[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 Policies Roundup Editors of Jadaliyya. You may send recommendations for inclusion in the Foreign Policies Media Roundup to firstname.lastname@example.org, mentioning "Foreign Policies Roundup" in the subject line.]
U.S. sanctions Turkish officials over detained pastor (1 August 2018) The US Treasury Department sanctioned two senior Turkish officials over the continued detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dismisses Donald Trump’s call for talks on eve of new sanctions(7 August 2018) Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dismissed the possibility of talks with US President Donald Trump following the latter’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 agreement over Iran’s nuclear program.
U.S. State Department urges Canada, Saudi Arabia to resolve dispute (7 August 2018) The US State Department urged Canada and Saudi Arabia to resolve their dispute spurred by the arrest of civil rights activists in the Arab Kingdom.
Trump warns countries against doing business with Iran (7 August 2018) US President Donald Trump has warned that countries and businesses doing business with Iran will be barred from doing business with the United States.
Trump hits Turkey when it’s down, doubling tariffs (10 August 2018) US President Donald Trump announced that tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey will be doubled, following an escalating feud revolving around the continued detention of an American pastor in Turkey.
U.S. ambassador urges Britain to ditch support for Iran nuclear deal (12 August 2018) US Ambassador to Britain Woody Johnson urged Britain to ditch its support for the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, citing their funding for “proxy wars and malign activity.”
U.S. pulls Syria stabilization funding (17 August 2018) US President Donald Trump announced that the United States will not be spending the roughly two hundred million dollars that had been planned for Syria stabilization efforts, and instead cited the three hundred million dollars raised by other countries within the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
U.S. to remain in Iraq “as long as needed”, command says (20 August 2018) The spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve stated that the United States will stay “as long as needed” to ensure ISIS does not regain strength and to assist in stabilization efforts.
U.S. confirms end to funding for U.N. Palestinian refugees (31 August 2018) The Trump administration has announced it will cut all US funding for the main UN program for Palestinian refugees, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), effectively ceasing US support for close to five million refugees.
White House pledges to “respond swiftly” if Assad use chemical weapons again (4 September 2018) The White House announced in a statement a warning that if President Assad uses chemical weapons against his own people again, the United States and its allies “will respond swiftly and appropriately.”
Trump administration to close Palestinian Liberation Organization office in D.C. (10 September 2018) The Trump administration has announced it is closing the office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington, D.C., effectively shuttering the Palestinian diplomatic mission to the United States.
U.S. warns Iran it will respond to attacks by Tehran allies in Iraq (11 September 2018) The United States warned Iran that it will respond “swiftly and decisively” to any attacks by Tehran’s allies in Iraq that “result in injury to Americans or damage US facilities”.
Pompeo slams Kerry’s talks with Iran as “beyond inappropriate” (14 September 2018) US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo slammed former Secretary of State John Kerry for speaking with senior Iranian officials about the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord.
U.S. revokes visas of PLO ambassador’s family(17 September 2018) The United States has revoked the visas for the family of the PLO’s ambassador in Washington, D.C.
Trump at U.N.: Iran “sowing chaos, death, and destruction” (25 September 2018) Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, US President Donald Trump lambasted Iran and its leadership for “sowing chaos, death, and destruction” across the Middle East.
Trump says he wants Two-State Solution for Mideast conflict (26 September 2018) US President Donald Trump stated he desired a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a claim that has come under scrutiny following his recent policies towards the region.
Trump says he’ll reveal his Middle East peace plan in “two to three to four months” (26 September 2018) US President Donald Trump said his administration would have a deal outlining a “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in “two to three to four months.”
U.S. to remove several missile defense systems from the Middle East (27 September 2018) A Wall Street Journal article citing “multiple US military officials” claimed that the United States will begin removing several Patriot air and missile defense batteries from four countries within the Middle East, as the US military begins to “shift its focus towards adversaries like Russia and China.”
Qatar says regional security alliance with U.S. at risk with Gulf dispute (28 September 2018) Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani announced that the proposed regional security alliance bringing together the United States, Gulf allies, Egypt, and Jordan, is at risk of credibility if a Gulf dispute is not resolved.
U.S. pulls diplomats from Iraqi citing, citing threats from Iran (30 September 2018) The United States announced that it has withdrawn its diplomatic personnel from the consulate in the Iraqi city of Basra, citing increasing threats from Iran and Iranian-backed militias.
Italy praises Egypt over ongoing investigation into student’s death (5 August 2018) Italy praised Egypt for its cooperation in the investigation into the 2016 death of Italian student, Giulio Regeni.
Italy’s PM Conte sees no rush for Libyan election (9 August 2018) Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that it is not vital for Libya to hold elections in 2018.
Illusory to think Syrian refugees can return now, France says (23 August 2018) France dismissed the Russian suggestion that millions of Syrian refugees could start returning home, citing that the conditions for such a return have not been met.
European states urge Israel not to demolish Bedouin village (10 September 2018) Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Britain urged Israel not to proceed with the proposed razing of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank.
Spain sells 400 bombs to Saudi Arabia (14 September 2018) Spain concluded the sale of four hundred laser-precision bombs to Saudi Arabia, stating that they “will not be used to kill Yemeni civilians”.
Germany “cannot rule out” longer-term military role in the Middle East (16 September 2018) German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said she could not rule out a longer-term deployment of German forces in the Middle East. This statement comes amid a broader debate about the role of Germany in possible military action in Syria.
Spain pushing European recognition of Palestinian state (20 September 2018) Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell told a conference of EU leaders that even if the European Union fails to reach a unanimous decision on the issue of Palestinian statehood, a “last resort” of individual recognition by Spain is “on the table.”
Ireland may recognize Palestinian state if peace talks continue to falter (22 September 2018) Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Convey announced that Ireland may recognize a Palestinian state if peace talks with Israel aimed at producing a two-state solution continue to stagnate.
E.U., Iran agree to create a “special vehicle” to maintain trade (25 September 2018) The remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal stated that they agreed to continue work to create a special mechanism to maintain trade with Iran, including in oil, following the US withdrawal from the agreement.
Macron says unilateral action on Mideast peace won’t solve crisis (25 September 2018) France’s President Emmanuel Macron challenged US President Donald Trump’s “unilateral initiatives” vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, stating that “trampling on the Palestinians” will not resolve the conflict.
Germany, Saudi Arabia agree to turn page on diplomatic dispute (25 September 2018) Germany and Saudi Arabia have agreed to end a prolonged diplomatic row that prompted the kingdom to pull its ambassador from Berlin and punish German firms operating in the country.
Turkey’s Erdogan calls on Germany to list Gulen group as terrorists (27 September 2018) Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan urged Berlin to designate the movement of Fethullah Gulen as a terrorist organization. Turkey blames this movement for the alleged 2016 coup attempt.
E.U. offers an extra $46 million to Palestinian refugee agency (28 September 2018) The European Union said it is offering an extra forty-six million dollars to the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNWRA) in an attempt to partially offset the United States’ decision to end 350 million dollars in aid to the program.
Russia says Iranian forces pulled back from Golan in Syria; Israel unsatisfied (1 August 2018) Russia reported that Iranian forces had reportedly withdrawn their heavy weapons to a distance of eighty-five kilometers (fifty-three miles) from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Israel has deemed the pullback inadequate.
Russia to help on Syria-Israel border patrols (15 August 2018) The Russian military announced that its forces in Syria will help UN peacekeepers fully restore patrols along the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Russia says 63,000 troops have seen combat in Syria (23 August 2018) The Russian Defense Ministry released a video claiming more than 63,000 Russian military personnel had “received combat experience” in the country since September 2015.
Russia masses huge force off Syrian coast for final assault on rebels in Idlib (29 August 2018) Russia deployed at least a dozen war vessels to waters off of Syria’s coast ahead of the pending regime offensive against Idlib province.
Russia says Syria has right to chase rebels out of Idlib (31 August 2018) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Syrian government had “every right” to chase militants out of the rebel-held enclave of Idlib and “protect its sovereignty.”
Russian and Syrian jets pound Idlib province after summit (8 September 2018) Russian and Syrian aircraft resumed their bombing campaigns on the rebel-held province of Idlib following a failed summit in Iran between Turkey, Russia, and Iran to construct a ceasefire.
Russia says Turkey has key job of separating out militants in Syria’s Idlib (11 September 2018) Russia’s special envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev claimed that it is up to Turkey to separate “Islamist militants” from the moderate opposition in Syria’s Idlib province.
Russia and Turkey to create buffer zone in Idlib (17 September 2018) Russia and Turkey agreed to create a “demilitarized buffer zone” in Syria’s Idlib province to reportedly come into effect by 15 October 2018.
Kremlin says it is extremely concerned by downing of Russian plane over Syria (18 September 2018) The Kremlin said it was extremely concerned after a Russian military aircraft was shot down by Syrian government forces over Syria in a friendly fire incident that Russia has blamed on Israel.
Russia to give Syria S-300 air defense after accusations against Israel (24 September 2018) Russia announced it will be supplying an S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Syria following the downing of a Russian military jet in Syria which the Kremlin blamed on Israel.
Via arms and trade, Russia plots long-term Syrian future (27 September 2018) Through arms and trade, Russia is determined to keep Syria solidly anchored in its sphere of influence over the long term.
China defends Iran business ties after Trump threat (8 August 2018) China’s foreign ministry announced that its business ties with Iran are open, lawful, and will continue despite US President Donald Trump stating that companies doing business with Iran would be barred from the United States.
China envoy says no accurate figure on Uighurs fighting in Syria (20 August 2018) China’s special envoy for the Syrian issue announced that there is no accurate figure of the number of ethnic Uighurs who have gone to fight with militant groups in Syria.
China’s slowing demand for oil is a serious concern for the Middle East (3 September 2018) Amid China’s ongoing trade disputes with the United States, Middle Eastern countries are beginning to worry about a decline in Chinese demand for oil.
Egypt strikes deal for greater investment from China (4 September 2018) Egyptian Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady announced in a statement that Egypt signed a number of agreements and contracts with Chinese companies worth 18.3 billion dollars.
China says military ties “backbone” to relations with Pakistan (18 September 2018) A senior Chinese general told Pakistan’s visiting army chief that military ties are the “backbone” of relations between the two countries.
Alibaba and other China heavyweights eye Turkey assets after Lira plunge (27 September 2018) Several large Chinese companies are actively looking at opportunities in Turkey, and several have met with Turkish firms after the lira’s sell-off has made local assets cheaper.
Other Countries/Middle East
Israel warns Iran of military response if it closed key Red Sea straight (1 August 2018) Israel threatened a military response if Iran were to try to block the Bab al-Mandeb strait that links the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.
Iran launches major naval exercises ahead of renewed U.S. sanctions (3 August 2018) Iran began launching major naval exercises in the Persian Gulf just days before the United States is due to start reimposing sanctions.
Deadly airstrike by Saudi-led coalition hits school bus in Yemen (10 August 2018) An airstrike launched by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen struck a school bus carrying children, resulting in the deaths of dozens.
Hezbollah leader meets with Yemini rebels (19 August 2018) The Lebanese group Hizballah announced that its leader Hassan Nasrallah met with a delegation headed by Houthi spokesman Mohamad Abdelsalem to discuss the latest developments in Yemen’s civil war
Iran says to maintain military presence in Syria despite U.S. pressure (28 August 2018) Iranian state media announced that the country will maintain its military presence in Syria despite US pressure for its withdrawal.
Israel says it struck over 200 Iranian targets in Syria (4 September 2018) Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz stated that Israel has carried out over two hundred strikes on Iranian targets in Syria over the past two years.
Gulf States’ defense budgets to hit $100 billion in 2019 (6 September 2018) Military spending by the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is set to reach one hundred billion dollars in 2019.
Jerusalem court recognizes settlement built on private Palestinian land (10 September 2018) A Jerusalem District Court ruled that an Israeli settlement built on private Palestinian land owned by Palestinians from the West Bank is legal.
Syria and Jordan begin talks on opening vital border crossing (13 September 2018) Jordan and Syria held their first formal talks concerning the opening of the Nassib border crossing that was recaptured from opposition forces in July 2018.
Israel to build hundreds of settlements in Jerusalem (20 September 2018) The Israeli government has approved the construction of nearly one thousand housing units in East Jerusalem settlements.
Gaza protests: All the latest updates (21 September 2018) Since widespread protests began on 30 March 2018, Israeli forces have killed at least 174 Palestinians.
Iran’s Khamenei blames Gulf Arab states for military parade attack (22 September 2018) Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the “US-backed Gulf Arab states” of carrying out an attack on a military parade in Iran that killed twenty-five people, almost half of them members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Israel sets October deadline to evacuate Bedouin village in West Bank (23 September 2018) Israel announced to residents of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank that they have until 1 October 2018 to clear their houses before Israel plans to demolish the village.
Iran video threatens missile strikes on UAE, Saudi Arabia (25 September 2018) A video released by the Fars news agency, an Iranian media outlet close to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), published a video threatening middle attacks on the capitals of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in retaliation for the recent attack on a military parade in Iran, which Tehran blamed on the Arab Gulf states.
Netanyahu says Israel will continue operations in Syria against Iran (25 September 2018) Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that Israel will continue its military operations in Syria against Iran, despite Russia’s decision to supply the Syrian regime with the S-300 surface-to-air missile system.
Israel accuses Iran of concealing nuclear material for weapons program (27 September 2018) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of hiding nuclear-related materials at a warehouse in Tehran.
Palestinians expand Gaza protests (28 September 2018) The organizers of the Great Return March have called for increased activities along the Gaza-Israeli border as Egyptian-sponsored talks between Israel and Hamas continue to falter.
Palestinians says seven killed as Israeli troops fire on Gaza protest (28 September 2018) Israeli soldiers shot dead seven Palestinians and wounded 505 in the latest protests at the Gaza Strip border. At least 191 Palestinians have been killed since the Gaza protests began on March 30 to demand the right of return for Palestinians families.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics
Syrian regime offensive in Idlib could displace 700,000 civilians (8 August 2018) A UN-led group of health agencies warned that the anticipated Syrian regime offensive on Idlib province could displace more than seven hundred thousand civilians.
Jordan says Palestinian refugees at risk with UN agency in crisis (9 August 2018) Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned that a severe financial shortfall facing the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) could have a catastrophic impact on the lives of millions of refugees in the region.
Gaza ceasefire ends flare-up, Palestinians resume protests (10 August 2018) An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire ended a several-day wave of rocket barrages and airstrikes between Israel and Gaza, but tensions remained high as thousands of Palestinians gathered for protests near the Israeli-Gaza border.
U.N. says Houthis refused visa to head of human rights office in Yemen (10 August 2018) The United Nations announced that the Houthi militia group barred the head of the United Nations’ human rights office in Yemen from returning to the country.
Russia, Iran, and three others agree Caspian status, but not borders (12 August 2018) Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan agreed in principle on how to divide up the potentially huge oil and gas resources of the Caspian Sea. However, the delimitation of the seabed, according to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, will require additional agreements.
Bahrain government rejects U.N. criticism of jailed dissident (17 August 2018) Bahrain’s government rejected the findings of a UN report on the unlawful detention of human rights activist Nabeel Rajab.
U.N. team, approved a year ago, starts work on ISIS crimes in Iraq (23 August 2018) A UN investigative team will begin formally collecting evidence of human rights abuses and war crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq.
Russia, Turkey, Iran fail to agree on ceasefire for Syria’s Idlib (8 September 2018) The Presidents of Turkey, Iran, and Russia failed to agree on a ceasefire that would forestall a Syrian government offensive on rebel-held Idlib province.
Yemen peace talks collapse in Geneva after Houthi no-show (8 September 2018) An attempt to hold peace talks for Yemen was abandoned following three days of waiting for the Houthi movement’s delegation to arrive in Geneva.
U.N.: Israel has not taken steps to remove settlement growth (21 September 2018) The United Nations released a statement claiming that no steps have been taken by Israel to stop the building of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
U.N. rushes aid to hunger-stricken Yemeni district (25 September 2018) The United Nations is rushing desperately-needed aid to Yemen’s northern district of Aslam where starving villagers were found to be living off leaves.
World Bank report warns Gaza Strip economy is in “free fall” (25 September 2018) A report from the World Bank has warned that the Gaza Strip’s economy is in “free fall” and is calling for urgent action by Israel and the international community to avoid “immediate collapse.”
Trump seeks U.N. backing for Iran nuclear sanctions (26 September 2018) US President Donald Trump urged other members of the UN Security Council to work with America to ensure Iran never acquires a nuclear bomb, and threatened that those who failed to comply with US sanctions would “face severe consequences.”
Saudi Arabia and Yemen fail to halt U.N. Yemen human rights inquiry (28 September 2018) The UN Human Rights Council voted twenty-one to eight in favor of prolonging an inquiry into human rights abuses in Yemen, despite objections from Yemen and Saudi Arabia.