The United States is leaning toward withholding most military aid to Egypt except to promote counterterrorism, security in the Sinai Peninsula that borders Israel, and other such priorities, a US official said on Tuesday.

The official said US President Barack Obama had not made a final decision on the issue, which has vexed US officials as they balance a desire to be seen promoting democracy and rights with a desire to keep up some cooperation with Egypt’s military. [Reuters, 10/8/2013]


In lead up to peace talks Iran rejects US preconditions; France and Saudi Arabia lock arms
Iran rejects any conditions for taking part in a long-delayed peace conference on Syria, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson said Tuesday, in effect dismissing a US suggestion that Tehran back a call for a transitional government in Damascus. The US State Department said on Monday Washington would be more open to Iran taking part in anticipated peace talks if Iran publicly supported a 2012 statement calling for a transitional authority to rule Syria. Meanwhile, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reiterated Monday during a visit to Jeddah that Riyadh and Paris share a common stance on Syria. France has emerged as a strong ally of Gulf countries in recent years and the exceptionally warm reception that Le Drian received in Jeddah was indicative of the special relationship between the two countries. [Reuters, 10/9/13]

Syria’s shipping trade struggles amidst civil war
War and sanctions are taking an increasing toll on Syria’s vital sea-borne trade, with fewer vessels calling at its cargo ports as ship-owners shy away from the risks associated with a conflict now in its third year. The slowdown in deliveries of food and other essentials is piling pressure on the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which is facing vast food shortages and struggling to keep commercial supply lines open. Ship-tracking data shows that the number of ships—dry bulk, container, and general cargo vessels—calling at the ports of Tartous and Latakia has fallen since the start of the year. Port calls made by dry bulk vessels have fallen from a peak of 108 in March to just rwenty in September, while general cargo vessels during the same period have declined from 120 to fifty-two. [Reuters, 10/9/13]

Mortars hit central bank in Damascus
Two mortar rounds hit Syria’s central bank in the capital Damascus on Wednesday causing damage, but there were no reports of injuries. Residents report one missile striking the bank’s roof and a second hitting the garage, though the extent of the damage to the bank was unclear. The bank, in Damascus’ downtown Sabaa Bahrat Square, was hit in April 2012 by a rocket propelled grenade attack and also affected by a huge suicide car bomb in April 2013 that killed at least fifteen people and caused extensive damage to the surrounding area. [AFP, 10/8/13]

War pushes against Syria’s borders; two Israeli soldiers wounded, Jordan checkpoint seized
Two Israeli soldiers were lightly injured by cross-border fire on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights facing Syria on Wednesday. It was not clear if the men came under mortar or small arms fire. In previous incidents in August and September, apparently-stray mortar shells landed in the Israeli-held sector without causing casualties. Meanwhile, Syrian rebels seized a guard post on the border with Jordan on Wednesday after a month of fierce fighting. With the capture of the border post, opposition forces now control a ribbon of territory along the Jordanian border from outside Daraa to the edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. [AFP, 10/9/13]


Trial of Egypt’s Morsi set for November 4
The trial of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi will begin on 4 November, judicial sources said on Wednesday. Morsi, seven other senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist figures will be tried for the killing and torturing of demonstrators outside the presidential palace in Cairo on December 5, 2012. Senior Brotherhood figure Mohamed El-Beltagi and Essam El-Erian, deputy head of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political arm, are among the codefendants in the trial. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 10/9/2013]

Social Solidarity Ministry officially dissolves Brotherhood NGO
Minister of Social Solidarity Ahmed al-Borai issued on Wednesday a decision to officially disband the Muslim Brotherhood NGO in accordance with the legal procedures stipulated in Article 42 of NGO Law, a statement by the ministry said. The Brotherhood has operated outside Egyptian law for decades, and was only formally registered as an NGO in March 2013. According to the statement, alleged violations by the Brotherhood—including using its headquarter as a warehouse for weapons, firing live ammunition from its headquarters, as well as the use of violence by its members against the public—were all referred to the General Federation of NGOs’ Legal Affairs Committee, which resolved to dissolve the Brotherhood. The dissolution of the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, awaits the conclusion of an investigation by the public prosecutor. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Shorouk (Arabic), 10/9/2013]

IMF ready to work with Egypt’s government, says Lagarde
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is strongly committed to working with the new Egyptian authorities to support the Arab world’s most populous nation in its “difficult transition” and is ready to send a mission to Cairo should the authorities wish it, said Christine Lagarde, the fund’s managing director. Lagarde’s remarks, carried by the Jordanian paper Al-Ghad, came after Egypt reduced its representation to the fund’s annual meetings to diplomatic staff in protest of what several Egyptian officials said was the fund’s reluctance to recognize the new government. [Ahram Online, DNE, 10/9/2013]


Security tops agenda in Zidan talks in Tunisia
Security issues dominated talks between Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan and Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh during Zidan’s brief visit in Tunis after traveling to Morocco. Both prime ministers announced to the media that they will increase collaboration on security, notably the fight against terrorism and border protection. Zidan has called on Western powers to help stop the spread of militancy in Libya, saying in an interview with the BBC that the movement of weapons endangers neighboring countries, thus requiring international cooperation to stop it. [Libya Herald, 10/9/2013]

Libya jihadists share ideals, not ties with al-Qaeda, says experts
While there is evidence that individuals currently in Libya once had contact with senior al-Qaeda operatives, there is no indication that they now are direct affiliates of the organization, according to some analysts. Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, who was seized by US special forces in an operation over the weekend, was chased out of Libya during Qaddafi’s crackdown on Islamists and welcomed by Osama bin Laden’s fledgling group, returning to Libya after Qaddafi’s ouster. Analysts believe that, despite such ties, Libya’s Islamist militias see themselves as more powerful than al-Qaeda and thus do not formally ally themselves with the group. [Al Ahram/AFP, 10/8/2013]

UNSMIL chief criticizes US abduction of Ruqai
UN Special Representative in Libya, Tarek Mitri, criticized the operation carried out by US special forces to apprehend Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, saying that the government and people of Libya “have every right to know the circumstances of the abduction… and to demand full respect for international and national laws.” Mitri called on members of the international community that had supported Libya’s revolution to redouble their efforts in assisting Libya to build a sovereign state. The General National Congress issued a statement demanding the return of al-Ruqai, whose apprehension they called a “flagrant violation of (Libya’s) national sovereignty.” The New York Times reports that the Libyan government gave tacit approval to two US commando operations, including the one to seize al-Ruqai. US officials are now concerned that news of the raid may have tipped off the other target, Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspect in the Benghazi attacks of September 2012. [Libya Herald, 10/8/2013]

Qaddaf al-Dam’s case again adjourned by Cairo court
A Cairo court has adjourned the case of Ahmed Qaddaf al-Dam, a cousin and senior aide of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. Al-Dam is charged with the attempted murder of a police officer during a seize on his Cairo home by Egyptian forces. Libya has requested that Egypt extradite more than forty people, including al-Dam, accused of collaborating with the Qaddafi regime. Al-Dam’s extradition cannot take place until his case in Egypt is closed. [Libya Herald, 10/9/2013]


National dialogue agenda to be discussed, remaining parties have until October 11
Tuesday’s preparatory session will focus on the agenda of the national dialogue and the Independent High Authority for the Elections (ISIE), according to a spokesman. Leaders of twenty-one parties have signed the roadmap agreement outlining a plan for the dialogue, while three remaining parties have refused to sign. Those parties will have until October 11 to sign the agreement and participate in the scheduled dialogue. [TAP, 10/8/2013, Tunisia Daily, 10/9/2013]

Larayedh, Marzouki meet with Libyan PM Zidan to build bilateral cooperation
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan on Tuesday met separately with both Tunisia caretaker Prime Minister Ali Larayedh and interim President Mohamed Moncef Marzouki to discuss ways to boost bilateral cooperation on security issues, including the fight against terrorism and protection of borders. The leaders also underlined the need to revive the Arab Maghreb Union to serve economic interests and development of the five countries of the Maghreb. [TAP, All Africa, 10/8/2013]

NCA to take “punitive measures” against absent members
The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) administrative office is preparing to take “punitive measures” against absentee members, according to a state news agency. Independent NCA member Hatem Klai said Monday that the measures will also apply to withdrawn NCA members and will only tackle absences recorded during the months of July, August, and September 2013. Klai said the disciplinary action would “ensure the commitment of deputies in order to finish the assembly’s mission.” [Tunisia Live, 10/8/2013]

Tunisia magistrates seek counterterror role
Faced with death threats, Tunisian lawyers and judges are asking for protection and professional training as they address the uptick in terrorism cases. The judiciary “cannot take on these roles unless it has material and human resources to do so including well-versed judges,” said Kalthoum Kennou, president of the Association of Tunisian Judges. She said Tunisia must “arm a group of public prosecutors, investigating judges, and council judges with solid knowledge in the field of combating terrorism and money laundering.” [Magharebia, 10/8/2013]


NDC plenary session suspended due to Houthi and Southern movement boycott
Vice President of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) Abdul Karim al-Iryani announced the adjournment of the NDC’s plenary session after the southern movement and the Houthi Ansar Allah party staged a sit-in at the plenary session headquarters, refusing to participate until their demands are met. Al-Iryani said that during the suspension of session, the NDC leadership will hold talks with the heads of the two dissenting parties. Southern movement leader Ali Ahmed said in a press conference on Tuesday that the group will accept two arrangements for the future of the Yemeni state: five regions with an option for “self determination” or two regions. Ahmed expressed his frustration at the slow pace of talks in the NDC’s southern issue working group. However, at the close of the first meeting of the plenary session on Tuesday, President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi assured that the question of a federal state in Yemen will be resolved “within days.” [Gulf News, 10/8/2013; Al Tagheer (Arabic), Al Masdar (Arabic), 10/9/2013]

Grassroots campaign launched to extend Hadi’s presidency
A campaign was launched in the southern city Aden to support the extension of Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi’s presidency “to ensure the implementation of the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC),” according to the campaign’s organizers. Mohamed Hamed, president of the People’s Campaign for the Extension of Hadi’s Presidency, said that the movement began as a response to the serious challenges that threaten the security and stability of Yemen as talks about the southern issue have stalled the NDC’s progress. [Al Tagheer (Arabic), 10/9/2013]

Outage in Marib after an attack on power lines
Marib power station has gone completely out of service as a result of new attacks on the power transmission lines in the area. The capital Sana’a and several other cities have no power due to the damage. An official source in the Yemeni electric company said that the station is out of service just a few days after an outage caused by a similar attack was fixed. [Mareb Press (Arabic), Al Tagheer (Arabic), 10/9/2013]

Human Rights Watch reveals details of torture of bombing suspects
Human Rights Watch (HRW)  said in a statement that the Yemeni authorities should immediately release five men who have been detained illegally for over two years in connection with a 2011 explosion in the presidential palace. The men, who say they have been subject to torture, remain in prison despite a May 2013 presidential order for their immediate release. Joe Stork, acting HRW Middle East director said, “In keeping these men behind bars, President Hadi’s government is acting like Yemen’s old abusive regime.” [Mareb Press (Arabic), 10/9/2013]


Deadly explosion hits southern Baghdad
A roadside bomb exploded near a truck carrying workers in Iraq on Wednesday, killing eight people, a police officer and a hospital employee said. The blast south of Baghdad also wounded seven, they said. [Al Arabiya, 10/9/2013]

Three Saudi Shura council women urge female drive ban lifted
Three female members of Saudi Arabia’s Shura Consultative Council filed a recommendation on Tuesday that a ban on women driving in the ultra-conservative kingdom be lifted, one of them said. The move comes ahead of an October 26 initiative by Saudi activists to defy a longstanding driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia. [Al Arabiya, 10/9/2013]

Attack on Jerusalem graves unnerves Christians
Christian leaders in Israel are up in arms over what they say is a string of relentless attacks on church properties and religious sites—most recently the desecration of a historic Protestant cemetery where vandals toppled stone crosses from graves and bludgeoned them to pieces. Though members of the clergy say interfaith relations between top religious leaders have never been stronger, and police have been more responsive to such attacks in recent years, they say attacks continue unabated. Some activists say not enough is being done to stop them. [AP/Ahram Online, 10/9/2013]