Top News: Yemen’s Houthis Reject Government Move to Quell Protests

Yemen’s president dismissed his government on Tuesday, proposed a national unity administration and suggested reinstating fuel subsidies, government sources said, in moves to quell weeks of unrest by a rebel movement. But the Houthis, a Shia Muslim group that had amassed tens of thousands of supporters in the capital Sana’a with camps set up near the interior ministry, rejected the compromise proposals by President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi. Houthis continue to cut off main streets in the capital, escalating the protest by calling for mass civil disobedience.



Egypt State Council bans Al Jazeera, Raba’a on NileSat
Egypt’s State Council ruled on Wednesday to ban broadcasts of two pro-Muslim Brotherhood TV channels – the privately privately-owned Raba’a channel and Qatari-owned Al Jazeera – on Egypt’s satellite operator NileSat. Egyptian lawyer Mamdouh Tamam had filed a lawsuit with the council, which is a judicial advisory body, to ban broadcasting Al Jazeera on NileSat on charges that it violates rules set by the Council of Arab Ministers of Information that call on media outlets to maintain public unity and order. The Urgent Matters Court had ordered the channel’s ban last September. Viewers in Egypt can still receive Al Jazeera on their televisions through other satellites. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, EGYNews (Arabic), 9/3/2014]

Ahmed Douma’s lawyer withdraws from trial in protest over procedures
Political activist Ahmed Douma’s lawyer withdrew on Wednesday from his trial and 268 others over violence, which occurred outside the cabinet’s building in December 2011. The Cairo Criminal Court postponed on Wednesday the trial to September 17. It referred three of Douma’s lawyers to investigation, accusing them of “rioting” and refusing to follow the court’s orders, according to an eyewitness account. An altercation erupted between the court and the defense team, the eyewitness said. Osama al-Mahdy, Douma’s lawyer and one of those referred to investigation, told Aswat Masriya he withdrew from the session because the court “breached the guarantees of a fair trial.” Douma’s wife Nourhan Hefzy said on Tuesday that his health is rapidly deteriorating, putting him at great risk. [Aswat Masriya, Shorouk (Arabic), 9/2/2014]

Egypt business activity expands in August, hits 8-month high: PMI
Business activity in Egypt grew at its sharpest rate in eight months in August, a survey showed on Wednesday, as the economy rebounded strongly from the initial shock of cuts in energy subsidies last month. The PMI survey of around 350 private-sector firms showed that output rebounded strongly in August, with the related sub index reaching 53.5 points, its most marked increase in eight months, after shrinking to 48.7 points in July. [Reuters, 9/3/2014]

Sisi meets US congressional delegation, urges economic support of Egypt
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi told a US congressional delegation on Tuesday that events in the region should compel leading countries to take quick measures to support “moderate” regional states in the face of terrorism, Egypt’s presidential spokesman said in a statement. Sisi told the delegation, headed by US Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon and comprised of seven other House members, that facing terrorism means taking socioeconomic steps alongside military action, and supporting “moderate states'” to strengthen their economies. The delegation left Cairo on Wednesday morning. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 9/3/2014]


Libya’s central bank warns warring sides to leave it out of conflict
Libya’s central bank has warned all parties involved in the ongoing conflict gripping the country to leave the institution alone. The central bank is one of the last functioning state institutions; on Sunday, the central government said it had lost control of most ministries in Tripoli, leaving oil and other trading partners puzzled about whether the central bank was still under official control. The bank said in a statement that it would remain neutral and follow the law and that the international community might freeze assets if pressure on the institution continues. [Reuters, 9/2/2014]

British envoy visits Libya to back elected parliament against rival assembly
British envoy Jonathan Powell visited Libya’s parliament at its new seat in Tobruk on Tuesday in a show of support against a rival assembly set up by armed groups who seized Tripoli last month. With the election of the House of Representatives, the General National Congress (GNC) was scrapped, but the alliance controlling Tripoli says that, together with a group of former lawmakers, it has reinstated the former parliament. Powell said there would be no military intervention as demanded by some Libyans and that the conflict could be solved diplomatically, without elaborating. [Reuters, 9/2/2014]

Omar al-Hassi nominates rival government
The prospect of Libya having two competing governments – one in Tobruk, the other in Tripoli – became more of a reality when Omar al-Hassi presented his “government” to the General National Congress (GNC). Al-Hassi, who was appointed at a meeting of just twenty members of the former parliament last week, has submitted sixteen names for designated ministries. Al-Hassi was reportedly having second thoughts about accepting his own appointment, as he has been under pressure from his own tribe to have nothing to do with the resurrected GNC. [Libya Herald, 9/2/2014]

Foreign affairs ministry attacks Erdogan for ‘blatant interference’
The Libyan foreign affairs ministry has attacked Turkish President Recep Erdogan following statements he allegedly made calling the meeting of the House of Representatives in Tobruk “improper.” The comments echo those of the Misratan-led Libya Operation Dawn, which has also said that it would recognize the House of Representatives only if it met in Tripoli. The ministry expressed surprise at the “blatant interference in Libyan internal affairs.” It called on Erdogan to clarify his statements, while Turkey has condemned the Libyan position, saying that any criticism of Erdogan’s views was “unacceptable.” The Turkish government is widely viewed in Libya as supporting the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood. [Libya Herald, 9/1/2014]


ISIS releases video of murder of journalist Steven Sotloff
Two weeks after releasing a video of the killing of James Foley, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or Islamic State) released a new video on Tuesday showing the beheading of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff. US intelligence analysts say there is no reason to doubt the video’s authenticity. As with the first video, which explicitly threatened Sotloff if the US continued its air campaign against ISIS in Iraq, the new video threatens the life of a British captive, David Cawthorne Haines, if the United Kingdom continues to support US military action. Reacting to the video, President Obama said that the killing of Sotloff would “stiffen” US resolve to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the his nation would not waiver in its aim to destroy terrorism and is encouraging G8 countries to agree to not pay ransoms to militant groups. [NYT, WSJ, 9/2/2014]

Airstrike kills ten children in east Syria
Syrian government airstrike hit a bus carrying civilians in eastern Syria Wednesday, killing at least 13 people, most of them children, opposition activists said. But the government in the capital, Damascus, blamed ISIS for the incident, describing it as “yet another massacre” committed by the extremist group. Activists said the aircraft-fired missile struck the bus in the village of Shoula as it was traveling to Damascus from the eastern Deir Ezzor province. [AP, 9/3/2014]

Bosnian police detain sixteen for involvement in Syria, Iraq conflict
Bosnian police detained sixteen people on Wednesday on charges of financing terrorist activities, recruiting and fighting for radical groups in Syria and Iraq. The arrests were made in seventeen raids by a combined 200 police across the Balkan country, and was the first such security sweep since April, when Bosnia introduced jail terms of up to ten years for citizens who fight or recruit fighters for conflicts abroad. The move was aimed at discouraging young Bosnians, some of whom particularly from rural areas have in recent years adhered to the puritanical Sunni Muslim Wahhabi sect, from going to fight in Syria. [Reuters, 9/3/2014]


Tunisia leads in the exportation of foreign fighters to Syria
In a new study released by the Pew Research Center, Tunisia now ranks first among states with the largest number of fighters engaged in the Syrian conflict. Tunisia topped the list, with some 3,000 nationals said to have arrived in Syria since the start of the conflict. Saudi Arabia and Morocco followed in suit with 2,500 and 1,500 jihadists fighting on the Syrian front, respectively. [L’Economiste, Maghrebia, 9/3/2014]

Central Bank of Tunisia announces plans to maintain subsidies
The Governor of the Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT) Chedly Ayari announced yesterday, that  the “government does not plan to fully remove subsidies on basic consumer products, though it  has made some adjustments in some products such as prices of energy for companies.” The governor also said he expected an improvement in the growth rate in the second half of 2014, “if the political situation stabilizes.” Growth was limited to 2.1 percent in the first half of the current year but the BCT Governor expressed optimism on the country’s economic growth in recent months. The governor highlighted the improvement in the rate of exchange of the dinar against the Euro and the rise in the country’s foreign currency reserves. [TAP, 9/3/2014]

Tunisia recovers bodies of Syrian migrants headed for the EU
The Tunisian coast guard on Saturday recovered the bodies of twenty-one migrants who drowned when their boat sank in the Mediterranean near the maritime border with Libya, officials said. Officials indicated that the total number of victims found after the sinking was thirty-six, adding that the overcrowded boat probably started its ill-fated journey to Europe in neighboring Libya, a frequent departure point for illegal migrants. “Forty-one bodies have been recovered,” said Mustapha Abdelkebir, the mayor of Ben Guerdane, a town on the border with Libya. He added that identity papers recovered from the bodies indicated that most were Syrian and the dead included women and children. Search operations were suspended as night fell. [AllAfrica, Reuters, 9/3/2014]


Yemen’s Houthis reject government move to quell protests
Yemen’s president dismissed his government on Tuesday, proposed a national unity administration and suggested reinstating fuel subsidies, government sources said, in moves to quell weeks of unrest by a rebel movement. But the Houthis, a Shia Muslim group that had amassed tens of thousands of supporters in the capital Sana’a with camps set up near the interior ministry, rejected the compromise proposals by President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi. Houthis continue to cut off main streets in the capital, escalating the protest by calling for mass civil disobedience. They brandished arms and batons while using tires and cement blocks to divert traffic from main roads, including a boulevard that leads to government buildings and state institutions. Government tanks were positioned in front of the parliament and TV buildings. [Reuters, AP, Marib Press (Arabic), Al Masdar (Arabic), AP, 9/3/2014]

President Hadi meets with G10 ambassadors on latest developments
President Hadi on Tuesday met with G10 ambassadors sponsoring the Gulf initiative and briefed them on the latest developments in the country in light of the national initiative presented by the Presidential Committee, which held negotiations with Abdul-Malik al-Houthi over the current protests. He said that the new initiative aims to resolve the country’s current crisis and represents a safe exit. GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdullatif al-Zayani expressed his full support for the initiative to end the crisis with the Houthis and condemned any rejection of this effort or action taken outside of its framework. [SABA, Al Masdar, 9/3/2014]

IMF board signs off on $553 million loan for Yemen
Yemen is set to receive $553 million in financial assistance from the IMF over the next three years to help the Gulf state with macroeconomic stability and growth. The International Monetary Fund said Yemen has launched an “ambitious” program to address high unemployment and widespread poverty. The IMF approval allows the immediate disbursement of about $74 million. IMF Deputy Managing Director, and Acting Chair Naoyuki Shinohara said, “The authorities’ program, to be supported by a three-year arrangement under the Fund’s Extended Credit Facility, is designed to address balance of payments needs, close the fiscal financing gap, and maintain macroeconomic stability while protecting the most vulnerable groups.” The World Food Programme (WFP) welcomed on Tuesday a generous $40 million contribution from the US government to provide food assistance for 2.8 million of the poorest Yemenis over the next few months. The WFP said that the contribution comprises $15 million in cash for the innovative e-voucher project, which the WFP provides when food is available in the market but is out of reach for the poor. [Reuters, SABA, 9/2/2014]

Army destroys Houthi weapons cache
Clashes between Houthi militants and army units backed by tribal fighters are still ongoing in the province of Jawf, local sources reported on Wednesday morning. Heavy weapons were used in the clashes after army forces attacked a Houthi weapons cache in the early morning, sparking the exchange of fire in the Ardi area of al-Gheil. [Al Masdar, 9/3/2014]


Bahrain Foreign Affairs Ministry responds to State Department remarks
The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Abdullatif Abdulla said Bahrain did not invite US Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski to visit the kingdom. The official was responding to remarks made by the spokesperson for the State Department during a press briefing on Monday. Abdulla added that the spokesperson should be more cautious when making statements so as to avoid inaccuracies and false accusations about a country that is both a friend and an ally of the United States. Abdulla expressed his hope that both Bahrain and the United States would overcome the effects of Malinowski’s visit, affirming that the relationship between the two states remained strong. [Bahrain News Agency, 9/3/2014]

Gulf rivals struggle to build anti-jihadist front
Gulf countries, while siding with Washington against Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) jihadists, are struggling to build a common front due to differences within their ranks and with Iran. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal has been at the center of diplomatic efforts to confront ISIS over the past week. He and his counterparts from Egypt, Qatar, and the UAE held talks on Syria and “the rise of terrorist extremist ideology,” according to an official statement. The Saudi minister also hosted talks with Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a rare high-level encounter. They discussed the situation in Iraq and the “means to confront extremism and terrorism.” As the anti-ISIS assault gathers steam, strange bedfellows across the GCC provide new opportunities for uncommon solidarity against a common foe. [Ahram Online, 9/3/2014]