Top News: US Expedites Arms Shipments to Saudi Arabia

The United States is speeding up arms supplies and bolstering intelligence sharing with a Saudi-led alliance bombing a militia aligned with Iran in neighboring Yemen, US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday. “Saudi Arabia is sending a strong message to the Houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun Yemen by force,” he told reporters in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed Iranians yesterday saying, “Our view is that the solution for the crisis in Yemen is to stop the attacks and foreign interference against the people of this country. It’s the Yemenis who need to make the decisions about the future of their country.” [New York TimesReutersAsharq al-Awsat, 4/7/2015]



Dialogue meeting to discuss Egypt parliament law reforms hampered by disagreement
A meeting aimed at eliminating constitutional gridlock standing in the way of Egypt’s long-delayed parliamentary elections ended abruptly on Tuesday. Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Ibrahim al-Heneidy said that Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab was forced to end the meeting with political parties and other national figures after verbal clashes erupted among the attendees. Points of contention emerged between the Social Justice Party and the Nour Party, with the former saying the parliament should not contain any Muslim Brotherhood members or Salafists. Other disputes arose over whether to build on the existing law, or making radical changes to the text. The committee will hold the third round of community dialogue on Thursday. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 4/8/2015]

Sisi tells Interior Minister balance between security, human rights should exist
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel Ghaffar on Tuesday to review the ministry’s efforts to maintain security and stability. Sisi stressed the importance of countering “terrorist acts,” which aim at destabilizing the nation’s security and intimidating citizens, as well as balancing between prevailing security and maintaining human rights and freedoms. He also praised the ministry’s approach in spreading awareness and encouraging citizens to report on any violations related to human rights. Sisi praised the interior ministry’s efforts, side by side with the armed forces, to secure prominent events held recently in Egypt, such as last March’s Economic Summit in Sharm al-Sheikh. [DNE, SIS, 4/8/2015]

Over 300 referred to criminal court for participating in 2013 pro-Morsi sit-in
Egypt’s Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat referred 379 defendants described as “members of the Muslim Brotherhood” to criminal court on Wednesday. The prosecution said that the defendants took part in the “armed” encampment in Giza’s Nahda Square, set up to show support for ousted president Mohamed Morsi. The 379 defendants are charged with organizing a gathering, taking part in it, forming an armed mob, and taking part in its leadership, murder, attempted murder, resisting authorities, and violence, among many other charges. According to the Prosecutor’s statement, 187 of the defendants confessed to their membership in the Brotherhood and to partaking in the encampment, after “arming” some of the people in it, in implementation of instructions issued by the Brotherhood’s leadership. In related news, former Sharqiya governor, Hassan al-Naggar has been referred to criminal court, accused of participating in a pro-Brotherhood demonstration. [Aswat Masriya, 4/8/2015]

IAEA paying close attention to Egypt’s planned nuclear plant
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is paying close attention to the nuclear power plant Egypt plans to construct, the agency’s director told Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab on Tuesday. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano called Egypt’s decision to build a nuclear power plant a “sovereign decision every country is entitled to,” during a press conference on Tuesday following a meeting at the Foreign Ministry. He added that cooperation with Egypt is already underway in construction, training and conducting workshops about nuclear energy. Cairo will host a regional workshop from April 13 to 16 on nuclear security in Arab countries. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 4/8/2015]

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Misrata threatens to boycott UN-led dialogue
The Misrata Municipal Council has threatened to withdraw from the UN-brokered dialogue because it says the Tobruk government is not committed to the process. The council claims the Tobruk government is undermining the negotiations with a military campaign in the west of the country. The cause for the resentment and frustration is the belief that the Tobruk-based government and the Libyan National Army have shown they are not interested in the peace talks. The Misratan officials reaffirmed their belief that the negotiations are the only way to peace in Libya. [Libya Herald, 4/7/2015]

In Tunisia, four soldiers killed and nine wounded in jihadist attack
Four Tunisian soldiers have died and nine have been wounded following a jihadist attack yesterday in the western Tunisian region of Kasserine near the Algerian border. According to the defense ministry, two army hummers and a truck patrolling the area as part of anti-terror operations were attacked by a group of terrorists believed to include eight gunmen, armed with RPGs and Kalashnikovs, near Mount Mghila. Confrontations between Tunisian forces and extremists are common in the region and around sixty Tunisian soldiers have been killed in ambushes there since 2012. [ANSAmed, 4/8/2015]

Tunisian President Essebsi holds talks with French President Hollande
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi met with French President Francois Hollande in Paris this week. They discussed how Tunisia and France could cooperate to ensure security, economic, and financial success in Tunisia. Hollande emphasized the role that French companies can play in Tunisia and the significance of cultural exchanges for students in each country. As part of this economic support effort, France will convert Tunisia’s 60 million euro debt into development projects to improve underprivileged regions on Tunisia. [TAP/All Africa, 4/7/2015]

Third session of Algerian-US Strategic Dialogue held in Washington
Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ramtane Lamamra will be in Washington, DC for the third session of the Algerian-US Strategic Dialogue. Lamamra will meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss bilateral cooperation on a variety of political and security issues. The dialogue, established in 2012, seeks to find opportunities for reinforcing the cooperation between the two countries, as well as looking for new avenues of collaboration in the political, security, economic, educational, and cultural fields. [APS, 4/8/2015]


ISIS free more than 200 captive Yazidis in Iraq
ISIS terrorists freed more than 200 Yazidis it was holding captive in northern Iraq on Wednesday. All those released were elderly or infirm, and included two Christians.[Reuters, 4/8/2015]

Syria offers Palestinians firepower in Yarmouk battle against ISIS
Syrian authorities said on Tuesday it is ready to offer Palestinians its firepower to support their battle with the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Damascus. Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad met with a delegation from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) headed by Ahmad Majdalani. “With the exception of a direct armed intervention, Syrian authorities are ready to support the Palestinian fighters in a number of ways, including militarily, to push ISIS out of the camp,” said PLO official Anwar Abdul Hadi. “Syria and the PLO are determined to fight terrorism, which has reached Palestinian camps in Syria, notably Yarmouk,” Meqdad said. Majdalani said both sides had “agreed on the need for a unified position for the Palestinian forces in Syria, in coordination with the Syrian government.” On Wednesday, Syria’s Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar said a military operation in Yarmouk is necessary to expel ISIS from the camp. [AFP, 4/8/2015]

Two deadly car bombs hit rebel bases in Aleppo province
Two car bombs and heavy clashes rocked a strategic city in northern Syria on Tuesday night as ISIS sought to expand their reach, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The Observatory said the terrorists attacked the city of Marea, which lies along a key rebel supply route in Aleppo province leading north to the Turkish border. “There were two car bombs on positions in and near Marea, which is controlled by Islamist militants and the Nusra Front,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Observatory. At least eighteen people were killed in the explosions. Among the dead were leaders in al-Jabha al-Shamiya and a local Nusra Front emir. [AP, Al-Arabiya, AFP, 4/8/2015]

Syrian dissident detained on second day of Moscow talks
Syrian authorities Tuesday arrested a member of the domestic “tolerated” opposition as he returned to the country from a rights meeting in Geneva, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and an activist said. “The opposition figure and human rights activist Saleh al-Nabwani was arrested Tuesday on the Lebanese-Syrian border,” said Rami Abdel-Rahman, head of the Observatory. The arrest was also confirmed by veteran dissident Haitham Manna, the head of Qamh. Nabwani, of the Qamh movement, was traveling from Geneva via Beirut after taking part in a human rights workshop. In related news, state news agency SANA said the opposition figures were working on a “unified working paper” to be presented for a scheduled two days of discussions with representatives of the regime Wednesday and Thursday. [The Daily Star, 4/8/2015]

Iraq exhumes remains of forty-seven from Tikrit graves
Iraq has exhumed the remains of forty-seven people believed to have been massacred by ISIS terrorists from mass graves in Tikrit. “The number of remains that were exhumed so far is 47, and they were found in 11 mass graves,” said Kamel Amin, the human rights ministry’s spokesman, adding that the number is expected to rise. Amin said they are believed to have been victims of the infamous Speicher massacre, named for the military base near which up to 1,700 mostly Shiite recruits were abducted by ISIS last year.[AFP, 4/8/2015]


Iran deploys ‘anti-piracy’ ships off the coast of Yemen
Iran sent two warships to the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday, state media reported, establishing a military presence off the coast of Yemen where Saudi Arabia is leading a bombing campaign to oust the Iran-allied Houthi movement. The Iranian ships will patrol the Gulf of Aden, south of Yemen, and the Red Sea, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said in comments to Iran’s Press TV. The Alborz destroyer and Bushehr support vessel sailed from Bandar Abbas on a mission to protect Iranian shipping from piracy. [Reuters, 4/8/2015]

Saudi warplanes strike air base north of Aden
Warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition struck al-Anad air base in south Yemen overnight and targets in areas around the southern port city of Aden, residents and local officials said on Wednesday. Al-Anad airbase is located about thirty miles north of Aden, on the main highway north from the port city. Soldiers loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, now allied to the Houthis, are still inside the base. Despite heavy bombing of their convoys and weapons depots, the Iran-allied Houthis have fought their way into central Aden, the last major foothold of fighters loyal to Saudi-backed President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi. [Reuters, 4/8/2015]

US expedites arms shipments to Saudi Arabia
The United States is speeding up arms supplies and bolstering intelligence sharing with a Saudi-led alliance bombing a militia aligned with Iran in neighboring Yemen, US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday. “Saudi Arabia is sending a strong message to the Houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun Yemen by force,” he told reporters in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed Iranians yesterday saying, “Our view is that the solution for the crisis in Yemen is to stop the attacks and foreign interference against the people of this country. It’s the Yemenis who need to make the decisions about the future of their country.” [New York Times, Reuters, Asharq al-Awsat, 4/7/2015]

Red Cross humanitarian aid delivered
An initial International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) flight transporting medical personnel has reached the Yemeni capital Sana’a on Tuesday as fighting in the country led to warnings of a humanitarian crisis. ICRC spokeswoman Sitara Jabeen said the first flight was a small passenger plane carrying medical staff and that it landed on Monday. A cargo plane with medical supplies was waiting in Amman, she said. Meanwhile, after facing sharp criticism from humanitarian organizations for imposing a naval and air blockade on the already impoverished country, Saudi Arabia sought to extend a hand of relief to Yemenis by approving visa extensions for Yemenis living in the Kingdom. [AFP, 4/7/2015]

Bahrain hopes Iran agreement guarantees peace, security
The foreign ministry said in a statement that, “Bahrain hopes the framework will lead to a final agreement that guarantees peace and security in the region.” Bahrain and the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have been invited by US President Barack Obama to a meeting in the spring at Camp David to discuss the issue and security cooperation. Both the Bahraini and Saudi statements stressed a need for non-interference in the affairs of Arab states by Iran as well as a commitment to positive cooperation. [Gulf News, 4/8/2015]


Libya’s rival forces warn Tobruk government against independent oil sales
Libyan forces opposed to the country’s internationally recognized government in Tobruk have warned it that any attempts to export oil independently would force them to take military action to seize oil ports and facilities. Forces with the Tobruk government hold two key oil ports, Ras Lanuf and Es Sider. Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said over the weekend he would seek independent oil sales and open a bank account overseas to hold revenues. A spokesman for forces allied with the rival Tripoli government said any attempt by Thinni to sell oil bypassing the central bank and the National Oil Corporation (NOC) would trigger military action. [Reuters, 4/8/2015]

Moody’s raises Egypt’s credit rating, says economy improved
Moody’s Investor Service has upgraded Egypt’s credit rating, saying macroeconomic performance has improved and external vulnerabilities have been reduced. Moody’s ranked Egypt at B3 on its scale—speculative and subject to high credit risk—with a stable outlook, an improvement from its previous classification of Caa1. Moody’s says it expects economic growth to accelerate over the coming four years. Meanwhile, Egypt’s Central Bank Governor said Egypt would receive $6 billion in pledged deposits from the Gulf within ten days. [AP, 5/7/2014]

In discussions between Iraq and the IMF, no decision on aid request
Iraq is discussing its financial situation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but has made no decision to request emergency assistance, Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari has said. The plunge in oil prices since last year has ravaged Iraq’s state finances. The government has projected a budget deficit of roughly $21 billion this year and has been building up debts to companies developing its oil fields. Zebari did not elaborate on what aid might be provided by the IMF. [Reuters, 4/7/2015]

Saudi Arabia boosts crude oil production to highest level on record
Saudi Arabia has revved up crude production to its highest rate on record, feeding unexpectedly strong demand from foreign refiners and increased capacity at home. The country’s oil minister said Saudi Arabia produced a record 10.3 million barrels per day of crude in March. The increase in output reaffirms the country’s vow not to cede market share to higher-cost producers. [The Guardian, 4/7/2015]