Top News: UN Presents Libya’s Warring Factions With Unity Government Proposal

UN negotiators on Monday handed Libya’s warring factions a draft proposal for forming a unity government in an attempt to end the conflict in the North African country. Delegates from both factions are expected to head to Germany for a meeting of European and North African leaders, after which they will consult with their political bases and travel back to Morocco for more talks. The proposal calls for a one-year-long unity government, where a council of ministers headed by a prime minister and two deputies will have executive authority based in Tripoli. The internationally recognized House of Representatives will be the only legislative body, according to the deal, which also calls for a 120-member State Council consultative body consisting of members of the rival General National Congress. [ReutersAP, 6/8/2015]



Obama administration harshly criticizes Egypt in report to Congress
The Obama administration sent Congress a report that harshly criticizes the Egyptian government for restricting free speech, arresting political opponents and undermining democracy. Even so, the report also recommends the US continue sending it $1.3 billion in mostly military aid. The report, quietly submitted to lawmakers last month, said that while Egypt has implemented some democratic reforms, “the overall trajectory of rights and democracy has been negative.” After receiving the report, the US House Appropriations Committee proposed a draft foreign aid bill removing human rights restrictions on assistance to Egypt. [AP, DNE, Egypt Independent, 6/8/2015]

Egypt recently summoned US ambassador over Muslim Brotherhood
Egypt summoned the US ambassador in Cairo to show displeasure at Muslim Brotherhood figures coming to Washington for a private conference, sources familiar with the matter said on Monday. One source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said US officials did not intend to meet the group although they had met some Brotherhood figures that came to Washington in January. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke declined to say whether Beecroft was summoned by the Egyptian authorities or whether US officials would meet Brotherhood figures visiting Washington, telling reporters he was aware of media reports of such a visit but that “I don’t have any meetings to announce.” He said it continued to be US policy to engage with people from across the political spectrum in Egypt. [Reuters, 6/9/2015]

Reports of cabinet reshuffle in Egypt, Sisi publicly criticizes ministers
Reports have circulated in the Egyptian media of a possible cabinet reshuffle as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi publicly criticized on Monday a number of ministers, including Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab. Sisi, who completes one year in office on Tuesday, told Mahlab “You promised me you’ll be a bulldozer to pave the road. Where is this bulldozer?” The president, who was the military chief before resigning to run for office, also criticized the cabinet’s delay in digging up wells to cultivate lands, state news agency MENA reported. He also addressed petroleum minister Sherif Ismail and criticized him for his shortcomings in providing the digging equipment for the wells. [Ahram Online, 6/9/2015]

Egypt sentences eleven to death in Port Said stadium massacre retrial
Seventy-three defendants faced trial on Tuesday in the retrial of the 2012 Port Said Stadium massacre case. The court sentenced eleven people to death, including one in absentia. The court also sentenced forty defendants to up to fifteen years in prison and acquitted the rest. However, the verdicts can still be appealed. Among those who received a five-year sentence was the former Port Said police chief. The defendants also include nine high-ranking police officers from the Port Said security directorate, as well as three officials from the Masry football club. The charges are related to the murder of seventy-two fans from Egypt’s leading sports club, Ahly, during a premier league match with Al-Masry at the Port Said Stadium in February 2012. In April, a judge referred the death sentences to Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Shawqi Allam, the country’s most senior religious authority, in a step required by law for convictions in capital cases. The mufti’s opinion is not binding and not made public. According to the Journalists Against Torture Observatory, journalists who do not belong to the Journalists Syndicate were denied entry to the courtroom to attend the session. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, AP, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, The Guardian, Cairo Post, 6/9/2015]

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UN presents Libya’s warring factions with unity government proposal
UN negotiators on Monday handed Libya’s warring factions a draft proposal for forming a unity government in an attempt to end the conflict in the North African country. Delegates from both factions are expected to head to Germany for a meeting of European and North African leaders, after which they will consult with their political bases and travel back to Morocco for more talks. The proposal calls for a one-year-long unity government, where a council of ministers headed by a prime minister and two deputies will have executive authority based in Tripoli. The internationally recognized House of Representatives will be the only legislative body, according to the deal, which also calls for a 120-member State Council consultative body consisting of members of the rival General National Congress. [Reuters, AP, 6/8/2015]

Libyan Foreign Minister says war-torn country at crossroads
The Foreign Minister of Libya’s Tobruk-based government Mohammed al-Dairi said on Monday that “the country is at crossroads” as it faces mounting political and security crises, including the expansion of extremist Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) affiliates along its coast. Speaking to press in Cairo, al-Dairi said that parties opposing peace talks hosted by the United Nations are automatically aligning with the ISIS. [AP, 6/8/2015]

Municipal elections council ‘surprised’ at al-Thinni move to set up rival election authority
Libya’s Central Committee for Municipal Council Elections (CCMCE) has expressed surprise at plans by Abdullah al-Thinni’s government in Beida to set up a rival authority to organize local elections. The CCMCE is considered a success story in post-revolutionary Libya, having run elections in an estimated eighty municipalities, including in large cities like Benghazi and Misrata, under budget constraints. Seven municipalities currently await elections, all in the western part of the country. However, the Thinni government is reported to have decided to carve out eight new municipalities in the east, possibly explaining why it has opted to set up a Beida-based body. [Libya Herald, 6/8/2015]

President Essebsi calls on G7 countries to develop ‘support scheme’ for Tunisia
In his remarks at the opening of the G7 Summit in Germany, President Béji Caid Essebsi called on the G7 countries to develop “a support scheme for Tunisia.” The president emphasized that Tunisia is determined to complete its democratic transition, but that “the process is going to be time consuming if it is not backed by the international community.” He added, “Only countries with which it shares the same values of democracy and liberties could help Tunisia promote democracy and overcome economic and social challenges.” Essebsi stressed that Tunisia’s failure could have serious impacts on the whole region. [TAP/All Africa, 6/8/2015]

Law to create Tunisia’s Supreme Judicial Council declared unconstitutional
The draft law to create Tunisia’s Supreme Judicial Council was declared unconstitutional by the provisional constitutional review authority on Monday after a group of twenty-eight members of parliament (MPs) submitted an appeal of unconstitutionality. More than seventy-four MPs were absent or refused to vote at the parliament’s plenary session. [TAP/All Africa, 6/8/2015]


ISIS attacks government office in eastern Anbar province; Hezbollah repels fighters
Three Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants disguised in military uniform killed at least eight and injured over seventeen in a local government office in Amiriyat al-Falluja in Iraq’s Anbar province on Tuesday. Head of the Council Shakir al-Issawi was among the injured and two of the attackers are still thought to be at large. In other news, Hezbollah gunmen repelled an attack by ISIS fighters on Tuesday outside of the Lebanese border village of Ras Baalbek, an area along the mountainous Lebanon-Syria border where many anticipate a major battle between the two groups. The battle left several ISIS fighters dead or wounded and three vehicles, including a bulldozer, destroyed. [Reuters, 6/9/2015]

Last month’s raid yields new intelligence on ISIS
US intelligence agencies claim to have extracted valuable information about ISIS’s leadership structure, financial operations, and security measures by analyzing materials seized during a raid last month that killed an ISIS leader in eastern Syria. New insights include information about how ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi operates and avoids being tracked by coalition forces. President Barack Obama also warned Monday night that thousands of foreign fighters are still flooding into Syria and urged greater efforts to halt the flow, particularly through the porous Turkish border. An Obama administration official says it could take at least three to five years for Iraq to defeat ISIS. State Department Spokesman and retired Navy Admiral John Kirby says, even then, the war effort “has to be owned by the Iraqis.” [NYT, 6/8/2015]

Jordan military unveils border surveillance with Iraq and Syria
Jordan’s military on Monday unveiled a new phase of a border surveillance system that provides an effective defense against ISIS and other militant infiltration attempts. Militants pose a potential threat to the security of Jordan, a staunch Western ally, and previously have attacked border points. The partially US-funded border security system includes radar and surveillance towers that enable Jordanian forces to spot suspected infiltrators several kilometers before they reach the border. Jordan is also studying the possibility of allowing Syrian refugees to work within its borders, even as the country, which hosts over 630,000 Syrian refugees, has reached a “saturation point” of absorbing newcomers. International donors have called on host countries such as Jordan to put more refugees to work as aid dwindles. [AP, 6/8/2015]

IAEA studies Syrian request to switch to lower grade nuclear fuel
The UN nuclear agency is studying a request from Syria to help convert an atomic reactor near Damascus to use lower grade nuclear fuel, which would be harder to use in bombs. The reactor is currently running on highly enriched uranium (HEU). Syria wants the help of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to use low-enriched uranium (LEU) and to ship the higher-grade material abroad. Syrian rebel forces also seized a major army base in the southern province of Daraa on Tuesday, after twenty-four hours of fighting. [Reuters, 6/8/2015]

US-Turkey dispute on Syria to persist after Erdogan setback
US officials said Monday that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s loss of his parliamentary majority is unlikely to end disagreements between Washington and Ankara, particularly over the conflict in Syria. Officials and analysts said that the main lines of Turkish foreign policy are unlikely to shift dramatically, as the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is still by far the biggest party and President Erdogan maintains enormous influence. Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Tuesday ruled out taking part in any coalition involving the AKP. [Reuters, 6/8/2015]


With five days left, General People’s Congress still waiting on Geneva invitation
The official spokesman for the General People’s Congress said the party had not received an official invitation yet to attend the Geneva talks. The party “welcomes holding the Geneva conference for consultations between Yemeni political components without any preconditions from any group, with good will and under the patronage of the United Nations,” its website said. Despite President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi’s recent remarks concerning the talks, the UN Special Envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed remains hopeful. “We’ve told both factions to come to the negotiating table, without any conditions and discuss both items. I’ve said that there will be a ceasefire provided the Houthis start withdrawing, which is the first stage of the implementation of Resolution 2216. This is how we plan to satisfy both sides.” [Gulf News, al Jazeera, Al Masdar (Arabic) 6/9/2015]

New UN Sanctions against Houthi leader and son of Saleh
In a statement released on its website on Monday, the European Union announced new sanctions in the wake of the ongoing crisis in Yemen. “Two additional Yemeni individuals have been targeted with a travel ban and an asset freeze over their actions against Yemen’s peace and stability. They are Abdul Malik al-Houthi, the Houthi leader, and Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, son of the former President who played a key role in facilitating the military expansion of the Houthi movement allied with regular army units loyal to ex-President Saleh.” These sanctions are the first to target the leader of the Houthi movement with prior bans being placed on former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and other Houthi affiliates. [Yemen Post, 6/8/2015]

UN Food and Agriculture Organization implements emergency aid programs in Yemen
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has begun emergency support programs in the Yemeni governorates of Amran, Saada, and al-Jawf in response to the burgeoning humanitarian crisis. The programs include the distribution of agricultural inputs and goats and implementation of vaccination campaigns for livestock. The resident representative of the FAO Dr. Salah al-Haj has said that these projects demonstrate the UN’s continued interest in working with local partners to reach the affected populations and poorest groups. He added that through these activities the FAO hopes to promote its goal of food security. [SABA, 6/9/2015]

Saudi court upholds blogger’s ten years and 1,000 lashes
Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court has upheld the sentence of 1,000 lashes and ten years of imprisonment on blogger Raif Badawi, despite a foreign outcry. Badawi was arrested in 2012 for “insulting Islam through electronic channels.” For four years, Badawi ran the Liberal Saudi Network, which encouraged online debate on religious and political issues. Badawi received his first fifty lashes in January, but subsequent floggings have been postponed. In March, the kingdom expressed “surprise and dismay” at international criticism over the punishment. In addition, the foreign ministry issued a statement saying it rejected interference in its internal affairs. The international response to the court’s decision has engaged human rights groups all around the world, most notably Amnesty International. Campaigners in Britain have called for a radical shift in the United Kingdom’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. [BBC, The Guardian, 6/9/2015]

Yemeni families sue United States, allege wrongful deaths from drone strike
The families of two Yemeni men killed in 2012 have sued the United States, alleging they were innocent bystanders hit by missiles from a US drone strike and calling for an acknowledgement of their unlawful deaths. In a wrongful death lawsuit filed late Sunday, family members said that Salem bin Ali Jaber and Waleed bin Ali Jaber’s deaths “violated the laws of war and norms of customary international law” and “provide a case study of the failures of the drone war.” The lawsuit does not seek any monetary relief, according to the filing. Salem, an imam, and Waleed, a police officer, were killed August 29, 2012 in the eastern Yemeni village of Khashamir when Hellfire missiles were fired from a US drone near the local mosque, according to the complaint. The lawsuit named President Barack Obama, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, former CIA Director David Petraeus, and several other unnamed people as defendants. [New York Times, al Arabiya, 6/8/2015]


Iraq to form ‘oil army’ to protect energy assets from ISIS
Iraq is mobilizing an army of 27,000 security personnel to protect its oil and energy facilities from attacks by Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) insurgents. Iraqi Oil Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi provided details about the new force following meetings of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Vienna. Abdel Mahdi said that the security force, which essentially amounts to an oil army, would be drawn from an existing energy police corp that is under control of the Interior Ministry. “Their mission is to secure all oil and electricity facilities,” he said. Abdel Mahdi added that meetings would take place in the coming weeks to finalize the structure of the force, which will receive additional training and equipment. In related news, the Pentagon said that the Iraqi government is making progress in its efforts to retake the country’s largest oil refinery at Baiji from ISIS. [The Telegraph, Business Insider, Newsweek, 6/8/2015]

Egypt inflation to fall to single digits in two to three years
Inflation in Egypt will slow to single digits within the next two or three years once a reform agenda has been implemented, Finance Minister Hany Dimian said. Egypt has been battling rising inflation since the government slashed subsidies in July 2014. According to the most recent data, Egypt’s annual urban consumer inflation slowed to 11 percent in April from 11.5 percent in March. Dimian said he expects inflation to fall back below 10 percent once reforms are implemented. Following the slight fall in inflation, Egypt’s central bank is expected to keep interest rates on hold rather than cut costs. Dimian added that he expects the government to finalize details of a value-added tax system in the coming days. [Reuters, 6/9/2015]

IMF official says Algeria needs structural reforms
Algeria must undertake “prudent macroeconomic policies” and launch “structural reforms” in its export sector in order to cope with a sharp drop in global oil prices, former International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chief of Mission for Algeria Zeine Zeidane said. He said structural reforms and fiscal consolidation “will allow for a reduction in imports and strengthen… external competitiveness.” Revenues from oil exports fell almost 43 percent in the first four months of 2015 compared to the same period a year earlier. Energy sales account for more than half of Algeria’s government budget. [Reuters, 6/9/2015]

Saudi ministry says higher oil output driven by demand
Saudi Arabia’s oil ministry said on Tuesday the rise in its oil production over the past three months was a result of increased global demand and the needs of its customers and was not designed to compensate for lower oil prices. An official source at the ministry also said its petroleum policy did not reflect personal views and were formulated by an integrated team of experts and specialists in oil market economics based at the ministry’s offices in Riyadh. The source said the statement was issued after the Wall Street Journal published a story last week about the kingdom’s oil policies, which the ministry said it considered inaccurate. [Reuters, The Telegraph, 6/9/2015]