Top News: US to Send Up to 300 Military Advisers to Iraq

President Barack Obama said Thursday that he would deploy up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help its struggling security forces fend off a wave of Sunni militants. Stating that the militants pose a threat not just to Iraq but also to the United States.


Court sentences Brotherhood leaders Badie, Hegazy and Beltagy to death
An Egyptian criminal court sentenced a number of top Muslim Brotherhood leaders to death Thursday.The convicted include the Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohamed Badie and Mohamed al-Beltagy, as well as Safwat Hegazy and eleven others. The sentences will be carried out pending the religious advice of Egypt’s top cleric, the Grand Mufti, who must give an opinion on the proposed death sentences before they can be confirmed. The court’s final verdicts are expected on August 3, after which the defendants can appeal. The defendants, four of whom were tried in absentia, were found guilty of killing ten people and injuring twenty others during violent clashes around the Istiqama Mosque in Giza last July. Badie has already been referred to the Mufti with a death sentence recommendation once on a separate set of charges, with a final verdict expected on Saturday. [DNE, Egypt Independent, AP, Reuters, 6/19/2014]

Cabinet committee granted power to seize, manage Brotherhood assets
The Justice Ministry formed a committee, headed by Justice Minister Nayer Othman, to identify the Muslim Brotherhood’s financial activities and holdings, following a court order issued in September 2013 to freeze and confiscate all its assets.The committee, tasked with locating and seizing Brotherhood assets, will now manage them as well, the government said on Friday. Previously, the committee’s role had been restricted to identifying and locating such assets, and ordering other state entities, such as the Central Bank of Egypt and the Egyptian Exchange, to freeze and confiscate them. [Mada Masr, 6/20/2014]

Investment minister says capital gains tax ‘pivotal’ to Egypt’s budget
Egypt’s stocks ended the trading week in the red, with investors concerned about a statement by the newly appointed investment minister on a possible 10 percent capital gains tax, according to an analyst. Sherif Salman, the new investment minister, stated on Thursday that the government does not intend to reverse a decision to impose taxes on investors’ profits and dividends in the stock market. Eissa Fathy, the vice head of the securities division at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, told Ahram Online that investors have ignored positive news as they were more impacted by the tax updates.The president is yet to approve the tax. [Ahram Online, SIS, 6/19/2014]

Egyptian truck drivers in Libya released
Over seventy Egyptian trucks and their drivers detained by Libyan gunmen near Benghazi started crossing the Egyptian border after being freed on Friday at dawn. Gamal Aoun, chief of the drivers of Gharbiya, said that the Egyptian Intelligence Bureau succeeded in releasing approximately 300 Egyptian drivers that were abducted by gunmen in the Libyan region of Ajdabiya. The State Information Service reported that the kidnappers held the Egyptian truck drivers in order to exercise pressures on the Egyptian government to free a Libyan arrested and convicted for life in prison over cross border smuggling charges. [DNE, AMAY (Arabic), 6/20/2014]


Rogue general’s forces continue bombing campaign over Benghazi
Air forces loyal to rogue retired general Khalifa Haftar again carried out strikes on Benghazi’s Hawari, Sidi Faraj and Guwarsha districts on Thursday. The spokesman for Operation Dignity, Mohamed al-Hijazi, said Hafter’s forces had bombed the areas because Ansar al-Sharia returned to their previous bases and strongholds. Life continued as normal in Benghazi as residents become increasingly accustomed to frequent bombing. Meanwhile, the Supreme Council of Libyan Revolutionaries (SCLR) has appealed to armed groups across the country to rally against Haftar. The SCLR railed against the government’s “treacherous stand” with Operation Dignity, and said the authorities have failed to deal effectively with the ongoing crisis in Benghazi. [Libya Herald, 6/19/2014]

Libya’s revolution rape victims to be compensated
More than three years after the beginning of the uprising that overthrew Muammar Qaddafi, Libya’s rape victims from the revolution may finally be compensated. Minister of Justice Salah al-Marghani announced yesterday the approval of a fund to pay reparations to victims of sexual violence. Hundreds of women were raped during the 2011 revolution. The International Criminal Court has stated that the Qaddafi regime used rape as a weapon of war.[Libya Herald, 6/19/2014]

Sahel terror tied to economic conditions
Development of the Sahel and the Maghreb must be part of any security strategy, according to an international conference this week in Rabat. Instability has become endemic across the Sahel over the past decade. Illegal trafficking, tensions over energy, poverty and other issues threaten the fragile social, economic, political and geopolitical balance. All countries in the region are affected by security threats, agreed former Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ghozali, adding that the situation in Libya was especially worrisome. To combat terrorism, it is essential to improve the economic situation in each country and enforce the rule of law, he said. [Magharebia, 6/19/2014]


Conflicts in Syria and Iraq are a single challenge, according to  White House
President Barack Obama’s administration is considering the conflicts in Syria and Iraq as a single challenge, with Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) threatening both countries’ governments and the region’s broader stability. Obama and his senior advisers reviewed the consequences of possible airstrikes in Iraq and a bolder push to train Syria’s moderate rebel factions. The recent ISIS advance is forcing the administration to reconsider its “cautious approach” toward Syria. [Washington Post, 6/19/2014]

Truck bomb kills at least thirty-five in Hama
A massive truck bomb killed at least thirty-five people on Friday in a majority Alawite village in the central Syrian province of Hama. The Islamic Front claimed responsibility for the attack, stating on Twitter that a radio-controlled bomb had targeted a “gathering of Assad militia.” This follows further fighting between rebel groups and Iraqi security forces in the town of al-Qaim on the Syrian border. Thirty-four Iraqi security forces were killed during the battle, leaving rebel groups in control of the majority of al-Qaim. [Naharnet, 9/20/2014]

Two dozen airstrikes target Mliha
Regime warplanes Thursday launched twenty-five air raids on the southeast Damascus suburb of Mliha, a key rebel stronghold. Regime ground forces also targeted the Mliha area with nine surface-to-surface missiles, as troops backed by Lebanon’s Hezbollah battled rebel groups and their jihadist Nusra Front allies. [The Daily Star, 6/20/2014]

More than fifty million driven from homes by war
The number of people driven from their homes by conflict and crisis has reached fifty million for the first time since World War II, with Syria being the hardest hit. The UN report indicated that the protracted Syria conflict was largely to blame for the increase. [AFP, 6/20/2014]


Political parties reject Ennahda’s proposal of consensus for presidential candidate
Political parties have rejected the proposal of Ennahda party to start consultations to choose a candidate for the next presidential elections. Ennahda has expressed hope for dialogue between political parties to agree on a candidate for the upcoming presidential elections. “This proposal is contrary to democratic principles,” Ettakatol said in a statement published Thursday. Ali Laarayedh, former Prime Minister and senior Ennahdha figure, stated, “This dialogue is open to all parties, and they can all suggest candidates,” mentioning that Ennahda was fully prepared to back a candidate who was not a member of their party. [All Africa, Tunisia Live, 6/19/2014]

EIB signs 100 million euro credit line for SME
Thursday in Tunis, the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed a credit line of 100 million euros ($135.8 million) for Tunisian companies and, more specifically, small and medium enterprises (SMEs). In addition to credit for SMEs, the EIB has granted Tunisia seventy million euros ($95 million) to fund the modernization of schools, under an agreement by Minister of Economy and Finance Hakim Ben Hammouda and EIB Vice President Philippe de Fontaine Vive. [TAP, 6/19/2014]

Marzouki relies on national army for successful elections
In a ceremony in Carthage on Thursday, President Moncef Marzouki highlighted the importance of the national army’s role in guaranteeing the smooth implementation of the next elections. Marzouki laid emphasis on the army’s key role in protecting borders and foiling terrorist plots aiming to compromise the transitional process and impede the organization of the forthcoming elections. Marzouki also pointed out the importance of modernizing the military apparatus and improving the defense system. [All Africa, 6/19/2014]


Violent clashes between Houthi rebels and military continue
Clashes between the Yemeni military and Houthi rebels continued on Thursday in Dhafir, north of Sana’a. Local sources say that Houthi militants ambushed the army in Bait Sa’ad village before reaching Dhafir. The fighting continues despite a ceasefire agreement reached by local leaders on Thursday. Dozens were reported killed on Friday in clashes between the army and Houthi rebels in Hamdan. [Al Masdar (Arabic), Sahafa (Arabic) 6/20/2014]

300,000 displaced as a result of conflicts in Yemen
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced on Thursday that approximately 300,000 people have fled to refugee camps as a result of violent clashes between the Yemeni military and al-Qaeda in the Abyan and Shabwah governorates and Houthi militants in the Amran governorate. UNHCR announced that over 230,000 Somali refugees also currently reside in Yemen. UNHCR added that approximately 87,000 refugees of them are in Sana’a and Aden. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 6/20/2014]

OIC Foreign Ministers express solidarity with Yemen
Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) announced on Thursday their solidarity with Yemen and its people. The statement came during the 41st session of OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM). The meeting was held in Saudi Arabia under the title “Exploring Islamic cooperation fields.” During the two-day session, OIC Foreign Ministers reviewed a wide range of issues concerning OIC’s member states. [Saba, 6/19/2014]


US to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq
President Barack Obama said Thursday that he would deploy up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help its struggling security forces fend off a wave of Sunni militants. Stating that the militants pose a threat not just to Iraq but also to the United States, Obama announced that the US is prepared to take “targeted and precise military action,” against Sunni militants. This move comes after the Iraqi government called on the United States to target militants using air strikes. [NYT, 6/20/2014]

Increased pressure on Maliki to step down
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Friday that Iraq needed a government of national unity, with or without Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to counter a Sunni rebel insurgency. Iraqi officials also announced that political leaders had started intensive jockeying to replace Maliki and create a government that would span the country’s deepening sectarian and ethnic divisions. At least three people, who like Maliki are all members of the Shiite majority, have emerged as possible candidates to take over as prime minister, with more potential nominees in the wings as parties negotiate alliances from the recent elections. [NYT, Reuters, 6/20/2014]

One killed as bombing targets eastern Lebanon security checkpoint
A suicide bomber blew his car up at a police checkpoint in east Lebanon in an attack that coincided with the arrest of seventeen suspected militants in a raid on a Beirut hotel. The raid followed a tip-off that terror suspects linked to a plot to kill Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri had sought refuge there. One person was killed and up to thirty-seven were injured in today’s car bombing in Dahr al-Baidar, east Lebanon, the official National News Agency said, revising an earlier death toll of two. The attack narrowly missed top security official, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, who said he had been told Islamist militants wanted to assassinate him. [Reuters, Bloomberg, Naharnet,6/20/2014]