Top News: US Joint Chiefs Says Raiding Syria Is Key to Halting ISIS


The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, or IS) cannot be defeated unless the United States or its partners take on the group inside Syria, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday. “This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated,” said the chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, a long-time skeptic of US involvement.





Sisi meets with Cairo governor to plan for city-wide revamp
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with Cairo Governor Galal Saeed on Thursday to discuss the infrastructural challenges facing the nation’s capital, reported the state-owned media. In the meeting, Saeed cited traffic, informal housing settlements and unregulated street vendors as some of Cairo’s most pressing problems. Sisi reportedly asked Saeed to coordinate with governmental institutions to ease the bureaucratic hurdles to improving quality of life for the average Egyptian, who has “suffered so much and is due to receive his full rights,” the president said. The governor plans to introduce new housing developments, improved public transportation and an overall “civilized” environment, said MENA. [Mada Masr, Al-Ahram (Arabic), 8/21/2014]

Rights group wins lawsuit against MOI in torture case
Egypt’s courts have sided with the Arab Penal Reform Organization (APRO) in a lawsuit against the ministry of interior, compelling the ministry to pay EGP 403,000 to torture victims, the group announced in a statement released on Wednesday. APRO had filed sixteen complaints against the ministry on behalf of political prisoners who were tortured while held in detention under former President Hosni Mubarak’s administration. The organization won the initial cases, but the ministry refused to pay the mandated damages, prompting APRO to file another suit for violating a court order. State-owned newspaper Al-Ahram reported on Thursday that the ministry had already issued checks to pay the damages and settle the latest lawsuit. [Mada Masr, 8/21/2014]

NCHR says Human Rights Watch report is deliberately misleading
The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) said, in a statement Friday that remarks made in a recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the dispersal of the pro-Morsi Raba’a al-Adeweya and Nahda sit-ins last year violate the professional and ethical standards of research. The statement described the HRW report as “low in professionalism” and “deliberately misleading”. It added, “Although the NCHR does not issue comments on reports released by organizations working in the same field, we decided to respond to the report’s obvious fallacies and presumptions.” NCHR also suggested that HRW had disregarded the testimony of a reporter they deem to be pivotal, regarding the killing of a police officer that allegedly triggered an exchange of fire. NCHR also accused HRW of being biased towards the Muslim Brotherhood, saying it had used selective testimony from the same reporter that did not blame the Islamist group. [Mada Masr, EGYNews (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic), 8/22/2014]

Subsidy recipients in Egypt reluctant to respond to ministry initiative
Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, head of the control and distribution department at Egypt’s ministry of supply, explained the “Return your Card” initiative launched by the ministry. He said that giving up the card is optional and according to people’s needs. While Abdel Aziz stated that there is no official number of those who have returned their cards, ministry spokesperson Mahmoud Diab had told Al-Ahram in a previous interview that about 165,000 cards have been returned. [Mada Masr, 8/21/2014]


Grand Mufti backs Libya Dawn operation, calls Zintanis “traitors”
Libya’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadik al-Ghariani, has again come out in favor of Operation Dawn in Tripoli and Islamists in Benghazi, stating that no one should take a neutral position between them. He called the Zintani brigades, their allies in Tripoli, and the Operation Dignity forces of retired general Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi thieves responsible for Libya’s miseries. He also accused them of being remnants of the Qaddafi regime and enemies of the revolution. Al-Ghariani has angered many Libyans who accuse him of inciting violence rather than promoting reconciliation. [Libya Herald, 8/21/2014]

Day-long fighting near Tripoli’s airport road
Fierce militia fighting gripped Tripoli all day Thursday, with most of the activity appearing to have been in the Hay Akwakh district where there are unconfirmed reports that Islamist-led Operation Dawn forces used tanks and self-propelled howitzers. Both sides are claiming that they are in control of the area. Meanwhile, the number of Tripoli residents fleeing the inter-militia fighting continues to rise. Although the Tripoli local council’s crisis committee earlier this week estimated that the fighting had displaced some 43,500 people, there are no precise figures since many people are taking refuge with relatives elsewhere. [Libya Herald, 8/21/2014]

Libya shuts state TV stations
The Libyan government shut down both state TV channels earlier this week. Egyptian satellite company Nilesat took al-Wataniya and al-Rasmiya off the air after receiving an official request from the acting Libyan media minister. The TV stations had been under the control of anti-government forces and backed the Islamists fighting for control of the main Tripoli airport. Al-Rasmiya chief Nadhim Tayari slammed the move, calling “on all international organizations for freedom of speech to denounce this act and work to correct it.” [Magharebia, 8/21/2014]

Libya fallout jeopardizes the Sahel, says African Union
The African Union (AU) warns in a new report that ongoing unrest in Libya and the resurgence of violence in Mali threaten the entire Sahel region. “The link between terrorism, drug trafficking, and cross-border crime gives the armed terrorist and criminal groups the capacity of regeneration and nuisance that threatens all the countries of the Sahel and beyond,” the AU report states. “This situation is worsened by the porous nature of the borders and weak capacity of states to cope with it.” But according to one analyst, the report does little to clarify how concerted action should be taken to address the concerns. [Magharebia, 8/21/2014]


US Joint Chiefs says raiding Syria is key to halting ISIS
The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, or IS) cannot be defeated unless the United States or its partners take on the group inside Syria, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday. “This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated,” said the chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, a long-time skeptic of US involvement. “Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no.” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel described ISIS’ potent combination of ideology, resources, and destructive capacity as “beyond anything we’ve seen.” Hagel added that the Pentagon might need to retool its 2015 budget to take on ISIS. [NYT, WSJ, 8/22/2014]

United Nations raises estimate of dead to 191,000
The number of dead in Syria’s civil war more than doubled in the past year to at least 191,000, the United Nations human rights office said Friday. The agency’s chief, Navi Pillay, bluntly criticized Western nations, saying their inaction in the face of the slaughter had “empowered and emboldened” the killers. On Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced that it has recorded 260,000 deaths from the start of the Syrian revolution. [NYT, Reuters, 8/22/2014]

Regime reinforces Raqqa air base, seventy ISIS fighters killed
Syrian government forces have airlifted reinforcements to an air base being attacked by Islamic State militants in northeast Syria. The airbase at Tabqa, some twenty-five miles east of the city of Raqqa, is the government’s last foothold in an area otherwise controlled by ISIS. At least seventy ISIS fighters have been killed in forty-eight hours of clashes with army troops. [Reuters, 8/22/2014]


Tunisia peace ranking slips, retains “high level of peace”
Tunisia’s ranking among the world’s most peaceful countries fell from 75 to 79 (out of 162) during 2014, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Peace Index (GPI). Despite the slide, the report classifies Tunisia as a country with a “high level of peace.” Its position ranks second among Maghreb countries, with Morocco at 63 and Algeria at 114, and seventh in the broader Middle East and North Africa region. [Tunisia Live, 8/21/2014]

NCA suspends discussion of anti-terrorism law; work to resume early September
Thursday’s plenary session at the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) was adjourned two hours before the time initially scheduled due to lack of quorum. The session chair announced that discussion would resume September 1. President of the Rights and Freedom Commission Souad Abderrahim explained that it was not possible to continue discussion of such a crucial bill with only 120 members. So far, only eleven articles of the draft law were voted upon. [TAP, 8/21/2014]

Tunisia crackdown raises fears of rights rollback
Mosques are being closed, local organizations banned and at least 1,000 people have been arrested as Tunisia cracks down on those suspected of sympathizing with radical Islamists. After the worst terrorist attack ever suffered by the Tunisian army, at least 157 civil associations, twenty mosques, a TV channel, a radio station and some websites were accused of promoting violence and shut down. Local and international human rights groups have expressed concern that the suspension of civil groups bypasses measures in the new constitution protecting freedom of association. [AP, 8/22/2014]


Backers of Houthi rebels gather in Sana’a amid crisis talks
Thousands of Houthi supporters pressing the government to step down gathered in Sana’a on Friday. The rally came on the final day of an ultimatum set by rebel commander Abdulmalik al-Houthi. He urged supporters to gather for weekly Muslim prayers on the road leading to Sana’a International Airport in the north of the capital. Meanwhile, a presidential delegation held talks with the Houthi commander in Sa’ada to convince his group to join a national unity government. [AFP, 8/22/2014]

Yemen’s central bank records a rise in foreign reserves and a growth in budget
Yemen increased its foreign exchange reserves to 1 trillion and 36 billion by the end of June 2014, up 48 billion from May 2013. A report released by the central bank stated that the bank paid $233 million to import petroleum products and basic food items in June 2014 alone. [Central Bank, Al Thawra (Arabic), 8/21/2014]

Yemen and ICRC sign cooperation agreement
Yemen and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) signed on Thursday an agreement on joint cooperation in the implementation of several humanitarian activities throughout the country. The agreement promotes the principles of international humanitarian law and carries out field awareness activities with local authorities in all governorates. [Saba, 8/21/2014]


Violence continues in Iraq as Shia militia attack Sunni mosque
At least thirty people were killed when a Shia Muslim militia opened fired inside an Iraqi Sunni mosque in the country’s eastern Diyala province. Ambulances transported the bodies to the town of Baquba, the main town in Diyala province, where Iranian-trained Shia militias are the most powerful. In Mosul, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants stoned a man to death after one of their courts sentenced him to die for the crime of adultery. The act was the first known instance of the punishment by ISIS in Iraq. [AFP, Reuters, 8/22/2014]

700,000 Iraqis displaced in northern Iraq
Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that about 700,000 Iraqis have gathered in the Kurdish north after being driven from their homes by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The UNHCR is in the process of its largest single aid push in more than a decade in Iraq. Describing the conditions on the ground, Edwards stated that refugees are moving to camps “as quickly as tents can be pitched, such is the enormity of this crisis and the desperate need for shelter.” [AFP, 8/22/2014]

Iran denies reports linking their involvement in Iraq to nuclear talks
The Iranian government denied a report that it is ready to help counter Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in return for progress in negotiations with world powers over its nuclear program. On Thursday a story from the official Iranian News Agency (IRNA) reported Foreign Minister Javad Zarif as saying that if Iran agreed to “do something in Iraq, the other side in the negotiations will need to do something in return.” But later IRNA reported on foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham dismissing the report about “news agencies about Iran and US cooperation in Iraq.” [Reuters, 8/22/2014]

UAE toughens anti-terrorism laws
The United Arab Emirates has toughened anti-terrorism laws, local media reported Thursday. Local newspapers reported that the law allows for the death sentence, life imprisonment, and fines up to twenty seven million for those found guilty of terrorism-related crimes. The updated counter-terrorism law that amends a 2004 law also includes terrorism financing, holding hostages, human trafficking, and money laundering. [Al Arabiya, 8/22/2014]