Top News: US Downplays Safe-Zone Proposal As Deliberations With Turkey Continue

The United States on Monday played down the idea of creating a buffer zone along the Syria-Turkish border after a media report cited it as a possible concession to Turkey in return for use of bases to launch attacks on Islamic State militants in Syria.

Administration officials confirmed that they were considering a range of proposals with Turkey, but did not believe that a buffer zone would be the best solution to the current crisis. Unnamed sources within the US and Turkish governments have suggested that the safe zone would protect refugees and certain opposition forces but would also be off limits to the Syrian regime’s aircraft.



Egypt prosecutor appeals Mubarak verdict, cites legal flaws
The prosecutor-general has ordered an appeal against a court verdict that dropped charges of killing protesters during the 2011 uprising against ousted president Hosni Mubarak, and acquitted him of corruption charges. In a statement issued on Tuesday, Hisham Barakat said a committee of prosecutors had concluded that the verdict was “legally flawed.” The statement did not say why the verdict was flawed nor stipulate when the prosecution will submit the appeal to the Court of Cassation. Under Egyptian law all the necessary appeal documents must be submitted with the Court of Cassation within 60 days of the verdict. Hafez Abu Saeda, a member of the National Council for Human Rights, welcomed an appeal, saying a number of points in the case are subject to review. If Mubarak is retried in the case, it would be for the third and final time under Egyptian law. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, AP, Aswat Masriya, Reuters, Mada Masr, Shorouk (Arabic), 12/2/2014]

Cabinet amends criminal procedures law following Mubarak’s case
Egypt’s cabinet approved on Tuesday a draft law issued by the presidency to amend the criminal procedures law to extend the statute of limitations for bribery. According to the new amendment, the statute of limitations for bribery starts the moment the public employee who committed the crime is removed from post, instead of starting right after the crime is committed. The amendment is in order as long as the crime has not been investigated before. Political parties welcomed this anti-corruption legislative reform. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram (Arabic), Ahram Gateway (Arabic), Ahram (Arabic), 12/2/2014]

Egypt condemns Erdogan’s ‘flagrant intervention’ in its internal affairs
Egypt’s foreign ministry condemned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s remarks and his “flagrant intervention” in Egypt’s internal affairs, according to a Monday statement by the ministry. The statement comes after Turkish President Erdogan again made critical comments on Egypt. In a conference with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday, Erdogan said that incumbent president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi assumed power “illegitimately,” while “the elected Egyptian president (Mohamed Morsi) lies in prison.” [DNE, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 12/2/2014]

Six unidentified dead bodies found in North Sinai
Residents of North Sinai’s Sheikh Zuweid found the dead bodies of six citizens shot in the head early Tuesday, police sources said. Witnesses said they had found five bodies on a main road in Sheikh Zuweid before carrying them to the local hospital, while security ran into the sixth corpse near the Arish seaport. Unidentified militants kidnapped four tribal youths four days ago, the sources said. [Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, 12/2/2014]

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Jets carry out air strikes west of Libyan capital
At least three people were killed on Tuesday in air strikes on a town west of Tripoli carried out by forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized government, according to officials. The strikes targeted three locations in Zuwara, including a food storage area and a fishing port. The mayor of the town’s municipal council said that former Libyan general Khalifa Haftar, who launched a campaign against Islamist militants and allied himself with the parliament in Tobruk, carried out the strikes. [Reuters, 12/2/2014]

Libya interior minister meets with Emirati counterpart
The interior minister of Libya’s internationally recognized government, Omar al-Sinki, met with his counterpart in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to seek continued support as it battles Islamist-allied militias who control the capital. Ahead of his meeting with UAE Interior Minister Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, al-Sinki said that he wants greater technical, logistical, and political support from Arab and international allies. He declined to discuss whether the armed forces have received military equipment and arms from the UAE. [Reuters, 12/1/2014]

Libya’s Tobruk government running on bank loan
Internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said his government is currently covering its costs with a $200 million loan from the National Commercial Bank and that the Tobruk-based parliament has approved a budget that has yet to be distributed. He said state revenues up to October 2014 reached $2.4 billion. For several weeks, the National Oil Corporation has not given updates on oil production, the country’s main source of revenue, but an official at the recent OPEC meeting in Vienna said it was around 700,000 barrels per day. It remains largely unclear how much al-Thinni’s government controls the resources. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 12/2/2014]

Car bomb explodes outside Libya’s Ajdabiya security directorate
A car bomb exploded outside Ajdabiya’s security directorate headquarters, just weeks after double bomb attacks in Tobruk and Bayda. There are conflicting reports about whether there were casualties. It is not clear whether the explosives, which damaged several cars and a building, were detonated remotely. Some locals said they suspected Ansar al-Sharia could be behind the incident, as the attack seemed typical of the kinds of operations it is known to carry out. The recent spate of attacks in other towns could be a reaction to the so-called national army’s ongoing operations in Benghazi. [Libya Herald, 12/1/2014]

Tunisia’s newly elected legislature to hold inaugural session
Tunisia’s newly elected House of the People’s Representatives (HPR) is expected to hold its first session on Tuesday after members of the new legislative body met on Monday to finalize an inaugural agenda that will include the election of the speaker and his deputies. The new house consists of 217 deputies representing seventeen political parties elected on October 26. After emerging victorious in the legislative poll, Nidaa Tounes will hold eighty-six seats in the new parliament while its rival, the Ennahda party, will hold sixty-nine seats after falling into second place. [All Africa, Naharnet, 12/01/2014]

Administrative court in Tunis rejects Marzouki’s appeals
An administrative court in Tunis on Monday rejected eight electoral violation appeals filed by presidential candidate Moncef Marzouki, elevating the likelihood that Tunisia’s second round elections will be postponed from December 14 to December 21 or 28. Marzouki’s appeal listed at least 300 electoral offenses ranging from defamation to the use of illicit funds to finance electoral campaigns. A spokesman from Marzouki’s campaign said that internal deliberations were currently underway and a final decision would be made on whether to challenge the court’s ruling. [Tunisia Live, 12/1/2014]


US downplays safe-zone proposal as deliberations with Turkey continue
The United States on Monday played down the idea of creating a buffer zone along the Syria-Turkish border after a media report cited it as a possible concession to Turkey in return for use of bases to launch attacks on Islamic State militants in Syria. Administration officials confirmed that they were considering a range of proposals with Turkey, but did not believe that a buffer zone would be the best solution to the current crisis. Unnamed sources within the US and Turkish governments have suggested that the safe zone would protect refugees and certain opposition forces but would also be off limits to the Syrian regime’s aircraft. [Reuters, 12/1/2014]

US official confirms possible Iranian bombardment of ISIS targets in Iraq
A US defense official on Monday said that the US government is aware that Iranian fighter jets are conducting offensive bombing operations in the same airspace as planes aligned with the US-led coalition against the Islamic State. While previous reports have said that Iran has provided weapons and equipment to the Iraqi government, the official’s comments indicate that US officials might be aware of Iran’s participation in airstrikes against Islamic State targets inside Iraq. Reports earlier this week, indicated that Iranian aircraft had been observed inside Iraqi airspace during a joint operation with Kurdish Peshmerga forces near the Iranian border. [Haaretz, Huffington Post, 12/1/2014]

Key Assad opponent calls for talks with the regime as death toll climbs past 200,000
A prominent Syrian opposition figure called Tuesday for direct talks with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in an attempt to end the country’s brutal civil war. Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, former head of the opposition National Coalition, said that a potential deal would likely see Assad remain in power for a limited time, despite previous demands for his immediate resignation. The former opposition leader’s call for a return to negotiations follows a new report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights indicating that the death toll had risen to 202,354 after four years of brutal fighting. The director of the human rights monitoring group Rami Abdel Rahman reported that 63,074 of those killed were civilians, including 10,377 children. He also noted that among the anti-regime fighters, 37,324 were Syrian rebels, while 22,624 were non-Syrian jihadists. [Naharnet, The Daily Star, 12/2/2014]

Lebanese army detains wife and child of ISIS chief Baghdadi
Lebanese officials on Tuesday confirmed the arrest of the wife and a child of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by the Lebanese army. The officials refused to provide further information on the nationality of the two suspected relatives but explained that they were both detained nine days ago while carrying fake identification cards. The announcement of the arrest comes amid attempts to reach a prisoner exchange deal between Lebanese authorities and the ISIS and Nusra Front fighters who have been holding more than twenty Lebanese soldiers and policemen hostage since August. [Asharq al-Awsat, AP, 12/2/2014]

Lebanese military denies claims of British troop presence in the Bekaa valley
A high-ranking Lebanese military source on Tuesday denied allegations that British troops were taking an active role in securing the Lebanese border town of Ras Baalbek against ISIS militants. The source confirmed that British technical teams had assisted the Lebanese army in the construction of twelve watchtowers along the border, but fervently denied the presence of British troops inside Lebanese territory. [Naharnet, 12/2/2014]

NATO evaluates request by the Iraqi government to join anti-ISIS campaign
A senior NATO official on Tuesday said that the organization is willing to consider a request by Iraq’s government to support ongoing operations against the Islamic State inside Iraq. NATO officials explained that they are awaiting a formal request from Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and would potentially honor the prime minister’s request after close deliberations. NATO support for Baghdad would almost certainly take the form a training mission which could mean up to 300 NATO troops deployed to train Iraqi commanders, with Jordan discussed as a possible location for such an operation. [FT, 12/1/2014]

Iraq and Kurdistan reach agreement on oil deal
The Iraqi government has agreed on an oil export deal with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) according to Iraqi state television and sources within the Iraqi parliament. Under the new agreement, which comes into effect on January 1, KRG will export 250,000 barrels per day while the disputed province of Kirkuk will sell 300,000 barrels per day. Tuesday’s compromise would also see the Kurdish region keep 17 percent of Iraq’s budget expenditure, nearly a year after Baghdad halted payments to the region in retaliation for its move to sell Kurdish oil independently of Baghdad on the global market. [WSJ, 12/2/2014]


Sadeq al-Ahmar appears captured in video with the Houthis
Sadeq al-Ahmar, a prominent member of the Ahmar clan that has traditionally led the powerful Hashid tribal confederacy, appeared in a video that surfaced Monday showing Houthi militants inside his Sana’a home. The filming date of the video is unclear, but its release comes days after the Houthis clashed with forces under the command of Sam al-Ahmar in Sana’a, who is also seen in the video. The Ahmars are leading figures in the Islamist Islah party that has struggled with the Houthis since earlier this year. Yemeni officials denounced the video, which could exacerbate an already tense sectarian climate following the rise of the Houthis. [Al Masdar, Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), 12/2/2014]

Four soldiers killed and three wounded in Abyan bombings
Two bombings targeting patrols in Abyan province left four soldiers dead and three others wounded. Local sources said that an improvised explosive device was planted on a narrow near the town of al-Mahfad, killing four soldiers from the thirty-ninth armored brigade and wounding two others. A soldier was wounded in a separate but similar attack when a landmine exploded underneath a patrol. It is believed that both of the attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda. [Al Masdar, Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), 12/1/2014]

Saudi ambassador reveals directives to send $54 million in food aid to Yemen
Saudi ambassador to Yemen Mohamed al-Jaber revealed on Monday royal directives to provide a $54 million in food aid for 45,000 Yemeni families. During his meeting with Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Mohamed al-Maitami, al-Jaber confirmed that Saudi Arabia is willing to continue providing food aid to Yemen for its continuing stability. The meeting touched on the developments at the Yemeni arena and cooperation between the two countries. [SABA, 12/1/2014]

GCC secretary general visits UAE on tour ahead of Doha summit
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General Dr. Abdullatif al-Zayani visited the United Arab Emirates on Monday. Zayani is currently on a tour of the Gulf region prior to the Gulf summit due to be held in Doha on December 9. He met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, whom he briefed on the agenda and the details of the forthcoming summit. [Gulf News, 12/1/2014]

Bahraini court sentences activist in absentia
A Bahraini court sentenced in absentia prominent rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja to one year in jail for assaulting police officers on Monday, her lawyer said. Muhammad al-Jishy said the verdict was announced in Khawaja’s absence. The activist said on Sunday that she would not attend the hearing because it was “impossible to have a fair and independent trial” in Bahrain. Khawaja, a director of the Beirut-based Gulf Centre for Human Rights, also holds Danish nationality and is a daughter of jailed Shia opposition figure Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. [AFP, 12/1/2014]


Tunisia calls for expansion of economic ties with Iran
The head of the Tunisian Chamber of Commerce called for the expansion of mutual economic and trade cooperation with Iran. He added that Tunisia can act as a gateway for Iran to import and export commodities to and from Africa. An Iran-Tunisia Joint Trade Council would also give an opportunity for the two countries to broaden their economic and trade relations. [FARS, 12/01/2014]

Egypt’s businesses among most corrupt in the world
A survey by international audit firm EY showed that Egyptian businesses experience some of the highest levels of fraud and corruption worldwide. According to the report, unethical behavior in businesses is a structural problem that is unlikely to be eradicated. [Ahram Online, 12/01/2014]

Algeria ready to weather oil price slump
Algerian finance minister announced that the country is able to weather the global fall in oil prices, which are at their lowest level in five years. He added that Algeria has been able to accumulate substantial currency reserves to help deal with the lower cost of oil. Algeria benefited from high oil prices between 2005 and 2008 and used the income to pay off most of its foreign debt. [Al Arabiya, 12/02/2014]