Top News: Turkey Says United States Not Meeting its Conditions for Bigger Syria Role

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday expressed frustration that the United States and its allies were not responding to conditions set for his country to play a greater role in the coalition against militants in Syria. His complaint came as a US special presidential envoy, Gen. John Allen, visited Ankara for previously unannounced talks with Turkish officials.

Erdogan said that the “parties have not taken any decisive steps towards the train-and-equip plan” for FSA fighters, nor committed to the removal of Bashar al-Assad. “From the no-fly zone to the safety zone, and training and equipping, all these steps have to be taken now. But the coalition forces haven’t taken the steps we asked them for or suggested to them.” He signaled Turkey would not change its position unless its conditions were fulfilled. 




Congress weighs easing restrictions on military aid to Egypt
Key lawmakers are debating whether to ease the tough restrictions on military aid to Egypt that they put in place after the military ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi. The potential changes are part of continuing talks surrounding a 10-month “omnibus” spending bill that House and Senate leaders hope to pass by December 11, when the current stopgap measure expires. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s muscular crackdown on Islamists—including campaigns in the Sinai Peninsula and against smuggling tunnels to Gaza—is prompting some lawmakers to consider giving the Obama administration more flexibility to keep the $1.3 billion a year military aid spigot open despite human rights concerns. [Al Monitor, 11/18/2014]

Egypt’s Salafist Call condemns proposed protests
The Salafist Call has denounced calls by another Salafist group for demonstrations on November 28. The Salafist Call, one of the largest and most influential Salafist groups in Egypt, said it rejected the anticipated protests led by the Salafist Front. “It has become clear that the purpose of the protests is to exhaust the state,” the Call said in a statement published on its official Facebook page. The Front said it would stage demonstrations to call for the “imposition of the Islamic identity without disguise.” However, the Call said these aims were “deceptive.” [Ahram Online, 11/18/2014]

Egyptian NGOs call for ‘serious’ government talks
Ten Egyptian NGOs have called on the government to start a “serious and transparent” discussion amid rising fears of the future of NGO’s rights in the country. In a joint statement, the NGOs said they were ready to sit with the ministry of social solidarity to discuss NGOs’ independence and the level of governmental interference in their work, in addition to providing suggestions to the government on dealing with rights’ issues. “The NGOs see that this approach will not end the crisis of forming NGOs freely in Egypt but rather prolongs and complicates it,” they said in a joint statement, adding that the law contradicts article 75 of the constitution that guarantees freedoms for NGOs. The signatories of the statement include the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information and Nazra for Women’s Studies. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 11/18/2014]

Seven civilians, three militants killed by rocket attack in Sinai
Seven civilians and three militants have been killed in an exchange of fire between militants and the army in the restive North Sinai, Egyptian security officials said. The officials said a mortar round killed seven civilians from a prominent Bedouin family in the village of Negah Shabana south of Rafah. They said it happened while militants and the Egyptian military shelled the area. The officials said a 65-year-old woman was injured by shrapnel during the exchange of fire and was rushed to a hospital for treatment. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, AP, Reuters, 11/18/2014]

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Clashes exacerbated by political struggle reach Libya’s Tarhuna
As Libya grows increasingly divided, clashes broke out in Tarhuna when militiamen yesterday stormed homes belonging to members of the Nahaj clan, reportedly because of their opposition to local Operation Libya Dawn forces. The fight between the Nahaji and Marghani clans began five days ago when a family feud escalated into a politically motivated battle. The Marghani support Libya Dawn, while the Nahaji support the House of Representatives aligned with Operation Dignity. As the political struggle continues, the House has said it will diversify its meeting locations, starting with Ras Lanuf, in an effort to demonstrate that it is not isolated from large swathes of the country. Meanwhile, Tripoli Prime Minister Omar al-Hassi stirred great controversy by describing Ansar al-Sharia in an interview as “simple, beautiful, and amiable.” [Libya Herald, 11/19/2014]

Libyan monitoring body seeks return of LD4.5m in internal squabble
Libya’s Administrative Control Authority (ACA), which, along with the Audit Bureau, is responsible for ensuring transparency and correct procedure at state bodies, says it is trying to reclaim LD4.5m ($3.6m) of its funds transferred to a bank in al-Marj, in eastern Libya. The dispute appears related to an internal split over support to the two competing governments. ACA management have called for a return of the funds after the Supreme Court ruling against the House of Representatives, with which it said all state entities under its supervision should adhere. But the latest episode reveals that not all within the organization support the Tripoli government. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 11/19/2014]

Number of internally displaced in Libya nears 400,000
The number of Libyans displaced by continued fighting is rising and has now reached almost 400,000. According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), at least 106,420 have fled their homes just in the past month. Residents have fled violence in places like Benghazi and escaped from Derna where the Islamic State has gained a foothold. IDPs have relocated to at least thirty-five cities and towns across Libya. Many towns are reaching or exceeding the limits of their abilities to absorb and care for these refugees. Education is also disrupted, with many classes suspended as the IDPs find shelter in schools. [Libya Herald, 11/18/2014]

Tripoli government says funds transferred to local councils
The Tripoli government says it has begun distributing funds to a number of local councils, with Zawiya the first to receive its check, worth $488,000. Most of the councils mentioned in a report by the Tripoli-controlled LANA news agency are located in western Libya, where the Tripoli authorities hold more sway. Based on the General National Congress-approved 2014 budget, all councils are entitled to three budget payments. Meanwhile, a House of Representatives delegation visited the southwest border town of Ghat to learn more about local needs there, as residents say their town is under siege for supporting the Tobruk-based parliament. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 11/19/2014]

Fifth candidate announces withdrawal from Tunisia’s presidential race
With Tunisia’s presidential election four days away and election ballots already printed, five candidates out of the registered twenty-seven have announced their withdrawal from the race. Abel Raouef Ayedi of the Wafa Movement, Abderrahim Zouari of the Dostourian Movement, the Democratic Alliance’s Mohamed Hamdi, and two independent candidates Nour Eddine Hached and Mostafa Kamel Nabli have all withdrawn their candidacies from what will be the third free elections in the country’s history. Wafa Movement candidate Abel Raouef Ayedi declared his withdrawal from the presidential race today in statement published in his party’s Facebook page. Ayedi described the result of 2014 legislative elections as a “soft coup” with the comeback of old regime figures, and criticized the media’s role in sugar-coating the image of the old regime as well as the use of money in campaigns. [Tunisia Live, 11/19/2014]

Terrorist killed and national guard officer wounded in firefight in Tunisia’s Sidi Bouzid
A terrorist was killed and a national guard officer was wounded, Wednesday around noon on Wednesday, as a firefight broke out in Sidi Bouzid, said official spokesman for the Interior Ministry Mohamed Ali Laroui. [TAP, 11/19/2014]

Human rights group submits petition on sexual violence to Tunisian authorities
Amnesty International Tunisia on Tuesday submitted a petition signed by 198,128 members and activists to the Tunisian authorities, demanding the protection of women and girl survivors of sexual violence. The petition was released during a daylong conference aimed at highlighting the impact of gender-based violence on Tunisian women. [TAP, 11/18/2014]


Turkey says United States not meeting its conditions for bigger Syria role
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday expressed frustration that the United States and its allies were not responding to conditions set for his country to play a greater role in the coalition against militants in Syria. His complaint came as a US special presidential envoy, Gen. John Allen, visited Ankara for previously unannounced talks with Turkish officials. Erdogan said that the “parties have not taken any decisive steps towards the train-and-equip plan” for FSA fighters, nor committed to the removal of Bashar al-Assad. “From the no-fly zone to the safety zone, and training and equipping, all these steps have to be taken now. But the coalition forces haven’t taken the steps we asked them for or suggested to them.” He signaled Turkey would not change its position unless its conditions were fulfilled. [AFP, 11/19/2014]

Iraqi Kurds say West not providing enough arms to defeat ISIS
The president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, accused Western countries on Wednesday of not providing enough heavy weapons to help his Peshmerga forces deliver a “decisive blow” against ISIS militants. “We’d like to thank the members of the [anti-IS] coalition for the support they have provided, but… all the support we have received so far is not up to the level that is needed,” Barzani said in an interview aired on Wednesday. “The heavy weapons systems that we need, especially in terms of quality and quantity, for example the APCs [armored personnel carriers], the helicopters, the artillery we need for a decisive war against ISIS–we have not received these types of weapons.” [Reuters, 11/19/2014]

Syria economy set back more than three decades by war
Syria’s once-promising economy has been set back more than thirty years by its brutal civil war, economists say, and it may never recover. Squeezed by sanctions and the fallout of the more than three-year conflict, the government faces dwindling revenues and is increasingly dependent on aid from key allies Iran and Russia. Inflation is in the double digits, half the population is unemployed, and international trade has plummeted. “We’ve lost a decade in terms of human development indicators, and in terms of the economy today, it’s back to the size it was in the 1980s,” said Bassel Kaghadou, a UN official working on ways to rebuild Syria’s society and economy. “Syria as it was will never exist again. The economy will be smaller. The population will be smaller.” [AFP, 11/19/2014]

Four die in suicide attack in Irbil; ISIS suspected
At least four people were killed and twenty-nine injured when a suicide attacker detonated a car bomb in front of a government building in Erbil, according to Iraqi state television and Kurdish medical authorities. They said the attack shattered the relative tranquility in a northern Iraqi city that was long seen as an oasis of calm. The perpetrators of Wednesday’s attack were unclear. But suspicion would likely fall on ISIS, the Sunni Islamist insurgency that has swallowed about a quarter of Iraq since June. [WSJ, AFP, 11/19/2014]

FBI tracking 150 Americans who traveled to Syria
The Federal Bureau of Investigations is tracking close to 150 Americans it believes traveled to Syria in recent months, potentially to join armed groups, FBI Director James Comey said on Tuesday. He said Americans fighting with foreign jihadist groups are a top concern for the FBI because of the possibility they could return to the United States with the training, expertise, and connections required to launch an attack on home soil. “We have tracked coming up on close to 150 people who traveled from the United States to Syria, for all manner of motivations. A significant number of them to fight,” he told reporters at a briefing in Boston. [Reuters, 11/19/2014]


Houthis claim to have taken Rida’
Yemen’s Houthis managed to push al-Qaeda militants out of the Southwestern strategic town of Rada’ on Wednesday. “The revolutionaries, backed by tribesmen, are now in full control of the strategic town,” said Ali Qahum, a top member of the Houthi Movement, on Tuesday, Iranian Press TV reported. “The situation is calm in the town and the al-Qaeda terrorists have escaped to the Yakla district near the city of Marib,” he added. The Houthis have also expressed readiness to withdraw from Rada’ in case the Yemeni army is able to restore peace and security to the violence-stricken town. The town had been under the control of al-Qaeda militants since early 2012. [FNA, 11/19/2014]

PM statements on improving security, finishing constitution, improving economy
Prime Minister Khaled Baha said his government was fully aware of the challenges ahead and would tackle them to the “extent possible.” In an interview with SABA, he added that the government will focus on improving security and better management of the economy as the process towards a new constitution moves forward. He also promised to revamp the electoral registration system over the course of a clear timeline in preparation for new elections. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/19/2014]

Saudi Arabia expands its border zone with Iraq
Saudi Arabia has expanded a buffer zone along its northern border with Iraq, where a US-led military coalition is bombing Islamic State group extremists, official media said on Tuesday. Mohammed al-Fahimi, a spokesman for northern region border guards, said “the depth of the border has been increased by 20 km,” the SPA reported. Officers guarding the frontier “called on residents and citizens to stay away from the border areas”, it added, without clarifying the previous depth of the border zone. In early September, the kingdom inaugurated a multilayered fence, backed by radar and other surveillance tools, along its northern borders. [Ahram Online, 11/19/2014]

Qatar no longer offering citizenship to Bahraini nationals: Bahrain interior minister
Bahraini Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Khalifa said Tuesday that Qatar has stopped offering Bahraini nationals Qatari citizenship. Controversy erupted earlier in the year after Doha allegedly began offering citizenship to Bahraini nationals from prominent Sunni families, many of them members of the military and security services. Manama issued three warnings to Doha in August and September over the issue, and passed a law in August imposing fines on Bahraini citizens who took on the nationalities of other countries without the approval of the authorities. The move comes after Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE returned their ambassadors to Doha this weekend. [Asharq al-Awsat, 11/19/2014]


Iraq transfers $500 million to Kurds in budget deal
The Iraqi government transferred $500 million to the autonomous Kurdish region as part of a deal to end oil and budget disputes. The Kurdish autonomous region began moving oil to federal oil tanks in the Turkish port of Ceyhan, upholding their side of the deal to give 150,000 bpd to Baghdad. This deal marks an important step in improving ties between Baghdad and Irbil. [AFP, 11/19/2014]

Jordan achieves stable growth despite regional challenges
The International Monetary Fund said that the Jordanian economy has been resilient despite the difficult regional environment. The Jordanian economy growth has stabilized at 3 percent with inflation dropping by 2.3 percent. This achievement is especially commendable with the fluctuations and shortfalls in gas supplies from Egypt, the Syrian crisis, and the conflict in Iraq. [Zawya, 11/18/2014]

Tripoli government says local councils have started receiving funding
According to the Tripoli government, the government has begun transferring funds to local councils. Based on the budget approved by the General National Congress, all local councils are entitled to three budget payments. The first payment is to be distributed equally among the councils, the second according to population size, and the third based on the district area. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 11/19/2014]