ankara colluded with ISIS in the Syrian civil war. Turkey has supported rebel groups over four years of conflict in Syria in the hope they can help oust President Bashar al-Assad from power. [AFP, 11/19/2015]



ISIS reveals bomb it says downed Russian passenger jet
The official magazine of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) carried a photo on Wednesday of a Schweppes soft drink can it said was used to make an improvised bomb that brought down a Russian airliner over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula last month. In the magazine, the group said it initially planned to bring down a plane from one of the countries taking part in the US-led coalition’s air campaign against ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq but changed the target to a Russian jetliner after Moscow began its airstrikes in Syria in September. It also said it “discovered a way to compromise the security at the Sharm al-Sheikh International Airport,” without providing details. Russian media reports have said the bomb was probably brought on board by personnel at Sharm al-Sheikh airport and set off by a timer. Russian families may take legal action against the airport if it is proven that poor security procedures led to the planting of the bomb, said James Healy-Pratt, a specialist in airline disasters and aviation accidents. A delegation of British aviation and counter-terrorism experts spent the past two days meeting Egyptian authorities in Cairo to work out how best to tighten security and allow flights to and from the Red Sea resort to resume. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, AP, Aswat Masriya, 11/19/2015]

Dar al-Ifta uses Facebook to confront terrorism
Dar al-Ifta, Egypt’s foremost authority on issuing religious edicts (fatwas), created a Facebook page publishing in English, French, and German entitled “Not in the name of Muslims” as part of their initiative to tackle Islamophobia in the West, following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the Russian plane crash. Dar al-Ifta announced the campaign in an effort “to clarify the tarnished image of Islam across the globe” in a press conference on Wednesday. According to the religious body, the initiative targets non-Muslims and aims to explain the correct teachings on Islam. Grand Mufti advisor Ibrahim Negm said Muslims and Arabs should communicate the real image of Islam to the West. On its Facebook page, the campaign says it “does not only seek to exonerate the name of Islam” from the terrorist group’s acts, but also to condemn them. Dar al-Ifta scholars will go on tours to Europe “to communicate the real message of Islam,” and denounce false fatwas, which Grand Mufti Shawqy Allam says is one of the main reasons behind extremism and terrorism. [DNE, 11/18/2015]

Israel warns against trimming peacekeepers in Egyptian Sinai
Israel issued an unusually blunt warning on Wednesday against proposals to restructure the US-led peacekeeping force in Sinai, saying any drawdown of the foreign troops would “reward terrorism.” With the review proposals on the agenda for Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) talks that opened with Israel, Egypt, and the United States in Rome on Wednesday, a senior Israeli military officer played down the danger to the peacekeepers from the insurgents, including the Sinai State, the Egyptian affiliate of Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). Any dismantling of MFO positions, the Israeli officer said, would risk emboldening harder-line insurgent elements. An Egyptian diplomat said Cairo, like Israel, regarded the MFO as “essential” and opposed any reduction of peacekeepers. [Reuters, 11/18/2015]

Ismailia parliamentary candidate withdraws after son kidnapped
A parliamentary candidate in Ismailia has withdrawn from the race after his eleven year old son was kidnapped. The father said he received a call in which the kidnappers demanded a ransom of EGP 500,000 ($63,800,) or that he withdraw his candidacy. He added that he and security forces are looking for his son. The second phase of Egypt’s long-awaited parliamentary elections, meanwhile, is scheduled to kick off abroad on November 21, and on November 22 in thirteen governorates, including Cairo, with 27.5 million eligible voters. The electoral silence period will start Friday at noon. Arab League Assistant Secretary General Haifa Abu Ghazaleh said that the Arab League has sent 100 observers from eighteen Arab countries to the thirteen governorates to monitor the elections. “The mission will also follow up the ballot abroad through the Arab League offices in various cities worldwide including Moscow, Berlin, New Delhi, Berlin, and New York,” she added. [Cairo Post, 11/19/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Tripoli tense following Misratan abductions
Tensions continue to rise in Tripoli following a mass seizure of Misratans in the city by local militias on Tuesday. A number of the city’s militia leaders, including Haitham Tajuri and Abdul Ghani Kikli, held a “council of war” in Tripoli’s Corinthia hotel Tuesday night, reportedly agreeing to unite their forces if it came to a fight with those from Misrata. The statement accused the Misratan forces of kidnapping, robbery, and other crimes in parts of Tripoli. Friction between Tripoli and Misrata has been rising ever since Misratan brigades signed peace deals over the summer with the Warshefana and other groups west of Tripoli and pulled out of the area. There has been a growing number of sporadic clashes between Misratans and the Tripoli revolutionaries. [Libya Herald, 11/18/2015]

Large number of security forces deployed in Tunis
Security forces have been deployed in unusually high numbers in downtown Tunis. Interior Ministry Spokesman Walid Louguini said on Wednesday that the impressive deployment of forces in the Tunisian capital city was just part of “security vigilance measures.” Police forces, some of them wearing balaclavas, were lining up the city’s main avenue, which was partially closed to road traffic, while the French embassy building was under heavy protection. Police were conducting identity checks at the entrances open to pedestrians and cars crossing the avenue. [AP, TAP, 11/18/2015]

Turkey deports Moroccans questioned over militant links
Turkey has deported several of the eight Moroccans recently detained and questioned on arrival at Istanbul’s main airport over suspected links to Islamic State, a Turkish government official said. “While some of the detainees have been deported, others remain in custody pending their interrogation,” the government official said. The official did not say how many were still being held. Police also detained and deported forty-one Moroccan nationals at Ataturk Airport earlier this month. [Reuters, 11/19/2015]

Journalists, activists face controversial trial in Morocco
On Thursday, seven journalists and activists are facing trial in Morocco in a case widely criticized by human rights groups as politically motivated. Five of the activists face charges of “threatening national security” in Thursday’s trial, including Maati Monjib, a historian who went on hunger strike twice this year in protest of a travel ban against him. The Moroccan government did not respond to requests for comment on the trial. [AP, 11/19/2015]

Algeria book fair ban exposes stability debate
Organizers of an international book fair in Algeria last week confiscated more than 100 books on jihadism and the Arab Spring, highlighting sensitivities in the North African country. The book fair’s General Manager Hamidou Messaoudi said the seized books were subversive and constituted a threat to the country’s stability. But one Algerian author, Walid Belkebir whose book “Arab Spring Postponed in Algeria” was banned, said it showed the unofficial taboo on discussing such uprisings. Attracting more than 1.4 million visitors, the fair invites around fifty countries to participate with more than 600 foreign publishers taking part. [Reuters, 11/18/2015]


Obama says Assad must go; would veto bill toughening Syria refugee checks
US President Barack Obama on Thursday said Syria’s civil war would not end unless President Bashar al-Assad leaves power, discounting suggestions that the leader could take part in future elections. “I do not foresee a situation in which we can end the civil war in Syria while Assad remains in power,” Obama said. Assad’s fate has become a key stumbling block to peace in Syria and a point of contention between the West and Assad’s backers in Moscow and Tehran. In related news, President Barack Obama would veto a Republican bill to toughen the screening process for Syrian refugees, the White House said Wednesday. The US House of Representatives could vote as early as Thursday on resolution 4038, which aims to block administration plans to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming year. [AFP, 11/19/2015]

France says Russia open to cooperation as Moscow demands sovereignty be respected
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Thursday that Russia was sincere in wanting to cooperate in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in Syria. “There is an opening, so to speak, with the Russians. We think they are sincere and we must bring together all our forces,” Fabius said. Later on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Moscow is ready to work with the Western coalition fighting ISIS if its members respect Syria’s sovereignty. “We … are ready for practical cooperation with those countries which are part of the coalition and are ready to develop with them such forms of coordination that of course would respect Syria’s sovereignty and the prerogatives of the Syrian leadership,” Lavrov said in an interview. [AFP, 11/19/2015]

Syria army, rebels in talks over 15-day truce near capital
Syria’s army and rebels were locked in talks Wednesday night to reach a fifteen-day ceasefire in the Eastern Ghouta region east of the capital, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. These are the first known talks aiming for a truce in the region and are likely taking place with Russian or Iranian mediators, SOHR said. If an agreement is reached, “A ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta would begin at 6:00 am Thursday and will last fifteen days,” SOHR head Rami Abdel Rahman said. A senior Syrian security source said, “Talks are ongoing between the government and a number of armed groups in Eastern Ghouta … to stop military operations. Our Russian allies are playing a direct role in contacting those that support the armed groups.” Jaysh al-Islam, the most powerful rebel group in Eastern Ghouta, was the main negotiating partner on the rebel side, Abdel Rahman added. [AFP, 11/19/2015]

Syria no breeding ground for ISIS, says Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Wednesday his country was not a breeding ground for ISIS, blaming the creation of the jihadist organization on the West. “I can tell you Daesh [ISIS] doesn’t have the natural incubator, social incubator, within Syria,” he said. Jihadists who trained in Syria for the Paris massacres and other attacks had done so due to “the support of the Turks and the Saudis and Qatari, and of course the Western policy that supported the terrorists in different ways,” he insisted. ISIS “didn’t start in Syria, it started in Iraq, and it started before that in Afghanistan,” he said, quoting former British prime minister Tony Blair as saying “the Iraqi war helped create ISIS”. Blair’s “confession is the most important evidence,” Assad added. [AFP, 11/19/2015]

Iraqi-Kurdish leader says Paris attacks a ‘wake-up call’
The head of intelligence and security in Iraqi Kurdistan, Masrour Barzani, has said he hopes last Friday’s attacks in Paris will act as a wake-up call to Western powers. Barzani said that ISIS could be defeated within months if the world community became fully engaged. Despite recent Kurdish success against ISIS at Sinjar, ISIS still controls large areas of Syria and Iraq and has not been significantly weakened. He said he hoped that the attacks in Paris, in which 129 people died, would be a game changer, spurring Western powers to become more involved in fighting the militants. He added that if Western countries were unwilling to send in ground troops, they should give greater support to forces such as the Kurdish fighters in both Iraq and Syria who were succeeding against the militants. [BBC, 11/18/2015]

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


Three Americans evacuated from Yemen to Oman
Three Americans have been air-lifted out of Yemen to Oman, the Omani Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. The three people were flown out of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, controlled by the Houthi rebels, on an Omani air force flight late on Wednesday, according to a report by the state news agency ONA. The brief statement gave no details on the identities of the Americans, but a Yemeni security official said the men had been detained by the rebels. The US State Department said earlier this month a US citizen who worked for the United Nations had died in Sanaa while in Houthi custody. He and another US citizen were detained as they arrived from Djibouti. In September, three other US citizen held hostage by the Houthis were released. [Reuters, 11/19/2015]

UN Envoy says Iran is invested in a Yemeni peace solution
UN Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh, in an interview on Thursday, said that Yemen has always had a positive relationship with Iran and that the Islamic Republic has a great interest in solving the Yemen crisis. His meeting with Iranian Assistant Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian also discussed the worrying humanitarian crisis caused from the conflict between the Houthi rebels and the pro-government forces, backed by the Saudi-led coalition. About 21 million people in Yemen are now in need of humanitarian aid. The United Nations said Wednesday that 5,700 people had been killed in the conflict in Yemen since March 26, including 830 women and children. Iran called for all sides in Yemen’s war to join UN-sponsored peace talks and accused Saudi Arabia of worsening the conflict with its military intervention against rebels. After his visit to Tehran, Ould Cheikh will travel to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Saudi Arabia. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), NYT, The Daily Star, 11/19/2015]

President Hadi holds ministerial meeting in Aden amid security crisis
In a meeting with security and government officials on Wednesday, President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi instructed ministries to begin working out of Aden until the pro-government forces recapture Houthi-controlled Sana’a. The meeting was held a day after the president returned to the city to supervise the ongoing military offensive on the city of Taiz. The meeting addressed the economic challenges faced by government ministers, as the Houthi rebels’ control of the Central Bank in Sana’a has left many of them without the money to pay salaries or rebuild government offices. Hadi also called for the integration of the popular resistance fighters into the Yemeni Army. He also spoke with a leader of the Southern Popular Resistance fighters to thank them for their efforts in fighting the Houthi rebels and for supporting the Yemeni government. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), 11/19/2015]


World Bank says new bond scheme seen for Middle East, North Africa by spring
A new international bond and grant scheme to help countries dealing with the fallout of war and instability in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) should be in place by spring, World Bank Vice President for MENA Hafez Ghanem said. Ghanem said the plan will target investment in education, infrastructure, and jobs and that the bond program is vital to address the region’s refugee crises. “The demand on our support is very high right now and it is going to increase, because as you bring peace through political or security measures, to make the peace hold, you need to give people opportunities and hope,” he said. “We are trying to raise more resources, that is why we have proposed this financing mechanism.” The World Bank, United Nations, and Islamic Development Bank announced the initiative last month, asking donor countries to provide guarantees for bonds raising money for projects focused on support for refugees and rebuilding. The proposal also asks donors for grants to cut the interest rate for states hosting refugees. “If we agree and succeed in putting this together, it’s not a one-shot deal. It’s something that will have to be done over several years, and the amount of work that is needed, the projects that will need to be implemented, none of us can implement them very quickly,” Ghanem said.[Reuters, 11/18/2015]

Wary investors await Turkish cabinet for clues on policy direction
After enjoying a brief relief rally when Turkey’s ruling AK Party won a snap election on November 1 election, investors are nervously awaiting a new cabinet and worrying about President Tayyip Erdogan’s meddling in economic and monetary policy. Turkey’s lira is down by nearly a quarter this year, making it one of the worst performing emerging market currencies. Many of the lira’s woes are home-grown, as Erdogan’s opposition to high interest rates has rattled investors and undermined confidence in central bank independence. Investors are waiting to see whether Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s new cabinet, which he is expected to name within days, will be composed of technocrats committed to fiscal discipline or Erdogan loyalists likely to pursue a more populist agenda. Particularly important will be the role of former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, previously in charge of the economy and seen as an anchor for market reforms and investor confidence. [Reuters, 11/19/2015]

Saudi says oil price slump should not stop investment
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi called for sustained investment in new output capacity Thursday despite the slump in world prices. Naimi said global oil production lost four million barrels per day (bpd) due to natural depreciation and predicted an increase in demand of one million bpd. “The oil industry is required to add new production capacity of 5.0 million bpd to compensate for the natural loss in production and meet the growth in global demand,” he said. “Large investments are required to meet such needs. We must continue and even increase the pace of investments in the energy sector.” Naimi said that over the next decade, Arab countries would need to invest around $700 billion in energy projects to boost production. He also called for efforts to stabilize the energy market, saying that Saudi Arabia was prepared to work with Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producers to support prices. [AFP, 11/19/2015]

Egypt’s stocks may rise after World Bank’s $1 billion loan promise
Egypt’s stocks rebounded on Thursday in the first hours of trading after the World Bank said it expects to make a $1 billion loan to Egypt next month. Egypt’s benchmark EGX 30 index was up 0.1 percent on Wednesday and close to 2.3 percent at midday on Thursday, recovering from a near two year low reached on Tuesday. The bourse’s main index had lost close to 12 percent of its value since the Russian Metrojet 9268 flight crashed in the Sinai on October 31. Egypt is suffering from a foreign currency crunch as it confronts declining tourism and foreign. Foreign exchange reserves fell to $16.41 billion in October, enough to cover only three months of food and fuel imports. [Reuters, Ahram Online, 11/19/2015]