The United States is preparing military options, including surveillance flights, to pressure Islamic State in Syria, US officials said on Monday, but they cautioned no decision had been made to expand US action beyond the limited airstrikes underway in Iraq. The Pentagon announced yesterday that seven Western nations have teamed to support the fight against ISIS in Iraq.





US issues contradictory statements on Egypt’s role in Libya strikes
The US State Department on Tuesday backed off an earlier statement that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were behind air strikes on Islamist militants in Libya. The State Department’s Jen Psaki and Pentagon’s Rear Admiral John Kirby both said they understood that airstrikes were undertaken by the UAE and Egypt. The State Department, however, issued a statement later on Tuesday, stating that her comment was “intended to refer to countries reportedly involved, not speak for them.” Egypt reiterated it was not involved in the airstrikes. US official said the United States was aware that Egypt and UAE were planning strikes and warned them against it. On Wednesday, Libya’s foreign minister announced that Egypt decided to train Libyan security forces and will collaborate with neighboring countries to collect illegal arms. Libyan Chief of Staff Abdel Razek al-Nazuri said President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi promised to provide the Libyan army supplies, training, and technical consultations. [Reuters, Mada Masr, EGYNews (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic), The Guardian, 8/27/2014]

Military tribunal preliminarily sentences seven to death
A military tribunal referred seven people to Egypt’s Grand Mufti on Tuesday to consider sentencing them to death on charges relating to terrorism. The defendants were arrested when police raided what they called a “terrorist cell” in Qalyubiyah in May. Eight people were killed in the raid, including two high-ranking military officers and six civilians identified as terrorists by Egypt’s armed forces. The defendants are accused of the murder of armed forces personnel, resisting authorities, and possession of rifles said Nasser Ahmed, a lawyer representing one of the defendants. The final ruling in the case is scheduled for September 23. [Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 8/26/2014]

UAE to provide Egypt‘s petroleum needs at $9 billion for 1 year
The UAE and Egypt will next week finalize for the former to provide finance for Egypt’s petroleum projects needs for one year, said an official at the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC). The agreement entails UAE providing Egypt with diesel, fuel oil, petrol, and butane gas at a value of $800 million monthly. The agreement will begin in September, ending in August 2015. [DNE, Al-Borsa (Arabic), 8/26/2014]

Egypt announces indefinite ceasefire in Gaza
The war in Gaza ended on Tuesday after Israel and the Palestinians agreed to halt fighting indefinitely, putting an end to seven weeks of catastrophic loss of life and destruction. The negotiations for this latest ceasefire agreement were based on the initiative first proposed by Egypt in July, as well as the 2012 Cairo agreement brokered by former President Mohamed Morsi’s administration during Israel’s Operation Returning Echo. The Egyptian foreign ministry confirmed Tuesday that an indefinite ceasefire has been reached between Palestinian factions and Israel. Indirect negotiations between both parties, sponsored by Cairo, will resume within a month after the start of the new ceasefire. Full details of the ceasefire agreement can be found here. The US State Department said it “strongly supports” the ceasefire, and US Secretary of State John Kerry lauded Egypt for its efforts in reaching the agreement on Tuesday, a sentiment shared by the United Kingdom’s Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood. According to state news agency MENA, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described Egypt’s role in the negotiations as “essential and historical in its support of the Palestinian cause.” [AP, Reuters, SIS, The Guardian, Egypt Independent, 8/27/2014]


Libya to ask UN Security Council to help restore order
Libya will ask the UN Security Council to complete its mission and extend support to the ongoing efforts aimed at restoring peace and stability in the country, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz has said. The Security Council is scheduled to meet today, August 27. “We will renew our request to the council to complete its mission in our country and help us restore law and order,” he said. Abdulaziz meanwhile rejected allegations that the Arab League had so far provided insufficient support for the Libyan people. Abdulaziz also dismissed accusations that the League was not doing anything its about the ongoing political situation in Libya. He reiterated that the new elected parliament was the only legitimate body in the country and described claims that the former General National Congress had met and elected a new government as a fallacy. [Libya Herald, 8/27/2014]

Libya ministers resign over militia fighting
The official Libyan news agency says six ministers have resigned after accusing the government of taking sides in escalating battles among rival militias. State media, quoting TV network al-Nabaa, on Wednesday said the ministers of industry, labor, planning, education and water resources, and the state minister for the affairs of the wounded, have submitted their resignation. It quoted Industry Minister Suleiman al-Taif as saying the government was taking sides in the conflict, with the prime minister acting “without their knowledge.” [AP, 8/26/2017]

Libya’s oil production increases to 650,000 bpd
The spokesperson for the National Oil Company (NOC) said yesterday that Libya’s oil production had increased to 650,000 bpd – increasing at a fast rate in the past few weeks despite the widespread fighting between the various militias in the country, LANA reported. [Libya Herald, 8/26/2014]


United States prepares military options in Syria against ISIS
The United States is preparing military options, including surveillance flights, to pressure Islamic State in Syria, US officials said on Monday, but they cautioned no decision had been made to expand US action beyond the limited airstrikes underway in Iraq. The Pentagon announced yesterday that seven Western nations have teamed to support the fight against ISIS in Iraq. However, at least one of these partners, Germany, has stated publicly that it will not join any warfighting actions against ISIS in Syria. [Reuters, 8/27/2014]

ISIS executes soldiers, takes hostages at captured Taqba airbase
ISIS militants have executed army soldiers and are holding several dozen of them hostage after capturing a critical air base in northeast Syria last weekend, pictures posted online showed on Wednesday. As the Taqba base was seized, regime commanders fled to safety leaving hundreds of lower-level soldiers to face certain death, creating a major backlash among regime supporters, who blame military leadership for gross incompetence. One picture circulating shows the body of a pilot who had appeared on state television before the attack explaining how the army could easily defend the base. [Reuters, 8/27/2014]

UN commission finds war crimes committed by regime and jihadists
In a new report prepared by the International Commission of Inquiry on the Syria, the United Nations says the Syrian government and Islamic State insurgents are both committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in their increasingly brutal fight against each other. The United Nations documented that public executions, amputations, lashings, and mock crucifixion are a regular fixture in jihadist-controlled areas of Syria. The probe also claims the regime likely used chlorine gas in eight attacks in April. [WSJ, 8/27/2014]  

US citizen killed fighting for ISIS; Fifteen Australians killed; UK steps up arrests
Douglas McAuthur McCain, thirty-three, a US citizen who grew up in Minnesota, died fighting alongside ISIS in northern Syria, US officials announced Tuesday. The Australian intelligence chief announced Wednesday that fifteen Australians, including two young suicide bombers, are believed to have died fighting in Syria and Iraq, warning that espionage and foreign intervention threats were increasing. Approximately sixty Australians are believed to have joined violent jihadist groups overseas. Britain’s top counter-terrorism police officer said on Tuesday there had been sixty-nine arrests this year for terrorism offences linked to Syria, from fundraising to traveling abroad for terrorist training, a fivefold rise in the arrest rate compared to last year. [NYT, 8/26/2014]


Tunisia’s economic growth slows in second quarter
Tunisia’s economic growth slowed to 2 percent year on year in the second quarter, from 2.8 percent in the same period of 2013, reflecting a broad-based slowdown, the state statistics institute said on Wednesday. The economy had expanded by 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2014. The institute said Tunisia’s economic growth rate slowed to 2.1 percent in the first half of 2014 compared to 2.5 percent in the first half of 2013. The government forecasts Tunisia’s economy will grow 3 percent in 2014. [Reuters Africa, 8/27/2014]

Tunisia arrests Ansar al-Sharia leader
Tunisian security services arrested thirteen terrorists, including one of the leaders of Ansar al-Sharia, said the interior ministry on August 25. Sami Essid and the other detainees are charged with planning terrorist attacks and aiding people wanted by authorities. Arms and ammunition were seized during the operation. The arrests were made as part of an investigation into a major terrorist plot targeting public figures and institutions. [Magharebia, 8/26/2014]

Tunisia, neighboring countries reject foreign intervention in Libya
Ministers of foreign affairs from Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Sudan, Algeria, and Chad met Monday in Cairo to discuss the country’s crippling violence and its consequences for the region. “Tunisia affirms the importance of [finding] a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis and rejects the possibility of foreign intervention in the country,” Tunisia’s foreign ministry said Tuesday in a communiqué on its official Facebook page. The meeting’s concluding statement called for an immediate ceasefire and “dialogue between all political parties.” [Tunisia Live, 8/27/2014]


Houthis make seven demands to end Sana’a siege, including restore subsidies
The Houthi rebels occupying sites around the Yemeni capital in their thousands have announced the conditions for ending their protests. In a letter to Yemeni President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi, the movement, which has been protesting around Sana’a for a week, issued seven demands which included reforms of Yemen’s economy, media, and political system, and say the protests will continue until their demands are met. [Asharq Al-Awsat, Yemen Online, 8/26/2014]

Yemen tries saboteurs amid repeated attacks on crude pipeline
On Tuesday, Yemen opened a trial for fourteen suspects accused of attacking a key crude export pipeline. The fourteen are facing charges of sabotaging the Marib oil pipeline in 2011. The trial coincided with the second attack on the Marib pipeline on Saturday. [Yemen Post, 8/26/2014]

Yemen army jet crashes, pilot killed
A military training jet crashed in Yemen on Wednesday, killing its pilot. The accident took place as the Czech-made L-39 aircraft was landing at an airbase in Taiz, 180 kilometres (112 miles) south of the capital. An investigation has been launched into the incident. Impoverished Yemen’s military aircraft, many of them Soviet-made, are ageing and often encounter problems. [AFP, 8/27/2014]


Rebels capture Syrian crossing to Israeli-controlled Golan Heights
Syrian rebels, including al-Qaeda’s affiliate Nusra Front, seized control of the Syrian crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Wednesday. At least twenty soldiers and four rebels were killed in the fighting. Heavy fire, including six mortar shells, strayed across the border into the Israeli-occupied portion of the Golan, where the army said an Israeli officer was moderately wounded. “In response to the errant fire from the internal fighting in Syria, which hit Israel earlier today and injured an IDF [Israel Defence Forces] officer, the IDF just targeted two Syrian army positions in the Syrian Golan Heights. Hits were confirmed,” it said in a statement. [Naharnet, 8/27/2014]

Mass support by European countries in arming Iraqi Kurds
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel said on Tuesday that seven western governments in addition to the US have pledged to provide weapons and ammunition to Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). In a statement Hagel announced that several European countries like “Albania, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom — have committed to helping provide Kurdish forces urgently needed arms and equipment.” [AFP, 8/27/2014]

Saudi detains eight suspected of recruiting for militant groups
Saudi Arabia security forces announced the detainment of eight citizens suspected of inciting young people to join militant groups abroad, state news agency SPA said on Tuesday, citing an interior ministry spokesman. The interior ministry spokesman said security forces arrested the eight during a raid on the town of Tumair, north of the capital Riyadh, following complaints from parents of the young men who were being recruited. [Reuters, 8/27/2014]

Algeria President dismisses his Islamist special advisor
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika dismissed the Islamist-leaning former premier Abdelaziz Belkhadem as his special adviser on Tuesday. The advisor had long been seen as the regime’s main source to deal with moderate Islamists and his sacking comes after Algeria firmly put itself in the anti-Islamist camp alongside Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The president also asked that Belkhadem, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2008, be banned from any involvement in the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN). [AFP, 8/27/2014]