Top News: US and Iran Hint at Iraq Talks While Rebels Seize New City

Iraqi extremists took over the small city of Tal Afar, in northwestern Iraq, on Monday. Tal Afar’s fall followed a two-day-long battle between the Iraqi military and insurgents of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The city consists of a majority Shia population, increasing the possibility of a strong strike back from the Iraqi government and other Shia militias.


New Egypt cabinet to be sworn in Tuesday
The new Egyptian government will be sworn into office on Tuesday, cabinet spokesperson Hossam Kaweesh has said. Meanwhile, Ministry of Industry and Trade Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour told Daily News Egypt that the final composition of Ibrahim Mahlab’s government will most likely be announced on Monday evening. He also confirmed that the ministry of investment would be separated from the ministry of industry and trade. Mahlab is slated to choose from two top candidates for the position of the new minister of investment, Ashraf Salman, CEO of Cairo Financial Holding and Mustafa Abdel-Wadood, CEO of Abraaj Capital. Additionally, Mahlab said Monday the new cabinet will not include the ministry of information, adding that it will include changes to ten portfolios. [Ahram Online, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, 6/16/2014]

Two supermarket chains closed for Brotherhood ties
Egyptian security forces seized supermarket chains on Sunday, Seoudi and Zad, owned by Muslim Brotherhood affiliated figures on Sunday. Zad market is owned by prominent Brotherhood leader and businessman Khairat al-Shater, now in jail on a variety of charges. Seoudi is owned by the businessman Abdel Rahman Seoudi, who was arrested in 2007 and later acquitted of charges of belonging to the banned group. The raid follows a decision by a judicial committee, formed in 2013 to assess Muslim Brotherhood funds and to confiscate these properties. Shater’s daughter, Aisha, commented on the closure of Zad on her Facebook page, saying that the move has deprived workers of their jobs in the midst of an unemployment problem. [Ahram Online, Reuters, 6/15/2014]

Police confiscate human rights magazine
Police forces confiscated the new issue of “Wasla,” a publication issued by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), from the printing house on Saturday night. Police confiscated about 1,000 copies of the publication and arrested the print house worker who was present at the time. In a statement, ANHRI said that police officers refused to give lawyers a copy of the case documents, however, they informed them verbally that the charges against ANHRI include printing a publication calling for the overthrow of the regime and inciting against it, as well as affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. [Mada Masr, 6/15/2014]

Demonstrators rally against sexual harassment
Several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Cairo Opera House on Saturday evening to protest the ongoing phenomenon of sexual harassment and sexual assault on Egyptian streets. Dubbed “Walk Like An Egyptian Woman”, several anti-harassment groups were widely represented, including I Saw Harassment and Dignity Without Borders, while others came independently to express solidarity with the cause, many holding placards demanding women’s rights. Turnout for the demonstration was lower than initially expected after several groups pulled out when the controversial government-funded National Council for Women (NCW) announced they would participate in the rally. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, 6/16/2014]


Renegade general launches offensive in east Libya, several dozen killed
Renegade retired general Khalifa Haftar launched a fresh offensive on Sunday against Islamist militants in Benghazi, sparking some of the worst fighting in weeks. There are unconfirmed reports that Ansar al-Sharia counted fifty-three dead and sixty-two injured in the fighting, with only four deaths and twelve injured among members of the Operation Dignity force. Electric power, which was cut too much of the city around dawn, was restored early in the afternoon. A Benghazi resident said families fled areas where the fighting was taking place and that Haftar’s forces had deployed tanks to those areas early Sunday morning. Speaking at a press conference, Haftar declared his forces are gaining ground and called for border closures to contain the militias. [Libya Herald, Reuters, AP, 6/15/2014]

Constitutional Assembly forms committee to address Amazigh concerns
The Constitutional Assembly has set up a committee to negotiate with the Amazigh regarding the group’s demands that have led them to continue to boycott the constitutional drafting process. Libya’s minorities boycotted the Constitutional Assembly elections in February, demanding a consensus principle that stipulates that at least two-thirds of the entire sixty-member assembly, including all six Amazigh, Tebu, and Tuareg members, would have to agree to the proposals in the draft on the name of the state, its identity, flag, national anthem, and language(s). The Tebus and Tuaregs joined the assembly when the General National Congress agreed. Upon realizing that their national tour to engage the Libyan public did little to bridge the gap with the Amazigh, the assembly decided to appoint a select committee to liaise specifically with them. [Libya Herald, 6/15/2014]

Libya’s El Feel oilfield reopens after two-month protest
Libya’s western El Feel oilfield has resumed production after security guards ended a protest that lasted more than two months, oil ministry officials said on Sunday. The development is welcome news for the struggling central government as a wave of protests at oil installations and rebel violence have dried up oil exports, the country’s main source of income. Production at El Feel, located in the southwest, will reach 80,000 barrels a day within twenty-four hours. Officials did not disclose more details about the agreement with the protesters. Libya’s eastern Hariga oil export port remained blocked by state security guards, who say they have not been paid for months. [Reuters, 6/15/2014]

Qatar says diplomat’s comments criticizing Tripoli were fake
Qatar has told Libya that comments attributed to Doha’s ambassador denouncing a Libyan court ruling were fake after Tripoli “urgently” requested an explanation, Libya’s state news agency reported. There was an outcry on Libyan social media and news websites about alleged comments of the Qatari ambassador on his twitter account criticizing the Supreme Court’s ruling that the election of Ahmed Maiteg as Libya’s new prime minister had violated the constitution. Maiteg was elected last month with the backing of Islamists and independent lawmakers. [Reuters, 6/15/2014]


Twenty-seven dead in Syria barrel bomb attacks in Aleppo
Syrian regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs Monday on opposition-held districts in northern Aleppo, killing at least twenty-seven. At least twenty-one were killed in the neighborhood of Sukkari, while another six died in a separate barrel bomb attack in a rebel held neighborhood of Ashrafiyeh, in the north of the city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the campaign had killed nearly 2,000 people, more than a quarter of them children, since the beginning of 2014. [Naharnet, Al Arabiya, The Daily Star, 6/16/2014]

Syrian regime forces retake Kessab, pound ISIS bases
An opposition-backed watchdog group alleges that Bashar al-Assad’s army has been bombing major bases of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in coordination with the Iraqi government. Government forces pushed opposition fighters from their last strongholds in northwestern Syria near the Turkish frontier Sunday, seizing the Armenian town of Kessab and restoring government control over a nearby border crossing. SANA, the Syrian state news agency, said government forces had “restored stability and security” to Kessab, removing mines and explosives planted by “terrorist gangs.” [The Daily Star, 6/16/2014]

Moderate Syrian rebel officers quit over lack of military aid
Nine top officers from the moderate Free Syrian Army resigned Saturday over shortages and mismanagement of military aid from donor countries to their uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. The officers apologized to their fighters saying “We seek your forgiveness in resigning today, leaving behind our responsibility as chiefs of battlefronts and military councils.” The officers declared that the Supreme Military Council no longer has a role and that donor countries have completely bypassed it. [Global Post, AFP, 6/16/2014]

After Syria amnesty, contradictory numbers emerge on releases
A week after Syria announced a wide-ranging amnesty, state media, a newspaper close to the government, and activists have offered wildly contradictory figures on the number of prisoners freed. State media announced 1,200 prisoners were released, while al-Watan, a newspaper close to the government, said that some 10,000 detainees had been released. Activists said they could confirm the release of only several dozen prisoners and were skeptical of other numbers that were announced. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, also gave a different number, saying 2,700 prisoners had been released across Syria. [Syria NOW, 6/16/2014]


Parties reach consensus, legislative election first
On Friday, participants in the National Dialogue reached consensus on the order of elections and have agreed to hold legislative before presidential polls. Twelve participants supported the proposal and six opposed, among them Nidaa Tounes. President of Ennahdha Rached Ghannouchi said the consensus is “a major step that brings Tunisia closer to completing transition.” The Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE) may now set a fixed date for the elections. The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) general legislation commission along with the ISIE will present a draft law on a timeframe for the elections before submitting it to a plenary session for adoption. [Tunisia Live, TAP, 6/13/2014]

Eighty-seven new delegates appointed
A reshuffle of delegates was announced Sunday by the interior ministry. Under this reshuffle, the appointment of 165 delegates was terminated, eighty-seven new delegates were appointed in different governorates of the republic, and twenty-nine others were transferred from one governorate to another. Secretary of State in charge of Local and Regional Communities Abderrazak Ben Khelifa said that the appointments announced under the delegates’ reshuffle “are part of a government program and meet the provisions of the roadmap.” Twelve female delegates are among the eighty-seven newly appointed delegates. Three other female delegates were transferred and the appointment of nine women delegates was terminated. [TAP, 6/15/2014]

Two terrorists killed in Fernana
Two terrorists were killed and several arrested following an exchange of fire between National Guard special units and terrorist gunmen holed up in the locality of Ain Debba in the delegation of Fernana, Jendouba governorate. The security operation was conducted by a National Guard anti-terrorism unit on Thursday, Official Spokesman for the Interior Ministry Mohamed Ali Laroui said on Friday.[[TAP, 6/13/2014]


Drone strikes kill five suspected militants in Yemen
A drone strike killed five suspected al-Qaeda militants in Yemen late on Friday. The strike targeted a vehicle in the Mafraq al-Saeed area located in Shabwa province in southern Yemen. Of the five men killed in the vehicle, two were Saudis. Two soldiers also died in southern Abyan province when al-Qaeda militants targeted the military truck they were in with a missile. [Reuters, 6/14/2014]

Ahmad Abdulkader Shaie rejects ministerial position
Newly-appointed Minister of Oil and Minerals Ahmad Abdulkader Shaie rejected his ministerial position, claiming that President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi did not consult him about his appointment. On Wednesday, Hadi made changes to his administration, appointing several new ministers to his cabinet. Shaie was not sworn in with the rest of the ministers last Wednesday, with sources saying Shaie rejected his appointment due to health reasons. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 6/16/2014]

Former South Yemen president says situation worsening every day
In an interview with Al Monitor, former President of South Yemen Ali Nasser Mohamed said that while southerners initially supported unity with the north, neglect has led them to call for secession. Mohamed said the demand by some for independence reflects a general state that rejects the conditions and circumstances suffered by the southerners. This comes as a result of the failure of the regime to address its implications and destructive effects on national unity, it is also due to the injustice and exclusion the southerners continue to suffer to this day. [Al Monitor, 6/13/2014]

Body of Egyptian diplomat found three days after she was reported missing in Aden
Assistant to the Egyptian Administrative Attaché, Huda Mohamed al-Ghobari was found dead in her apartment in Aden province on Sunday evening. Signs indicate that al-Ghobari may have been attacked and died as a result of a head injury. Forensics have not determined the cause of death. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 6/16/2014]


US and Iran hint at Iraq talks while rebels seize new city
Iraqi extremists took over the small city of Tal Afar, in northwestern Iraq, on Monday. Tal Afar’s fall followed a two-day-long battle between the Iraqi military and insurgents of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The city consists of a majority Shia population, increasing the possibility of a strong strike back from the Iraqi government and other Shia militias. On Monday, a senior administration official said that Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns may talk to the Iranians about Iraq at the nuclear talks in Vienna this week. In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani said that despite years of acrimony, his government would not rule out working with the United States to try to stabilize the situation in Iraq. [The Daily News, NY Times, 6/16/2014]

Hezbollah sets up operations room to deal with Iraq fallout
Hezbollah has announced it will establish a military operations room to cope with the fast-moving dramatic developments in Iraq. Hezbollah’s military operations room was set up after the party received news that a broad Sunni alliance is now controlling the Iraqi provinces of Diyala, Salahuddin and most of Kirkuk. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian officials said the situation in Iraq would not have occurred if it weren’t for the “exclusionary and sectarianism” policies of the Iraqi government, and called for the formation of a national unity cabinet. Qatar’s foreign minister also accused Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of triggering the unrest that has swept his country through his policies of marginalization of the Sunni Arab minority. [The Daily Star, Al Arabiya, Gulf News, 6/16/2014]

Jordan prepares to contain fallout from ISIS advance
The Jordanian government is taking precautionary measures to contain the spread of Islamist insurgents from neighboring countries, as fears grow of al-Qaeda fighters extending their influence beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria. Jordanian authorities have tightened control along the borders with Iraq, and stepped up security at border crossings between the two countries. [Asharq Al Awsat, 6/16/2014]