[This is a monthly roundup of news articles and other materials related to other countries` foreign policies toward the Middle East. It does not reflect the views of the Foreign Polices Roundup Editors of Jadaliyya. You may send recommendations for inclusion in the Foreign Policies Media Roundup to email@example.com, mentioning "Foreign Policies Roundup" in the subject line.]
Ex-Blackwater Guards Given Long Terms for Killing Iraqis (13 April 2015) Years after the 16 September 2007 massacre at Nisour Square, four former Blackwater security contractors received long sentences for their involvement in the “wartime atrocity.”
Sale Of US Arms Fuels The Wars of Arab States (18 April 2015) Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper argue that the Gulf countries and Israel both support US weapon sales to the Middle East because they counterbalance Iran’s role in the region. Moreover, the author’s argue that American firms “follow the money” to the Arab Gulf because that is where the majority of the money is. Therefore, a US-Iran deal will not change diplomacy in the Middle East.
U.S. Weighs Training Iraqis To Call In American Airstrikes in ISIS Fight (23 April 2015) The United States, in an effort to speed up the fight against ISIS, is having internal disagreements discussing giving Iraqis the ability to call in American airstrikes.
U.S.-Led Strikes Have Killed 2,079 People in Syria (23 April 2015) Air Strikes by the United States led coalition have killed 2,079 people in Syria. The British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has claimed that some 1,922 were current ISIS members.
U.S. Concerned Iranian Ships May Carry Arms to Yemen: Pentagon Chief (23 April 2015) Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the United States believes Iranian cargoes are carrying weapons to Yemen. He warned Tehran to avoid “fanning the flames” of the conflict.
Botched U.S. Strike Highlights Risks of Obama’s Drone War (23 April 2015) President Barack Obama takes personal responsibility for the drone strike that accidentally resulted in the deaths of American and Italian hostages--Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, respectively--who were being held by al Qa’ida in Pakistan.
Pentagon Cites De-Escalation of Tensions Over Iranian Ships (24 April 2015) Iranian ships originally bringing weapons to Yemeni Houthis have turned around. This is important because Washington was opposed to such a decision and could have resulted in failing of the nuclear deal.
If Sanctions Are Lifted, Here`s What Trade Between Iran and America Could Look Like (24 April 2015) Quartz argues that there are many businesses in both the United States and Iran that would benefit from the lifting of sanctions. More specifically, oil, technology, beverages, and tobacco would all be among the beneficiaries.
Saudi Arabia Arrests Ninety-Three, Stopping Terror Plot Against US Embassy There (28 April 2015) Saudi Arabian regime officials have noted, in the past few months, police officers have arrested ninety-three members with connection to ISIS in the Kingdom. Moreover, the government reports these Islamic State recruits were planning an attack against the United States embassy.
US Provides Additional Six Million Dollars in Humanitarian Aid For Syrian Palestinians (28 April 2015) Washington plans to send six million dollars to aid Palestinians in the Yarmouk refugee camp.
Coalition Debates Expanding ISIS Fight (29 April 2015) The “coalition of the willing” is debating expanding the anti-ISIS fight to Libya and Yemen. This would also include controlling Iran-backed Shi’a militias.
Strait of Hormuz Once Again At Center of US-Iran Strife (1 May 2015) Following an Iranian seizure of a cargo ship, the United States deployed its own Navy vessels to protect future shipments. This inflames tensions regarding the Strait of Hormuz, which contains forty-percent of world oil trade, as Iran could threaten to close the Strait. Iran has never done so before, however, US intelligence experts are worried about Iran laying mines in the Strait, which would significantly uphold traffic.
Death Toll From US-led Strike Rises to Fifty-Two Civilians in Syria (2 May 2015) British based Observatory For Human Rights suggests the United States’ airstrikes have killed fifty-two civilians in Syria. The United States military suggests that all of the aforementioned deaths were combatants.
Turkey, U.S. to Start Train-and-Equip Plan for Syria Rebels May 9 – Turkey (2 May 2015) US-Turkey train-and-equip program for Syrian rebels is set to begin on 9 May 2015. According to Turkey’s foreign minister, the program will train three hundred rebels at a time in the hopes of creating a force of two thousand by the end of 2015.
Saudi-Led Group Said To Use Cluster Bombs in Yemen (3 May 2015) The Saudi Arabian military group has been using cluster bombs to fight Houthis in Yemen. These weapons are banned illegal by most countries on the international stage; however, not by Saudi Arabia, the United States, or Yemen.
Resurgent Syrian Rebels Aim For Assad (4 May 2015) Jahbat al-Nusra is making significant gains in Northern Syria. Assad is expected to lose control of the region if the Nusra Front’s advance continues. Moreover, in order to receive more aid from the West, Jahbat al-Nusra is discussing breaking with Al-Qaeda.
Why Assad Is Losing (5 May 2015) Charles Lister from the Brookings Institution analyzes why Assad is losing the conflict in Syria. Among his arguments is that the United States has begun to back Al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Syria.
US To Discuss Pause in Yemen Fighting With Saudis (6 May 2015) John Kerry announced he will be meeting with the Saudi Arabian officials to discuss a pause in the fighting. Moreover, the United States has promised sixty-eight million dollars to relief agencies working in Yemen.
US Trains Syrian Rebels in Jordan to Fight ISIS (7 May 2015) American Special Forces have begun training Syrian rebels in Jordan to fight ISIS. The first round of training includes ninety different rebels. In addition to training, the United States government will provide air support, surveillance, and other military duties to fight against ISIS. Moreover, the United States has only screened four-hundred of three thousand seven hundred rebels who volunteered for the “program.”
Secret Tapes of the 2013 Egypt Coup Plot Pose a Problem For Obama (10 May 2015) The secret tapes of the 2013 Egypt coup suggest that the military did indeed plan a coup. This poses a problem for Obama because it suggests the state department should have suspended aid. Therefore, the United States will need to consider its support for a regime that planned a coup and openly supports torture.
Gulf Nation Leaders Seek Security Commitments From Obama (11 May 2015) Gulf leaders, unnerved by the Iran nuclear deal, are looking for changes to US policy during May’s Camp David meetings. First, the gulf countries want a more technologically advanced weapons system. More specifically, the Saudis want a system similar to what the United States provides Israel. Secondly, the gulf countries want the United States to agree to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. In addition, because King Salman is frustrated with the Iran deal he will not attend the summit.
Damascus Slams US Bid To Train Syrian Rebels, Accuses Washington of Supporting Terrorism (11 May 2015) The Syrian Foreign Minister stated the United States intends to support terrorism in Syria to destabilize the region.
Temporary Cease-Fire Announced in Yemen, But Situation Remains Tense (12 May 2015) Saudi Arabia announces temporary cease-fire in Yemen in the interest of humanitarian relief as its coalition forces continue to carry out airstrikes in the capital.
Islamic State Deputy Leader `Killed In Iraq Air Strike` (13 May 2015) Abu Alaa al-Afari, the Islamic State’s deputy leader, has been killed in a US airstrike. This is crucial because, after al-Baghdadi was wounded in an air strike, al-Afari was leading ISIS.
Obama: US Helping Investigate Reports of Chlorine Bombs In Syria (14 May 2015 President Barack Obama claimed that Washington is helping the international community investigate Assad’s reported use of chlorine bombs in Syria. Moreover, he claims that if evidence proves chlorine has been used in bombs, Washington will fight to end the aforementioned trend.
Obama Vows to Keep Arab Allies Secure Amid Iran Deal Fears (15 May 2015) Obama reassures his allies in the Persian Gulf that the United States will continue to coordinate with them on issues of regional security despite ongoing negotiations with Iran, pledging a new era of heightened US-Gulf cooperation.
Arabs Weigh `Rapid Response` Force With US Blessing (15 May 2015) Obama’s Gulf Summit concluded with the possibility of a pan-Arab rapid response force. This force would contain twenty-thousand to forty-thousand troops and be modeled after NATO. Moreover, it would receive US funding and serve to fight threats to regional stability like ISIS.
Abu Sayyaf, Key ISIS Figure In Syria, Killed In US Raid (16 May 2015) US special operation forces raided a Syrian compound housing Abu Sayyaf. Sayyaf was a key ISIS figurehead who directed oil sales for the organization. US forces killed Sayyaf and his wife, who helped run ISIS’ slave trade, was captured.
US Deeply Concerned Over Mursi Death Sentence Bid By Egyptian Court (17 May 2015) The United States government is deeply concerned over the Mursi death sentence, per the State Department.
Iran Aligned Shiite Militias Gather To Join Fight Against Islamic State Gains (18 May 2015) The United States is hesitant supporting the Shiite militias in their fight against the Islamic State. This is occurring even though the militias have a history of human rights abuses and failure to maintain control of their territory.
The Eighteen Billion Dollar Arms Race Helping to Fuel Middle East Conflicts (23 April 2015) Russia has reached an agreement with Iran to sell S-300 anti-aircraft weaponry. This means the Middle East will receive eighteen billion dollars in 2015 in the form of solely weaponry. Making this decision more problematic is Russia is sending weapons to the country opposed to the Sunni Gulf leadership. Thus, this sale could escalate the conflicts in both Syria and Iraq.
Russia Says Won`t Deliver S-300 to Iran `in Near Future` (23 April 2015) Contradicting the directly aforementioned Guardian report, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergey Ryabkov, claims that the S-300 anti-aircraft weaponry won’t be sold to Iran “in the near future.”
Moscow Does Not Belong to Hezbollah Axis: Russia Ambassador (9 May 2015) Russia’s ambassador stated that Moscow does not support Hezbollah or terrorists. He furthered, though, that the Russian government will continue to support Assad’s government for the purposes of stability.
Israeli Foreign Minister Denounces E.U. Proposal to Label Settlement Products (17 April 2015) Israeli foreign minister criticizes a letter signed by sixteen European officials, urging the head of EU foreign affairs Federica Mogherini to clearly distinguish between products made in Israel and products made in Israeli settlements.
UK Government Giving Thirty Million Euros to UNRWA for 2015/16 (23 April 2015) The UK government is providing thirty million Euros to UNRWA for Palestinian refugees. This is a seventeen percent drop in funding from the previous year.
Migrant Deaths: EU to Triple Funding for Rescue Operations (23 April 2015) Following the recent deaths of nearly one thousand migrants in the Mediterranean, European leaders pledge additional funding and naval support for rescue operations.
ISIS Unveils the ISHS, Its Own Version of Britain`s NHS (24 April 2015) ISIS has created a health system that is similar and based on Britain’s. Nine British medical students are serving as “contractors” to help develop the new structure.
Bishop Says Britain Has a Moral Duty To Accept Refugees From Its Wars (25 April 2015) The Bishop of Manchester argued on 25 April 2015 that Britain must take war refugees into the country. More specifically, he is referring to Iraq and Afghanistan and Britain accepting the two countries’ refugees.
France To Set Up Center For Returning Young Jihadists By Year-End (29 April 2015) The French government is setting up centers whose purpose will be to treat returning young jihadists, namely adolescents and women.
Around Seven Thousand Europe-Bound Migrants Rescued, Baby Girl Born on Italian Navy Ship (4 May 2015) Italian ships rescued nearly seven thousand people from Libyan smugglers who were about to be sold into slavery.
France, Qatar Sign Seven Billion Dollar Rafale Warplane, Missile Deal (6 May 2015) France and Qatar sign an agreement for the sale of two dozen fighter jets as well as missiles and training for Qatari pilots, technicians.
France Delivered Weapons to Syria Rebels, Book Reveals (6 May 2015) In a new book by Xavior Panon, Francois Hollande admitted to sending weapons to the Syrian rebels. Thus, France was aiding Syrian rebels even during the two year weapons embargo.
Britain Battles EU Over Refugee Fair Share Quotas (11 May 2015) The European Union recently agreed to a plan forcing each member country to take in a certain number of migrants. Britain, according to the plan, would be required to double the amount of migrants they take in this year from last year. Thus, the British government is attempting to challenge the agreement. This EU bill started because of the human trafficking off the coast of Libya.
Top Arab Generals Plan Libyan Intervention: Will France and Italy Join? (11 May 2015) The Arab League is planning a military intervention in Syria. The article discusses the League will ask France to aid with logistics and special forces. Moreover, the Arab League plans to ask Italy for naval help.
Vatican to Sign State of Palestine Accord (13 May 2015) Two years after the Vatican recognized the state of Palestine, Pope Francis and Mahmoud Abbas prepare to sign their first bilateral treaty.
Britain Sent 301 Drones To Bomb IS Group Since September 2014 (15 May 2015) Per British Ministry of Defense Documents, the United Kingdom has supplied three hundred or so drones to bomb the Islamic State since the initiative began in September 2014.
Britain Sends Eighty-Five Troops To Train Syria Rebels (16 May 2015) The United Kingdom has agreed to send troops to help train five thousand Syrian rebels for their conflict with the Islamic State.
UK To Offer Drones To Help Combat People-Smugglers in Libya (18 May 2015) The United Kingdom has offered to supply military drones and intelligence services to help fight people-smuggling in Libya. Moreover, London also plans to send naval ships with the goal of increasing the Kingdom’s influence in the Mediterranean.
China`s Efforts in Promoting Asian-African Cooperation Hailed as Constructive (23 April 2015) During the week of April 20 China led a Asian-African summit working to advance dialogue between the two regions. Jawad al-Chlaihawi, the Iraqi delegate to the summit in Jakarta, called the event “constructive.” Moreover, he claimed, Iraq and China have begun to work on education policy together and that he believes Beijing can play a powerful and transformative role in the region.
The Pakistani Pivot from Saudi Arabia to China (23 April 2015) Bruce Reidel argues that Pakistan is pivoting away from Saudi Arabia and towards China. As evidence, he points out how Pakistan refused to go to war in Yemen. Moreover, he contends, China is providing forty-six billion U.S. dollars to Pakistan for economic development. In addition, Beijing is also working with Islamabad to develop a “Special Services Division” in the Pakistani military.
China`s Xi Says Backs Fair, Balanced Agreement on Iran (23 April 2015) China, in the African-Asian Summit, has pushed the argument that a “mutually beneficial” deal between Tehran and the rest of the world is necessary.
China`s Latest Humanitarian Aid Shipment Arrives in Syria (23 April 2015) China sent stationary tools and mobility equipment to Syria in order to help newly disabled civilians survive during the conflict.
What is China`s Navy Doing in Mediterranean? (2 May 2015) Noah Feldman argues the recent China-Russia military exercises are a response to the United States. Essentially, Beijing wants to demonstrate it plays just as much, if not a greater, geopolitical role than Washington in the Middle East.
Egypt and China Strengthen Defense Ties (7 May 2015) Egypt and China have agreed upon a new deal that sends F-7 fighter jets and K-8 jet trainers from Beijing to Cairo.
China Says Egypt`s Morsi Death Sentence A `Domestic Affair` (18 May 2015) China refused to join other nations criticizing Morsi’s death sentence claiming that it is a “domestic affair.”
Other Countries/Middle East
U.S. to Triple Military Aid to Tunisia (10 April 2015) Just weeks after a deadly attack was conducted by Islamic State gunmen at Bardo museum in Tunis, the US deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken has announced that the United States will triple its military aid to Tunisia and, for the first time, assist in training Tunisian troops.
Yemen’s President: The Houthis Must Be Stopped (12 April 2015) Yemen’s president in exile reaches out to the West for support in mitigating Houthi military advances. In this op-ed for the New York Times, Hadi criticizes Iran and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh for their alleged involvement in the current crisis.
Abuse Rampant in F1 Host Bahrain Despite Promises: Amnesty (16 April 2015) The Bahraini regime, host of the upcoming Formula One Championship race, responds to accusations of continuing human rights violations in the country from 2011 to the present that were published in Amnesty’s April 2015 report.
Mohammad Javad Zarif: A Message From Iran (20 April 2015) Iran’s minister of foreign affairs discusses progress in nuclear negotiations and other pressing foreign policy issues in the Persian Gulf region, including counterterrorism and the conflict in Yemen.
Saudis Announce Halt to Yemen Bombing Campaign (21 April 2015) Saudi Arabia announces an end to Operation Decisive Storm--a Saudi-led coalition airstrike campaign against Houthi militias in Yemen--despite ongoing hostilities, citing victories against Houthi military infrastructure.
The King of the Arab Street vs. the Pope (22 April 2015) Following remarks by Pope Francis surrounding the centennial of the Armenian genocide, Turkish relations with the Vatican have taken a negative turn. In this article Steven Cook reflects on President Erdogan’s seemingly contradictory policy positions.
Armenian Groups Are Increasingly Focused on Reparations for Genocide (23 April 2015) Rick Gladstone discusses Armenian efforts to receive reparations and the Turkish government’s reactions to said efforts in light of a history of denial and recent calls for recognition by the numerous world leaders.
Yemen Struggles to Import Food as Coalition Navies Hold Up More Ships (27 April 2015) The Saudi-led coalition continues to hold up ships attempting to bring wheat, corn, and other food products to Yemen.
Aid Flights to Yemen Blocked after Saudi Arabian Jets Bomb Airport Runway (28 April 2015) The Saudi-led coalition bombed runway in Sana’a to prevent an Iranian plane from landing in the capital. Iran’s state news agency claims the plane belonged to the Red Crescent and was attempting to deliver food and medical aid to Yemen.
Cyprus, Egypt, Greece to Boost Ties on Combatting Terrorism (29 April 2015) Cyprus, Egypt, and Greece discuss shared security concerns in light of the situation in Libya and agree to cooperate on counterterrorism efforts while increasing economic ties.
India Sees Seventeen Percent Boost in Iran Oil Imports (1 May 2015) India imported seventeen percent more oil from Iran this April, post-nuclear deal, than it ever has in the past.
Anti-Police Protest in Israel Turns Violent (3 May 2015) Ethiopian-Israelis protested the government’s mistreatment of the disenfranchised population.The New York Times article compares Israel police brutality of Ethiopian Israelis to US police forces treatment of African Americans.
Yemeni Fighters Trained in Persian Gulf Are Said to Join Saudi-Led Mission (3 May 2015) The New York Times gathers testimonies about recently deployed Yemeni forces--allegedly trained and equipped by the Saudi-led coalition to combat Houthi militias in southern Yemen--and considers how the coalition’s tactics are evolving.
In Yemen, Trying to Save People Without Selling Out (4 May 2015) Relief workers in Yemen are reluctant to accept desperately needed humanitarian aid from Saudi Arabia in light of the ongoing campaign against Houthi fighters across Yemen.
Oman Launches Amnesty for Undocumented Workers (5 May 2015) Oman launches a program that allows undocumented and overstaying workers to return to their home countries without legal recourse on the basis of residency status or labor laws.
Turkey, Saudi in Pact to Help Anti-Assad Rebels (7 May 2015) Turkey and Saudi Arabia, in opposition to the United States, are aiding rebels -- some of whom are religiously conservative-- to fight against the Assad regime. The report suggests that Turkey and Saudi Arabia view Assad as a greater threat to regional stability than ISIS. Moreover, this new funding has resulted in a new coalition-supported rebel center in Idlib. This center comprises multiple different rebel factions.
Why So Many Children Are Fighting in Yemen`s Civil War (11 May 2015) Thousands of children are fighting in Yemen’s civil war. This is, as the authors argue, because of Yemen’s extreme poverty. Essentially, Shi’a boys make up about one-third of the Houthi armed forces. This is because, by becoming a fighter, the boys feel like they can make money and survive.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics
Death by Drone: Civilian Harm Caused by U.S. Targeted Killings in Yemen (April 2015) Open Society’s April 2015 report on US targeted killings in Yemen addresses the immense civilian toll of Obama’s drone policy in the country despite promises to the contrary.
Syria: Chemicals Used in Idlib Attacks (14 April 2015) Human Rights Watch reports that “evidence strongly suggests” Syrian government forces used chemical weapons against civilians in the Idlib governorate in March of 2015.
U.N. Security Council Bans Sales of Arms to Houthi Fighters in Yemen (14 April 2015) The UN Security Council imposes arms embargo on Houthi military leaders, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and his son. These actions follow travel bans and asset freezes imposed on Houthi leaders toward the end of 2014 when the conflict escalated.
Bahrain: Behind the Rhetoric: Human Rights Abuses in Bahrain Continue Unabated (15 April 2015) Amnesty’s April 2015 report on human rights violations in Bahrain from the 2011 unrest until the present.
Inquiry Says Israel Fired on Seven UN Gaza Schools in 2014 War (27 April 2015) UN inquiry finds that Israel fired on seven UN schools, killing forty-four Palestinians, during hostilities in July-August of 2014. Six of the seven targeted schools were designated emergency shelters. The inquiry also found that Palestinian militants hid weapons in three of the designated schools.
US Seeks UN Probe of Syria Chlorine Attacks (6 May 2015) The United States is seeking a UN Security Council resolution to examine Syrian chlorine attacks.
UN Ship Docks in Yemen with Fuel for Aid Deliveries (11 May 2015) A United Nations ship has landed on Yemen’s coast bringing food for aid deliveries. This helps civilians who were starving to death in the country.
Will the United States and Russia Partition Syria? (11 May 2015) The article discusses a leaked Israeli intelligence report that suggests the United States and Russia are discussing plans to partition Syria. According to the plan, Assad would maintain control of Damascus, the Golan Heights, and Tardus (where Russia’s naval base is located). Whereas the rebels would control the parts of Northern and Southern Syria they have captured.
Smuggled Syrian Documents Enough to Indict Bashar al-Assad, Say Investigators (12 May 2015) The ICC has enough evidence to prosecute Bashar al-Assad. Per The Guardian, a three year project that attempted to smuggle documents out of Syria has succeeded and will serve to indict Assad and twenty-four of his senior officers.