The President's Take
In my second monthly column to accompany CrisisWatch, our unique conflict tracker, I look at how outside actors are now openly fighting not for Syria, but over it. I also note more bad news from Venezuela, and flag our upcoming report on how the outside world and regional governments can avert disaster there. Read more …
President & CEO
A terrorist attack by Somali militant group al-Shabaab on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya left at least 67 dead and hundreds injured. Al-Shabaab claimed the attack was in retaliation for Kenya’s military action in Somalia over the past two years, and vowed that this attack would be the first of many. The attack heralds a difficult period for Kenya, with the risk of recriminations high, despite President Uhuru Kenyatta’s call for national unity (see our commentary).
Central African RepublicKenyaSudanPhilippines
In Central African Republic violence worsened, religious tension is rising and the humanitarian situation is dire. Rebel Seleka fighters, who six months ago seized power, have become increasingly fractured and volatile. Transitional President Michel Djotodia has been unable to rein them in, instead dissolving the alliance in what was widely perceived as an attempt to distance himself from their abuses. Seleka violence in the north west has displaced thousands and prompted fierce clashes with loyalists of former president François Bozizé, other rebel groups and local communities. African Union peacekeepers are preparing to deploy, but thus far the international community has struggled to contain the crisis (see our recent report and commentary).
Khartoum’s decision to lift fuel subsidies prompted widespread violent protests in Sudan’s main cities in late September. National security forces quickly clamped down on the demonstrators, with reports from the doctors’ union suggesting over 200 civilians killed.
Long-awaited legislative elections in Guinea were marred by violent clashes in the run-up to polls. With the results still pending, opposition claims of widespread massive fraud prompted fears that a disputed outcome could trigger further violence between supporters of the opposition and President Alpha Condé’s Rassemblement du Peuple de Guinée (RPG) (see our latest report and commentary).
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels launched a major assault on Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines island of Mindanao. Around 200 people, mostly rebels, were reported killed in the ensuing fighting with security forces, and over 100,000 were displaced. The attack highlighted the risk that peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) could be derailed by disaffected groups (see our latest report).
Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani took unprecedented steps towards jumpstarting nuclear talks, mending relations with the U.S. and ending sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy (see our recent report). Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with his counterparts from the U.S., Russia, China and the EU on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, and said that Iran was prepared to negotiate aspects of its nuclear program, although its right to enrich was “not negotiable”. President Rouhani spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama in the first direct talks between U.S. and Iranian leaders since the 1979 revolution. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei endorsed Rouhani’s approach, calling for Iran to show “heroic leniency” in nuclear negotiations.
Ruling CNDD-FFD announced changes to constitution not necessary to allow President Nkurunziza to run again as Nkurunziza only elected once via direct vote; civil society and opposition denounced move. Public prosecutor 12 Sept announced investigation opened into role of newly-returned opposition FNL leader Agathon Rwasa in massacre of some 160 DRC refugees in Aug 2004; several opposition parties said investigation politically motivated.
Reports of media clampdown, intimidation of opposition supporters ahead of 30 Sept legislative and municipal elections; ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement widely expected to win. Security forces 8 Sept seized suspected Boko Haram arms shipment in north bound for Borno State, Nigeria. Authorities 14 Sept repatriated 134 CAR refugees who protested against living conditions in Nandoungé camp.
Violence worsened, religious tensions increased and humanitarian situation continued to deteriorate, particularly in NW. Seleka rebel abuses including killing and torture displaced thousands and sparked clashes with supporters of former president Bozizé, self-defence groups, ethnic Gbaya communities, and combatants from armed groups including Seleka-breakaway Democratic Front of the Central African Republic (FDPC) and People’s Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD). Transitional President Djotodia 13 Sept formally dissolved Seleka coalition amid criticisms he is unable to rein in fighters. France 23 Sept called for urgent action, warned lack of international response risks destabilising wider region. EU, AU, UN, U.S. and CAR neighbours met 25 Sept in New York on margin of UNGA to discuss support to AU peacekeeping mission and strengthening of UN peacebuilding office in CAR. PM Tiangaye 26 Sept called for support from international community and quick deployment of AU peacekeeping force.
Govt talks with M23 rebels resumed 10 Sept; skirmishes between FARDC and M23 restarted 26 Sept north of Kiwanja. President Kabila 25 Sept condemned Rwanda’s “never-ending aggression” at UNGA. At least 10 killed in clashes between rival militias in Masisi late Sept. Clashes between govt forces and Ituri Patriotic Resistance Front (FRPI) continued in Ituri, thousands displaced. National consultations began 7 Sept; President Kabila promised amnesty to defuse political tensions, 1,025 prisoners paroled followed by rise in criminality in Kinshasa. Main opposition parties boycotted process; 7 ex-rebel groups allowed to take part in consultations; deadline extended.
President Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front won parliamentary elections 16 Sept with over 76% of vote; govt reported 98.8% turnout. 2 killed, 14 injured 13-14 Sept in 2 grenade attacks, Kigali.
Exiled rebel Red Sea Afar Democratic Organisation (RSADO) and Saho Peoples Democratic Movement (SPDM) reportedly met 6 Sept in Addis Ababa, said preparing military operations to topple Asmara regime. EU 21 Sept called for release of political prisoners, said “deeply concerned”, cited ongoing rights abuses.
Terrorist attack on Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi killed at least 67 and injured hundreds 20-24 Sept; Somali al-Shabaab militant group 21 Sept claimed responsibility for attack, said in retaliation for Kenya’s intervention in Somalia; at least 8 arrested. ICC trial of Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang began 10 Sept. National Assembly and Senate mid-month passed motion to withdraw from ICC’s Rome Statute. Clashes between Borana and Gabra communities in Marsabit county continued.
Al-Shabaab militant group 20-24 Sept laid siege to Kenyan mall, killing dozens (see Kenya). Regional Jubaland president Sheikh Ahmed Madobe’s motorcade attacked in Kismayo by al-Shabaab 13 Sept; Madobe survived but at least 20 killed, many injured. 15 killed, over 40 injured 7 Sept in al-Shabaab attack on Mogadishu restaurant. Western-born al-Shabaab militants Abu Mansoor al-Amriki and Osama al-Britani reported killed amid ongoing reports of increasing factionalism within group. EU pledged €650mn for reconstruction at 16 Sept New Deal conference.
President Kiir 23 Sept suggested 2015 general elections may be delayed, cited lack of funds for census and completion of new constitution. Kiir early Sept visited Khartoum, discussed post-secession issues; Sudanese President Bashir agreed not to close oil pipeline. Govt continued to urge Abyei communities to return to region, register and prepare for planned Oct referendum on status of region; AU 24 Sept urged Sudan and S Sudan to refrain from any unilateral actions including holding of referendum, 27 Sept urged countries to “urgently” restart talks. Ministry of Oil and Petroleum early-Sept announced S Sudan received $969mn since resuming oil production in April, 20% paid to Sudan govt.
Thousands protested throughout country late-Sept against govt decision to remove fuel subsidies, called for fall of regime. Protests turned deadly, with over 200 reportedly killed and some 700 arrested; ruling National Congress Party’s (NCP) HQ in Omduran set on fire 24 Sept. NCP accused opposition parties and Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) of inciting protests. Opposition National Consensus Forces formed umbrella group with professional unions, civil society and youth organisations to oppose crackdown; reformists within ruling NCP, including former presidential adviser Ghazi Salahuddin and former army general Mohammed Ibrahim, also reportedly criticised violent govt action. Khartoum reiterated opposition to AU proposal for Oct Abyei referendum. Newly-appointed U.S. Special Envoy Donald Booth met with Sudanese co-chair of Abyei Oversight Committee, al-Khair al-Fahim; FM Ahmed Ali Karti said Booth not welcome to mediate Abyei dispute, Khartoum would only allow AU mediation. Power struggle between NCP-appointed North Darfur governor Oman Kibir and traditional leader of Mahamid Arab tribe and Janjaweed militia leader Musa Hilal intensified. Military operations against SRF in South Kordofan continued.
Former President Ravalomanana 14 Sept announced he will support candidate Jean-Louis Robinson in presidential elections scheduled for 25 Oct (first round). AU 6 Sept lifted sanctions against Rajoelina and 109 political personalities imposed in 2010. Series of bomb explosions in capital Antananarivo early Sept, 1 person killed in 16 Sept blast. Presidential campaigns officially began 24 Sept; bomb exploded 26 Sept outside house of Special Electoral Court President François Rakotozafy.
SADC 2 Sept issued final report of its observer mission in July elections, endorsing poll as “free, peaceful and generally credible”; noted that media highly polarised and biased, also late delivery of voters roll. Western govts, especially U.S., continue to question credibility of outcome. Growing speculation that ZANU-PF will use its 75% majority in parliament to amend constitution, including provisions on devolution of power and public accountability of security institutions. President Mugabe announced new cabinet 10 Sept, retaining most of old guard and introducing some new faces. Hawkish Saviour Kasukuwere replaced with more moderate Francis Nhema in indigenisation ministry; inclusion of hardline propagandist and ZANU-PF politburo member Jonathan Moyo as minister of information responsible for media suggests return to hardline stance. During opening of parliament 18 Sept Mugabe said economic recovery top govt priority. New finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced Zimbabwe not desperate to re-engage with West, will continue to rely on economic relationship with China. ZANU-PF early Sept ratcheted up rhetoric against sanctions maintained by U.S., Australia, EU, and Canada; SADC again called for lifting of sanctions. EU 17 Sept announced lifting sanctions on state mining company Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), despite parliamentary portfolio committee exposing malfeasance in diamond sector and central role of ZMDC, and recent allegations from Mugabe himself that ZMDC chair corrupt.
Negotiations between govt and 11 political formations under Framework for Permanent Dialogue (CPD) resumed 6 Sept in Grand-Bassam; Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) refused to participate. Former PM under Laurent Gbagbo Pascal Affi N’Guessan named head of FPI 7 Sept; Affi N’Guessan 8 Sept launched call for national reconciliation. Govt 20 Sept said domestic court will try ICC-sought former first lady Simone Gbagbo. President Ouattara 23 Sept met UNSG Ban, discussed progress since 2010-2011 post-election crisis and UN peacekeeping, UNSG Ban “welcomed gestures” from govt towards opposition following early-Sept govt promise to resume political dialogue. Shoot-out in Abidjan’s MACA prison 14 Sept left several injured.
Mounting tensions surrounding 28 Sept legislative elections, with fears that disputed result could lead to violence between supporters of opposition and ruling RPG party. Polls initially scheduled 24 Sept; opposition 14 Sept said still unhappy with reform of electoral roll, called on supporters to demonstrate, 18 Sept decided to call off demonstrations in order to “give dialogue a chance”. EU electoral observation mission 17 Sept called on electoral commission (CENI) for greater transparency; ECOWAS also deployed observation mission. After meeting with opposition facilitated by international partners, govt 21 Sept decided to postpone elections to 28 Sept, making some adjustments to electoral process. Minor violent incidents in Labé 17 Sept, Nzerekoré 21 Sept and Kindia 22 Sept, and clashes between opposition and govt supporters 24 Sept in Conakry left 1 dead, 51 injured. Amid reports of missing voting cards and polling stations opening late, elections held peacefully with CENI announcing 80% turnout. EU observation mission 30 Sept released critical assessment of CENI performance. Consolidated results still unavailable 1 Oct; opposition 30 Sept claimed polls marred by ballot-stuffing, vote-tampering, over 50 fake polling stations, claimed victory in all 5 Conakry districts, pledging to resist attempts to tamper with results.
President Nhamadjo 3 Sept acknowledged Nov general elections might be delayed; UNSC 11 Sept insisted they be held “as soon as possible”. AU 18 Sept called for international support for elections, joined by Ivorian President Ouattara at UNGA 25 Sept. African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) 18 Sept set controversial and overdue pre-electoral party Congress for 7-10 Nov. High-profile economist Paulo Gomes declared independent run for presidential election. Amnesty bill for 12 April coup leaders failed to obtain clear majority at National Assembly 10 Sept.
Police Inspector General 5 Sept rejected Aug Human Rights Watch report highlighting widespread police corruption and abuses. UNSC 18 Sept renewed UNMIL mandate for additional year. Senate 11 Sept passed Oil Reform Bill. Special Court for Sierra Leone 26 Sept rejected former president Charles Taylor’s appeal, upheld 50-year prison sentence.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK) inaugurated 4 Sept, 5 Sept named Oumar Tatam Ly new PM. Tatam Ly 8 Sept named new cabinet, including former cabinet director of coup leader Captain Sanogo, Gen Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, as new interior minister; opposition leaders protested against Sinko Coulibaly keeping position in new govt. Tensions in north increased: 29 Sept suicide attack in Timbuktu left at least 2 civilians and 4 jihadis dead, as well as 6 Malian soldiers injured. President IBK 26 Sept called for Sahara countries to create regional multilateral rapid reaction force to respond to ongoing Islamist threat across region. Armed clashes 15 Sept near Léré between Malian army and MNLA, reasons unclear. Following MNLA suspension of participation in peace process 26 Sept, grenade attack 27 Sept wounded 2 soldiers in Kidal. 29-30 Sept clashes between MNLA and Malian army in Kidal left at least 3 injured. Delegation of ministers visiting Kidal 15 Sept pelted with stones. Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA), High Council for Unity of Azawad (HCUA), Coordination of Patriotic Resistance Forces and Movements (CM-FPR) and MNLA 17 Sept agreed on joint public statement; also agreed to meet regularly to discuss grievances and make progress toward settlement of final peace agreement.
Security forces clashed violently with narco-trafficking armed groups in Tenere valley, near Libya-Algeria border 3-4 Sept. FM Mohamed Bazoum 18 Sept stated country would welcome presence of U.S. armed drones on its territory to fight terrorists and drug trafficking. Mauritanian news agency ANI 16 Sept released AQIM video showing 4 Frenchmen abducted in Niger in 2010.
Military operations against Islamist sect Boko Haram (BH) continued including 10 Sept airstrikes on BH bases in Mada, Borno State. BH attacks on Civilian Joint Task Forces (JTF) and local communities ongoing: 26 Civilian JTF killed by BH in Monguno 3 Sept; BH 5 Sept attacked Gajiram village, Borno State, killing approx 20; at least 27 killed 25-26 Sept in BH attacks on villages in Borno State. At least 65 students killed 29 Sept in BH attack on college in Yobe state. Increased concerns over vigilante groups: Civilian JTF 14 Sept killed policeman in revenge attack following shooting of Civilian JTF member during road check in Borno State. Eggon ethnic youths linked to outlawed Ombaste cult 13-15 Sept attacked Adabu, Obi and Assakio towns in Nasarawa State, killing over 40; at least 30 killed 14-15 Sept in clashes between Eggon and Alago communities. At least 30 people killed and more than 30 houses razed in intercommunal clashes between Fulani herdsmen and Agata natives in Benue State 28-29 Sept. Suspected Fulani herdsmen 1 Sept killed 6 near Kuru, Pleateau state. President Jonathan dismissed 9 ministers following 31 Aug ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) split; 15 Sept held talks with dissidents who dropped demand he refrain from seeking second term, but several issues remain unresolved.
Justice Minister Aminata Touré took over as PM 1 Sept, second female PM in Senegal’s history; promotion of technocrats to manage economy and of renowned human rights lawyer Sidiki Kaba at justice ministry well received, but replacement at interior ministry of General Seck by politician Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo generated criticism. Moderate Casamance separatists led by César Badiate 7 Sept met President Sall’s adviser Robert Sagna and U.S. diplomat James Bullington in Guinea-Bissau to discuss peace process.
Authorities reported police 23 Aug shot dead up to 12 ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang region during raid on alleged training camp and munitions centre.
Tensions between China and Japan over Diaoyu/ Senkaku islands played out in skies: Japan scrambled fighter jets as Chinese govt aircraft neared disputed island airspace 26 Aug, causing approaching plane to retreat; again scrambled jets 8-9 Sept in response to 2 Chinese bombers flying through gap in Okinawa island chain, and unidentified drone approaching Diaoyu/Senkaku airspace from NW. Japan arrested Chinese sailor after collision in Japanese waters between two cargo ships 27 Sept in which 5 crew members of Japanese-registered ship killed, 1 missing. Chinese President Xi and Japanese PM Abe held impromptu meeting 5 Sept at G20 summit in St. Petersburg, first time leaders have met since Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute began Sept 2012. China increased its maritime presence around islands in days around 11 Sept anniversary of Japan purchasing islands. In response to increased Chinese activity, Japan’s top govt spokesperson 10 Sept suggested Japan station civil servants on islands. China showcased new guided missile frigate in East China Sea 1 Sept.
“Track 1.5” talks on DPRK nuclear issues commenced 18 Sept in Beijing with attendance of DPRK First Vice FM Kim Kye-gwan and chief DPRK 6-Party Talks negotiator Ri Yong-ho. ROK and U.S. sent former officials and academics, withholding official participation pending indication of DPRK’s intent to denuclearise. Kim Kye-gwan, DPRK’s first vice FM and chief nuclear negotiator, called for resumption of talks without preconditions. 31 Aug satellite imagery appeared to indicate 5MW(e) nuclear reactor in Yŏngbyŏn has been restarted. Kaesŏng Industrial Complex (KIC) reopened 16 Sept after 5 months’ inactivity, including 90 of 123 S Korean firms’ factories, some 32,000 N Koreans reportedly returning to work; negotiations continue over access, procedures. Pyongyang suddenly cancelled scheduled DPRK-ROK family reunion, first in 3 years, only 4 days before it was to occur late Sept. U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman visited DPRK for second time 3-7 Sept, spent 2 days with leader Kim Jong-un and family, other senior leaders. UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated some $2.1m aid following reports of heavy flood damage in DPRK.
Preparations for 2014 polls continue: parliamentarians from eastern provinces 9 Sept announced formation of alliance ahead of presidential elections, did not name candidate. New Harakat-e-Milli (National Movement) party emerged 4 Sept. Former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani 30 Sept announced candidacy. Head of Independent Election Commission (IEC) secretariat 3 Sept said half of Afghanistan’s voting centres seriously vulnerable after opposition expressed concerns about security in run-up to polls. Pakistan 7 Sept released 7 Afghan Taliban detainees, ostensibly to advance peace process, but did not hand them over to Afghan authorities; political opposition, civil society expressed concerns released detainees will rejoin insurgency; senior Taliban leader Mullah Baradar released from custody 21 Sept, reportedly to safe house in Karachi. Foreign ministry official 1 Sept said several Taliban leaders in secret talks with govt. 22 insurgents killed 8 Sept in Wardoj district, Badakhshan province; National Security Forces 17 Sept announced Wardoj cleared of insurgents. 18 insurgents reportedly killed 11 Sept in Helmand, 2 Taliban commanders arrested and weapons seized. Insurgents 2 Sept attacked U.S. base in Nangarhar province, 13 Sept attacked U.S. consulate in Herat killing 10 and injuring 30; 4 Afghan soldiers injured 10 Sept in suicide bomb attack on military installation in Logar province.
Supreme Court (SC) 17 Sept rejected Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) leader Abdul Kader Mullah’s appeal against International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) jail term for 1971 war crimes, increased sentence to death penalty. JeI 18 Sept said trial politically motivated, called for 48h nationwide strike, demonstrations: 2 civilians died in 19 Sept protest in Mujibnagar town, 4 police injured in Chittagong. ICT 1 Oct sentenced to death senior opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) MP Salauddin Quader Chowdhury for 1971 crimes. SC 24 Sept started hearing on appeal filed by JeI leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee against 28 Feb ICT death penalty verdict. Viability of Oct elections remained in question: Awami League (AL) leader/PM Sheikh Hasina 17 Sept stated polls to be held on schedule under current govt; BNP 9 Sept threatened election boycott, 12 Sept threatened to resign from parliament if elections not held under caretaker govt.
Army 7 Sept killed 1 Maoist near Jal Mahadeb; 14 Sept killed at least 14 Maoists in Odisha’s Malkangiri district. Maoist patrol ambush 16 Sept killed 2 police, injured 2 in Bihar district. 4 CPI (Maoist) members accused of connection with 2005 Madhuban blast arrested 16 Sept in Bihar’s East Champaran district. 1 Maoist and 1 police killed 19 Sept in gun battle in S Chhattisgarh. 5 suspected Maoists arrested 27 Sept in Chhattisgarh.
India and Pakistan PMs met 29 Sept, agreed to stop Kashmir attacks following several exchanges of heavy fire on line-of-control (LoC) during Sept; at least 9 killed 26 Sept in militant attack on Indian police station and army camp near Pakistan border ahead of talks. Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar 7 Sept assured IMF India would retain Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status despite Aug threat to withdraw status after military exchanges with India along LoC left 2 Pakistanis injured. Indian police 7 Sept killed 4 in Shopian, imposed curfew in district; police claimed 2 victims were rebels attempting attack on base, residents said victims civilians; police 11 Sept violently dispersed mass protest, killing 1 and injuring 13. All Parties Hurriyat Conference mid Sept called strike in Kashmir valley to protest killings. Suspected separatist rebels 23 Sept killed Indian soldier, injured another at Srinagar market; Indian army 23 Sept killed suspected militant trying to cross LoC in Kupwara region. PMs Singh and Sharif 29 Sept met on sidelines of UNGA, tasked Directors General Military Operations to seek means to restore 2003 ceasefire.
Constituent Assembly (CA) 19 Nov elections expected to go ahead despite 17 Sept failure of all-party talks to bring 33-party anti-election alliance, led by Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), on board; process failed after major parties refused core CPN-M demands including postponing election date and resignation of head of govt Khila Raj Regmi from chief justice post. Alliance 12 Sept organized strikes in Kathmandu to protest elections. Interim govt 17 Sept continued CA election preparation: on govt request, president Ram Baran Yadav issued presidential decrees 17 Sept to maintain CA size at 601 seats, 24 Sept to allow deployment of army to secure elections. CPN-M General Secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa 24 Sept warned of second armed conflict if army is deployed.
All-parties conference 9 Sept supported talks with Pakistani Taliban (TTP) but provided no roadmap or specific pre-conditions; TTP 13 Sept reportedly presented conditions for talks including release of TTP prisoners, imposition of Sharia law and army’s withdrawal from FATA. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) govt 15 Sept announced army’s withdrawal from Swat from mid-Oct; militants 16 Sept killed soldier and 2 army officers including top military officer for Malakand Division; Peshawar High Court 17 Sept ordered KPK not to withdraw troops from Malakand, citing legal problems and possibility militants would return to area. Over 85 killed in Taliban attack on church in Peshawar 22 Sept. Bus blast 27 Sept killed 19 govt employees in Peshawar; 41 killed, 100 injured 29 Sept in car bombing in Peshawar. Armed forces 4 Sept launched targeted operation in Karachi to tackle criminal and ethnopolitical violence; operation led by paramilitary Rangers; govt issued list of 450 terrorists, kidnappers, killers and extortionists to be targeted; over 1,500 reportedly arrested in first half of Sept. Sindh govt 12 Sept reshuffled provincial police force, appointed respected senior officer Shahid Hayat as Karachi’s new police chief; 10 Sept arrested Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) member Nadeem Hashmi for alleged involvement in killing of 2 policemen; MQM called strike 11 Sept, shutting down Karachi; Hashmi released 19 Sept. Targeted killings in city continued: gunmen 10-11 Sept killed 11; police officer killed 14 Sept; 6 killed 17 Sept.
Northern provincial council elections held 21 Sept: Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won 30 of 38 seats, nearly 80% of vote, with high turnout despite pre-poll violence and intimidation of TNA candidates by military. Commonwealth Election Observer mission 23 Sept expressed concern over heavy military involvement in electoral process. Fears of deepened ethnic polarisation after strongly nationalist rhetoric from TNA campaigners and govt, which repeatedly accused TNA of continuing Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) quest for separate state. Polls also held in central and NW provinces where President Rajapaksa’s United People’s Freedom Alliance won large majorities. Indian govt 24 Sept welcomed elections, called on Rajapaksa to implement fully and go beyond devolution of power under 13th amendment. Supreme Court 26 Sept ruled powers over land belong to central govt, not provinces; TNA 29 Sept said judgment does not conform with previous rulings.
In Papua, police reportedly detained over 100 demonstrators in 8 cities during protests organised by National Committee for West Papua (KNPB) 16 Sept demanding among other things that Vanuatu raise Papua issue at UNGA. Yogyakarta military court 5-6 Sept jailed 12 members of Special Forces Command (Kopassus) for up to 11 years for roles in March prison killings, in ruling hailed by rights activists as departure from past impunity for military personnel. Spate of police killings in Jakarta continued, thought to be work of small terrorist cells, including 10 Sept shooting of internal affairs officer. Bekasi district court 12 Sept sentenced Abdul Aziz bin Naimun for threatening Batak Protestant Congregation (HKBP) pastor. Bomb exploded 7 Sept at offices of local newspaper in Banda Aceh, no injuries reported.
United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) ethnic umbrella group met with govt negotiators early-month, afterwards expressed doubts about govt’s proposed nationwide ceasefire signing next month, but unclear how much influence group will have over its members. Over 50 organisations attended “trust-building” conference with govt officials in Shan state capital Taunggyi 21-23 Sept; delegates called for improved ethnic rights, govt official pledged to move ahead with political negotiations early 2014. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK) 17 Sept said constitutional changes needed to resolve ethnic grievances. Following Aug visit UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar acknowledged progress on several fronts but said critical challenges remained. UNSG’s Special Adviser on Myanmar also visited late-Aug, was granted permission to visit Kachin Independence Organisation’s HQ at Laiza for first time. President Thein Sein 9 Sept named representative of largest Shan political opposition party as Deputy Minister for Hotels and Tourism, 2nd opposition legislator to be appointed by president as a deputy minister. Armed police 29 Sept dispersed Buddhist mob in Thandwe town, Rakhine state; mob torched houses, no injuries reported. U.S. Sec Defence 28 Aug met Myanmar counterpart on sidelines of defence meeting in Brunei, first meeting between countries’ defence chiefs. ASSK completed 3-country European tour 17 Sept.
Major assault by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels, outside peace process between govt and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), highlighted potential for disaffected rebel groups to derail peace talks. MNLF rebels entered Zamboanga City 9 Sept; ensuing fighting saw over 200 people reported killed, mostly rebels, also security forces and civilians, and over 100,000 residents reported displaced. Airport reopened 19 Sept, despite some fighters still holding out; authorities 28 Sept declared standoff over. Attacks coincided with resumption of peace negotiations with MILF following wealth-sharing agreement signed in July. Govt-MNLF ceasefire plan abandoned 14 Sept after sides failed to agree terms. Indonesia FM 15 Sept said Indonesia ready to contribute to restoration of normalcy in southern Philippines. Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) 12 Sept attacked predominantly Christian outskirts of Lamitan town in Basilan province, several wounded. Displays of growing tension between Philippines and China over South China Sea continued.
Senior officials continue to voice support for talks with rebel Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) despite stalling of dialogue process following failed Ramadan Peace Initiative; said 4th round of talks will take place mid-Oct. BRN submitted formal demands to Thai authorities early Sept via dialogue facilitator Malaysia. 2 separate factions of Patani United Liberation Organisation (PULO) and Barisan Islam Pembebasan Patani (Islamic Liberation Front of Pattani, BIPP) reportedly conveyed to BRN desire to join process. Cabinet 18 Sept approved extension of emergency decree in 3 southernmost provinces for 3 months; 33rd extension since decree invoked in 2005. Insurgent attacks included 11 Sept ambush in Thung Yang Daeng District, Pattani Province, killing 5 police; bomb planted by school in Yala’s Muang District 10 Sept killed 2 soldiers; gunmen killed 3 rangers in 12 Sept attack in Yarang District, Pattani. Attacks reflect insurgency’s shift to focus on security forces in recent months. Opposition lawmakers repeatedly disrupted proceedings in parliament in vain effort to derail consideration of Pheu Thai Party (PTP)-sponsored draft charter amendment bill to restore all-elected senate. PM Yingluck launched political reform forum 25 Aug, aimed at promoting prospects for reconciliation; Democrat Party members and People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) boycotted meeting. Continued protests by rubber farmers in mid-South demanding higher govt subsidies since late August.
Ahead of Oct EU deadline to implement 2009 European Court of Human Rights Sejdić-Finci ruling which stipulates that minorities must be able to run for 3-member presidency posts currently reserved for Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) 5 Sept put forward new proposal for electing members of 3-member state presidency. Proposal criticised by other parties. Parties expected to report to EU Enlargement Commissioner Füle 1 Oct.
Belgrade and Pristina pushing ahead with plans for Kosovo-wide municipal elections 3 Nov. Serbian officials registered state-backed slate of candidates for first local elections to be held under Kosovo law in the four northern municipalities Serbia has controlled since 1999 (Leposavić, North Mitrovica, Zubin Potok and Zvečan). Central Electoral Committee 2 Sept agreed to print ballot papers without Republic of Kosovo symbols. As part of EU-mediated April deal normalising Kosovo-Serbia relations, Serbian govt 10 Sept dismissed mayors and dissolved assemblies of the 4 northern municipalities, naming interim govts headed by its chosen candidates for Nov polls – completing Serbia’s administrative withdrawal from Kosovo and in effect representing Serbia’s acquiescence to implementing non-status components of 2006 Ahtisaari Plan. Northern Kosovo Serbs continue to reject submission to Pristina’s authority and urge boycott of elections. One or more unknown gunmen opened fire on EULEX convoy 19 Sept, killing Lithuanian policeman en route to northern border post at Jarinje; risk of further violence in run-up to polls. Belgrade also formed team for establishing Association of Serbian Municipalities in Kosovo, also part of April deal.
UN mediator in name dispute between Greece and Macedonia Matthew Nimetz visited capitals early month, said significant differences remain. FM Poposki after meeting with Greek counterpart on sidelines of UNGA said sides far from solution. UNSG Ban offered to help organise high-level talks.
In return for start of membership negotiations with EU, expected Jan 2014, govt agreed to withdraw its institutions from Kosovo territory and support Kosovo govt’s sovereignty over its whole territory ahead of Nov local elections (see Kosovo).
President Sargsyan 3 Sept said Armenia to join Russian-led Customs Union and future Eurasian Economic Union following talks with Russian President Putin citing “national interests”. Govt said still hoped Armenia would be able to sign planned association agreement with EU in Nov but EU officials ruled this out. EU Enlargement Commissioner Füle criticised Russian “threats” and “undue pressure” on Armenia and other countries in region as “unacceptable”. Police arrested 9 people protesting in Yerevan against Customs Union move. Opposition activist Dmitry Harutiunian, detained 24 Aug during protest in Yerevan, put in pre-trial detention for 2 months, charged with insulting police.
Ahead of 9 Oct presidential election Human Rights Watch warned of govt repression of opposition. Son of one opposition figure beaten and stabbed by unknown assailants 23 Sept; son of another opposition leader Ali Kerimli jailed; Kerimli cited attempt to put pressure on him over his political activities. Baku court sentenced editor of Talysh minority newspaper Tolisi Sado to 5 years’ prison for high treason, incitement of ethnic/religious/ racial hatred, drugs possession. EU Enlargement Commissioner Füle said country needs to make reforms on rights to move forward in EU dialogue.
Ahead of 27 Oct presidential election, 3 of 23 registered candidates seen as having realistic chances of getting enough votes to qualify for second round: PM Ivanishvili’s “Georgian Dream” candidate Giorgi Margvelashvili, Davit Bakradze of President Saakashvili’s UNM, and former parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze. PM Ivanishvili said country plans to sign association agreement with EU early 2014, says still wants to improve relations with Moscow. Tbilisi sent protest note to Russia 13 Sept over Russian troops’ continued demarcation of administrative boundary line (ABL) with Georgian region South Ossetia (SO). U.S. and EU have expressed concern over Russia’s borderisation activities. Russian “embassy” general consul and wife shot dead in breakaway region of Abkhazia 9 Sept.
Co-Chairs of “Minsk Group” mediators and FMs of Azerbaijan and Armenia met on sidelines of UNGA late Sept in attempt to jump-start peace talks, largely stalled since 2011. Mediators pushing for Dec meeting between Presidents Aliev and Sargsyan. New U.S. co-chair James Warlick visited Baku, Yerevan, and Stepanakert (N-K), delivered letters to Aliev and Sargsyan from President Obama urging direct dialogue; noted basic outlines of future agreement already known. Exchanges of fire reported in conflict zone throughout month. Armenian reports say military exercises planned for 8-11 Oct, during Azerbaijan’s presidential election.
Regional and municipal elections 8 Sept saw local parliaments elect republic heads (presidents) in Dagestan (Ramazan Abdulatipov) and Ingushetia (Yunus-Bek Yevkurov) from candidates proposed by Kremlin. Ruling “United Russia” won Chechen parliamentary elections with 85.94% of vote. Caucasian Knot reported 42 people killed in conflict in Aug. Increasingly harsh counter-terrorism operations, rhetoric ahead of Feb 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics; Yevkurov announced homes of families helping insurgents will be demolished, land seized; Putin 27 Sept introduced legislation for compensation for losses caused by terrorism at expense of terrorists’ relatives, and creation of mechanism for reviewing legality of property acquired by terrorists’ relatives and friends. Major insurgency attacks during month included: 3 police killed in suicide bomb attack 16 Sept in Sunzhensky district police station, Chechnya; double terrorist attack in Ingushetia same day, 1 killed. Investigators suspect group led by Beslan Makhauri on Chechnya-Ingushetia border; counter-terrorism operation (CTO) regime introduced in Sunzhensky. 2 police killed, 15 injured by suicide bomber in Tabasaransky district police station, Dagestan 23 Sept. Dagestan Supreme Court judge Mukhtar Shapiyev shot dead with son 25 Sept. Govt operations included CTO killing leader of Kabardino-Balkaria’s “Urvan” insurgency group Ruslan Makoev and 2 accomplices in Urvansky district, KBR 5 Sept. Dagestani authorities reported leader of Kadar insurgency Tagir Sulabanov, father and associate killed in clash with police 24 Sept. Security forces continued pressure on Salafi communities in Dagestan, including harassment of Salafi rights organisation “Pravozaschita”. Religious activist Abdul Gappaev shot dead in Kizlyar, Dagestan 15 Sept.
PM Leanca held talks with leader of breakaway region Trandniester 23 Sept ahead of planned 3 Oct negotiations on issue involving OSCE, EU, Russia, U.S. and Ukraine. Russian deputy PM warned Moldova that its signing of an association agreement with EU would mean “cutting relations” with Russia, affecting trade, migrant workers and Russian position on Transdniester. President Timofti 4 Sept said Moldova committed to EU course.
Turkish FM Davutoğlu and Greek FM Venizelos 23 Sept reached breakthrough agreement on visits by representatives of Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders to Athens and Ankara respectively in attempt to find political solution on island. Leaders voiced demand for immediate resumption of intercommunal talks on Cyprus settlement. Israel’s energy envoy Michael Lotem 10 Sept called on Turkey, Cyprus to move together to develop Israel’s share of East Mediterranean’s natural gas riches.
Peace talks between govt and Kurdish PKK insurgency continue but hang in balance as both sides have blamed each other for stalling. High-level PKK leader Cemil Bayık 5 Sept announced halting militants’ withdrawals to outside Turkey; jailed PKK head Öcalan 15 Sept voiced need for “new format” in peace talks. Ceasefire remains in place but tensions continue: PKK 11 Sept attacked construction site, abducted 4 in Siirt; 15 Sept set construction vehicles on fire in Elazığ. PM Erdoğan 30 Sept announced “democratisation package” including plans for education in mother languages in private schools, possible lowering of electoral threshold, removing headscarf ban in public sector. Announcement sparked protests of tens of thousands of Kurds in SE; co-chair of pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Gültan Kışanak 30 Sept said package failed to meet expectations. Amid continued tensions along Syrian border, govt expressed dissatisfaction with U.S.-Russia agreement in addressing Syrian crisis. 2 Turkish jets 16 Sept shot down Syrian helicopter after it strayed into Turkish airspace. Frequent clashes continue between military and Syrian smugglers: live ammunition smuggled into Turkey exploded 3 Sept, killed 5 Syrians, 1 Turk. 1 Turkish civilian killed 29 Sept in clashes between Turkish army and Syrian smugglers in Hatay. 1 protester died in anti-govt demonstrations in Hatay 10 Sept, sparking more protests in Istanbul, Ankara and Hatay.
During 6-8 Sept visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, countries signed agreements worth $30bn, including Chinese purchase of 8.4% stake in Kashagan oil field. Almaty court suspended 2 independent newspapers.
Opposition leaders summoned to questioning 3 Sept after airing on state broadcaster of videos allegedly showing opposition activists planning to extort $3mn from Kumtor gold-mining corporation, and overthrow govt, including by poisoning Naryn River and putting blame on mining company, with help of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Alleged extortionists arrested. Govt and Canada-listed Centerra Gold signed non-binding agreement on restructuring ownership of Kumtor mine, with govt swapping current shares and $100m future profits for 50% holding in new joint venture. Authorities 16 Sept announced 3 people arrested including 1 Kazakh and 2 Kyrgyz citizens in southern city Osh, reportedly members of Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) returning from Syria to conduct attacks in Bishkek. Chinese President Xi Jinping signed $3bn deal with govt to boost Kyrgyz section of gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China. During 13 Sept Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Bishkek, Xi announced Chinese funding of civilian transit hub at Manas airport after U.S. air force vacates it in 2014. After talks with President Atambayev in Brussels 17 Sept, European Commission President Barroso announced increase of EU financial support: $40.5mn macroeconomic aid, $18.2mn to support rule of law. Kyrgyz and Uzbek officials met late month to discuss disputed section of border in Osh province.
Opposition parties 10 Sept announced lawyer and rights activist Oynihol Bobonazarova as their candidate in presidential elections set for 6 Nov; joins 2 other candidates running against incumbent President Rahkmon, current favourite to win. During 23 Sept meeting in Sochi, Russia, Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) agreed to increase assistance to Tajik security forces to protect country’s border with Afghanistan.
In wide-ranging reshuffle of security and law-enforcement agencies, President Berdymukhamedov 1 Sept dismissed prosecutor-general and top govt officials over accusations of corruption. During 3 Sept visit, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed deals with govt to triple gas exports to China by 2020 via new pipeline, construction to start 2016.
President Karimov and Chinese President Xi Jinping 8 Sept signed agreements worth $15bn in oil, gas, gold sectors. Activist Bobomurad Razzakov jailed for 4 years 24 Sept for human trafficking; rights groups condemned case as fabricated. Human Rights Watch expressed concern over independent journalist Sergey Naumov, missing since 21 Sept.
New cycle of govt-FARC peace negotiations ended 19 Sept amid increasing tensions; talks to resume 3 Oct. President Santos 24 Sept said before UNGA that peace will not lead to impunity for serious crimes, also called for faster negotiation results as “time for decisions” had come. In reaction, FARC leader Timochenko 25 Sept slammed Santos for supposedly “unilaterally imposing” restrictions on talks. Security forces 25 Sept killed high-ranking member of FARC’s Daniel Aldana mobile column in Tumaco, Nariño. VP Garzón 9 Sept announced peace talks with ELN would begin “over next days and in different place to Havana”, but new setback 10 Sept when ELN allegedly kidnapped 3 pipeline workers in Saravena, Arauca. ELN 30 Sept reaffirmed willingness to participate in peace talks. Santos 4 Sept announced cabinet reshuffle, replacing inter alia embattled interior and agriculture ministers; 12 Sept presented “National Agrarian Pact” to confront agrarian crisis, but initiative rejected by peasant grassroots. Amid social protests, Santos approval ratings down to 21%. Former President Uribe 16 Sept announced he will run as head of list for Senate in March 2014 elections.
Govt 10 Sept announced decision to proceed with country’s withdrawal from Inter-American Court on Human Rights, prompting concern domestically and abroad. France seized more than 1.3 tons of cocaine on Air France flight from Venezuela; authorities jailed 22 people, including National Guard officials and airport staff. Govt 30 Sept announced expulsion of 3 U.S. diplomats accused of plotting to sabotage economy.
UN 12 Sept named former Colombian magistrate Iván Velásquez next head of International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG); outgoing commissioner Francisco Dall’Anese 22 Aug credited CICIG with helping Guatemala lower impunity rates from 93% to 70% over past 6 years. Gunmen 7 Sept opened fire on residents of Maya town N of Guatemala City, killing 11 and injuring about 15; authorities blamed gang members allegedly angry because local bars refused to sell them liquor, but media reported some residents suspected corrupt police responsible for killings. Police 17 Sept captured son of Waldemar Lorenzana Lima, alias “Patriarch”, arrested in 2011 and fighting extradition to U.S. on drug-trafficking charges.
Organization of American States said it is preparing to send mission to Haiti to help observe 2-year delayed partial Senatorial elections, but doubts remained on possibility to hold elections as promised before end-2013. Legislative proposals for impeachment of president and PM complicating hopes for compromise. Several thousand supporters of former president Aristide demonstrated against President Martelly in capital Port-au-Prince 30 Sept.
Security forces 1 Sept arrested alleged leader of Juárez Cartel, Alberto Carrillo Fuentes alias “Ugly Betty”, in Nayarit state; 9 Sept arrested alleged leader of Los Rojos gang Leonor Nava Romero alias “La Garra” in Guerrero state. Tens of thousands joined protests against education and energy sector reforms in Mexico City; police 14 Sept used water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters, 31 people arrested. 3 local lawmakers from leftist Party of Democratic Revolution (PRD) killed 10-13 Sept in separate attacks in Oaxaca and Michoacán states. Authorities 24 Sept arrested 3 more police suspected of involvement in May abduction and killing of 12 Mexico City bar patrons.
Secret Palestinian-Israeli talks held 3, 16 Sept: Palestinian officials 5 Sept stated “no progress” made, negotiator Saeb Erekat 19 Sept said talks undermined by hardline Israeli negotiating positions, settlement expansion and 7 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces since talks began, criticised lack of U.S. participation. In Israel, deputy defence minister and senior Likud party official Danny Danon 3 Sept said PM Netanyahu has “no place in Likud” if peace deal signed. Israeli right-wing criticism of negotiations mounted after 2 Israeli soldiers killed by suspected Palestinian sniper in Hebron 23 Sept, and by Palestinian in Beit Amin village, West Bank 21 Sept. U.S. Sec State Kerry 8 Sept urged EU to postpone funding boycott it plans to impose on Israeli companies in WB, said ban would harm peace talks. Israel expressed scepticism over prospects of international diplomacy regarding Iranian nuclear program (see Iran): Netanyahu 2 Sept said despite Iran’s “charm offensive”, Iranian policy toward Israel “has not changed”, 30 Sept warned U.S. President Obama not to trust Tehran; govt 29 Sept announced arrest of Iranian spy. Netanyahu 15 Sept expressed support for “complete destruction” of Syria’s chemical arsenal under Russian-U.S. initiative (see Syria). Israeli army 3 Sept carried out joint missile test with U.S. in Mediterranean.Gaza facing worsening fuel shortages and financial crisis due to Egypt’s closure of tunnels in wake of its July military takeover. Hamas, fearing popular uprising and perceived prospect of Egyptian-Israeli military invasion due to Egyptian govt’s aggressive anti-Hamas rhetoric, taking some apparent steps to improve relations with Egyptian military.
Army and police deployed in Hizbollah-controlled southern suburb of Beirut 23 Sept to take over security from Hizbollah militants at checkpoints. Clashes in Tripoli mid-month injured 7, killed 1 amid continued tensions between Alawite and Sunni residents. 5 people killed in clash in Hizbollah stronghold Baalbek in East 28 Sept, security forces deployed to restore calm; followed clash 25 Sept in which several wounded. Several rockets from Syria fell in East mid-Sept wounding 2. European Commission 12 Sept pledged further $77mn to Lebanon to help cope with Syrian refugee influx, now reported to number 759,932 in Lebanon alone. Political deadlock still unresolved: caretaker PM Najib Mikati, MPs from Future Movement and its March 14 allies, and Free Patriotic Movement 23 Sept boycotted parliament session for 5th time, prompting Parliament speaker Berri to postpone it once again.
UN Security Council 27 Sept unanimously passed resolution calling for Syria to destroy chemical weapons (CW) production facilities by Nov and dismantle CW stockpile by mid-2014, and allow full access to inspectors. In case of non-compliance another resolution needed to authorise punitive measures including military force. UNSG Ban called vote “historic”, announced tentative date for new peace conference in Geneva mid-Nov. President Assad 29 Sept said Syria would abide by resolution. Resolution followed extensive diplomacy between U.S and Russia in wake of 21 Aug CW attack near Damascus. U.S. President Obama 9 Sept delayed U.S. Congress vote authorising military action after Russia proposed placing Syria CW under international control, leading to 14 Sept U.S.-Russia agreement serving as basis for UNSC resolution. UN investigation team 16 Sept released report on Aug Ghouta chemical attack confirming sarin gas was used, conclusions suggest attack launched from regime stronghold. Moscow said investigation biased, received new evidence from Damascus of rebel culpability for attack. UN team inspecting further CW attacks, 3 of which allegedly took place after 21 Aug attack. Regime re-escalated campaign to drive rebels from remaining strongholds in Damascus outskirts. Infighting between rebel factions continued, including clashes in north between al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel groups and Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups; fragile truce between FSA and al-Qaeda branch Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) 20 Sept after ISIL captured Azaz town. ISIL mid-Sept killed aid worker affiliated with Salafi group Ahrar al-Sham, prompting criticism from prominent Salafi militants. Syrian National Coalition (NC) pushing to establish provisional govt, 14 Sept elected new interim PM to form 13-minister interim cabinet; 19 Sept reaffirmed willingness to attend Geneva peace talks if goal is establishing transitional govt. Turkish army 16 Sept shot Syrian helicopter violating its airspace.
Largest opposition party Al-Weqaf 18 Sept suspended participation in national dialogue process after continued govt crackdown on opposition and Shia groups. Tens of thousands 27 Sept protested in Manama against govt and in support of arrested politician Khalil al-Marzooq. Court 29 Sept sentenced 50 accused of forming “Feb 14 revolution youth coalition” to up to 15 years’ prison, including Iraqi cleric Hadi al-Mudaressi. Police 18 Sept arrested opposition figure Khalil Al Marzooq on charges of “inciting and advocating terrorism”; 15 Sept jailed 3 Shia men for 10 years for “attempting to kill police” during Feb protests. Govt 16 Sept filed lawsuit to close Shia Muslim clerics’ council, accused of operating illegally and political involvement. Govt 4 Sept issued resolution requiring that political groups contacting foreign organisations seek prior approval from foreign ministry.
New President Rouhani took unprecedented steps towards ending sanctions regime against Iran, negotiating nuclear program: 27 Sept spoke with U.S. President Obama in first direct talks between U.S. and Iranian leaders since 1979 revolution; 24 Sept visited New York for annual UNGA meeting, said Iran ready for “time-bound and results-oriented” nuclear talks; 23 Sept met with EU foreign policy chief Ashton. Hardliner Saeed Jalili replaced as chief negotiator 5 Sept when nuclear portfolio handed to FM Mohammad Zarif; Zarif declared nuclear program must remain peaceful and be conducted under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision, 29 Sept said right to enrich “not negotiable” but prepared to negotiate aspects of nuclear program. U.S. Sec State Kerry 29 Sept said deal could be reached within 3-6 months. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei 17 Sept endorsed Rouhani’s approach, calling for Iran to show “heroic leniency” in nuclear negotiations. Head of Revolutionary Guards General Mohammad Ali Jafari said Rouhani’s 27 Sept conversation with Obama “tactical error”, should have waited for U.S. to take practical steps showing no hostile intent towards Iran. Govt 18 Sept released 80 prisoners ahead of UNGA, including human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and reformist politician Mohsen Aminzadeh; also used social media to suggest softer line on Israel. On Syria, Khamenei 5 Sept said chemical weapons “pretext” for U.S. invasion for which it would “suffer”; FM Zarif 10 Sept supported Russian proposal to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control. Ex-president Rafsanjani 1 Sept quoted by Iranian Labour News Agency as stating Syrian regime used chemical weapons; foreign ministry 2 Sept said remarks “distorted”. Russia 11 Sept agreed to supply Iran with S-300 anti-aircraft missiles and build additional nuclear reactor at Bushehr nuclear site.
UNHCR 24 Sept expressed concern over increased sectarian violence; UNSG Ban 30 Sept expressed concern, called for serious political dialogue. Attacks continued with over 660 reported killed including 18 in bombing of Sunni mosque near Samarra 20 Sept; 73 killed 21 Sept in bomb attack on Shiite area of Baghdad; 27 killed 24-25 Sept in clashes between insurgents and security forces; 51 killed 30 Sept in car bombings. Series of bombings in Erbil 29 Sept killed 11, first such attack since 2007. Political leaders early Sept united in opposition to possible U.S. military strike on Syria. Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni leaders increasingly aligned with Iran; Iran FM Mohammed Jawad Zarif visisted Baghdad; Sunni leader Osama al-Nujayfi visited Iran 12 Sept. Kurdistan elections held 21 Sept; Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) won comfortable majority.
National Dialogue 18 Sept deadline passed without agreement on southern issue. Hiraak activists in south preparing to oppose dialogue outcome through protests, civil disobedience campaigns. Suspected al-Qaeda militants 20 Sept killed at least 38 soldiers in several attacks on military bases in Shabwa province, south. 20 injured 26 Sept in twin explosions in Sanaa, al-Qaeda denied responsibility. Sabotage of oil and electricity infrastructure by tribesmen in Marib caused widespread blackouts. Assassinations continued including 2 military officials killed 23-24 Sept in Sanaa in targeted shootings, army officer killed 25 Sept by car bomb. Gunmen 30 Sept seized military HQ in Mukalla, Hadramaut province, 4 killed. Tensions between Huthis and adversaries including Salafis, Islah and Ahmars continued, with over 60 killed in Amran alone in fighting between Huthis and Ahmars; one-year ceasefire reached by presidential mediation committee 14 Sept but situation remains tense.
President Bouteflika 11 Sept reshuffled cabinet: appointed close aides to defence and interior ministries; ally Abdelmalek Sellal retained PM post; 22 Sept appointed Gen Abdelhamid Bendaoud head of Department of Internal Security (DSI) and Gen Mohamed Bouzit head of intelligence service’s external relations directorate. Security forces 5 Sept killed 7 reported terrorists attempting to cross into Mauritania; 9 Sept killed 2 in Tizi Ouzou and Boumerdès regions; 23 Sept killed 2 in Boumerdès province. Govt 7 Sept deployed 3,000 additional soldiers along borders with Tunisia and Libya.
Govt continued crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members and pro-Morsi Islamists with several arrests, closure of more media outlets and 23 Sept court decision banning all MB activities. Security forces 16, 19 Sept stormed towns of Delga and Kerdasa, retaking Islamist strongholds. EU envoy continuing international efforts to mediate between govt and MB. Experts committee, headed by former presidential candidate Amr Moussa and including only 2 Islamists out of its 50 members, 7 Sept started reviewing constitution draft prepared by technical committee of legal scholars. Constitution to be put to referendum by end-Nov, followed by parliamentary and presidential elections. Amid calls for defence minister and regime strongman General al-Sisi to run for president, army spokesman 22 Sept reaffirmed military does not intend to nominate candidate. Uptick in anti-state violence, most notably in Sinai where suicide bomb 11 Sept killed over 100 soldiers, levelled military intelligence HQ near Rafah. Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim survived car bomb attack on his convoy in Cairo 5 Sept, 4 bystanders killed; previously-unknown Sinai-based jihadi group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for this and other attacks during month. Increasing use of IEDs reported, ship crossing Suez Canal targeted by RPGs. Military launched large-scale offensive in E Sinai 7 Sept, reported it killed 30 militants in assault on 12 villages; publicly blamed Hamas for allowing Egyptian and Palestinian extremists to use tunnels under Gaza border. Gunmen 30 Sept reportedly killed 3 policemen, one soldier in N Sinai.
Oil sector disruptions continued: General National Congress’ (GNC) Crisis Committee 16 Sept announced deal to end port blockade reached, but protesters who shut down oil terminals denied any negotiation with state officials. Key pipeline reopened mid-Sept after GNC-led negotiations. Protesters 29 Sept shut down major Wafa gas field along Algeria border; Berber protesters 30 Sept shut off gas pipeline citing marginalisation in new constitution. Political tensions increased with mounting calls for PM Zeidan’s departure; GNC Security Committee member Abdulomonen Alyaser late Sept said IMF raised “red flag” over economy and govt’s direction. SW region Fezzan 26 Sept reportedly declared itself autonomous federal province. Security remained fragile with continued targeted assassinations including 3 security officers killed 29 Sept in Benghazi, and explosions including bombing of Benghazi branch of Foreign Ministry 11 Sept.
President Ould Abdel Aziz 19 Sept announced cabinet reshuffle, appointed 6 new ministers. UNHCR envoy Athar Sultan-Khan 22 Sept met with PM Laghdaf to discuss plight of Malian refugees in Mauritania. News agency ANI 16 Sept released AQIM video showing 4 Frenchmen abducted in Niger in 2010.
Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb 10 Sept released video criticising monarchy, corruption, called on Moroccan Muslims to participate in jihad; authorities 19 Sept arrested prominent journalist for posting video on independent news site, raising press freedom concerns. Moroccan jihadi Brahim Benchekroune 6 Sept launched al-Qaeda inspired group in Syria. Police 9 Sept captured suspected jihadi Mohamed el-Bali in Melilla. Ruling PJD 13 Sept revealed plans to reform judicial sector, notorious for corruption. Thousands demonstrated in Rabat 22 Sept against govt decision to raise fuel prices.
Ongoing mediation efforts attempting to end political deadlock between Islamist-dominated governing Troika and secular opposition. Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) 16 Sept pushed for new transition plan calling for ruling An-Nahda party to step down; An-Nahda initially rejected proposition. UGTT 28 Sept reported An-Nahda agreed to step down in Oct after 3 weeks of talks, hand over power to caretaker govt to oversee elections. An-Nahda leaders later said govt would not resign before agreement on constitution and launch of electoral campaign. Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou 13 Sept acknowledged his ministry received information from Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) regarding potential threat to opposition MP Mohamed Brahmi prior to his assassination in July, prompting outrage, opposition demands for inquiry. Media strike 17 Sept following further arrests of journalists.