[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.]
Pompeo: no intelligence directly links Saudi prince to Khashoggi killing (1 December 2018) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he has personally seen all the intelligence possessed by the United States on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and repeated that no direct evidence links Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the incident.
Trump tells Pakistan: Taliban talks help fundamental to “enduring ties” (3 December 2018) US President Donald Trump has asked for Pakistan’s help with faltering Afghan peace talks in a letter to new Prime Minister Imran Khan in which he made clear that Islamabad’s assistance was “fundamental” to the health of the two countries’ strained relationship.
Iran President: U.S. made 11 attempts to negotiate with Iran in last two years (4 December 2018) Iranian President Hassan Rouhani alleged that the United States has made eleven attempts to begin negotiations with Iran over the past two years, all of which have been reportedly rejected by Tehran.
U.S. accuses Huawei CFO of Iran sanctions cover-up; hearing adjourned (7 December 2018) Huawei Technologies chief financial officer faces US accusations that she covered up her company’s links to a firm that tried to sell equipment to Iran despite sanctions. This follows her arrest in Canada several days prior.
U.S. Department of State: U.S. wants to continue support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen (9 December 2018) The US State Department announced that it wants to continue support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s war and will remain engaged in efforts to counter Iranian influence and Islamist militancy.
“I can’t breathe”: Saudi journalist Khashoggi’s last words (10 December 2018) CNN reported that journalist Jamal Khashoggi allegedly told his killers “I cannot breathe” during his final moments in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Iraq seeks exemption from U.S. sanctions on Iran (11 December 2018) Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced that Iraq will send a delegation to the United States seeking an exemption from sanctions against Iran that would allow it to keep importing Iranian gas.
Pakistan denounces blacklisting by U.S. for religious freedom violations (12 December 2018) Pakistan denounced the United States for placing it on a list of countries violating religious freedoms, calling the designation politically motivated.
Defying Trump, U.S. Senate advances measure to end support for Saudis in Yemen(12 December 2018) In a rare break with President Donald Trump, the Senate voted to move ahead with a resolution to end US military support for the Saudi-led coalition in the war in Yemen and lawmakers vowed to push for sanctions against the kingdom in the new year.
Qatar Petroleum to invest $20 billion in U.S. in major expansion (16 December 2018) Qatar Petroleum (QP) is looking to invest at least twenty billion dollars in the United States over the coming few years, after the Gulf state unexpectedly quit OPEC earlier this month.
Afghan Taliban meet U.S. officials as peace efforts intensify (16 December 2018) Afghan Taliban representatives and US officials met in the United Arab Emirates amid diplomatic moves towards establishing the basis for talks to end the seventeen-year-old war in Afghanistan.
Erdogan says Trump positive on Turkish military plan to push east in Syria (17 December 2018) Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey may start a new military operation in Syria at any moment, touting support from US President Donald Trump even though the Pentagon has issued a stern warning to Ankara.
U.S. State Department clears $3.5 billion sale of Patriot missiles to Turkey (18 December 2018) The US State Department has approved a possible 3.5 billion-dollar sale of Patriot air and missile defense systems to Turkey.
Trump starts withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, claims victory (19 December 2018) US President Donald Trump has begun what will be a total withdrawal of US troops from Syria, declaring that the United States has succeeded in their mission to defeat the Islamic State and were no longer needed in the country.
Syria’s Kurds reel from U.S. move, Assad seen planning next step (20 December 2018) The Kurds stand to lose the most from the US decision to withdraw forces who have helped them battle Islamic State militants and deter their adversaries Ankara and Damascus.
U.S. plans for more than 5,000 troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan (20 December 2018) US President Donald Trump announced the he is planning to withdraw more than five thousand of the fourteen thousand US troops in Afghanistan, in the latest sign Trump’s patience is thinning with America’s longest war and overseas military interventions.
In a first, Trump makes surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq (26 December 2018) US President Donald Trump made a surprise Christmas visit to US troops in Iraq, representing his first trip to a conflict zone since assuming the presidency.
U.S.: E.U. should sanction Iran over missile tests (4 December 2018) The United States is pressing the European Union to consider economic sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles, warning of a wider regional conflict if Tehran’s ambitions remain unchecked.
Francis to become first pope to visit Arabian Peninsula (6 December 2018) The first visit by a pope to the Arabian Peninsula will take place in February 2019, when Pope Francis travels to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
Iran urges E.U. to press Washington on Airbus deliveries (17 December 2018) Iran called on the European Union to press US authorities to allow delivery of Airbus passenger aircraft purchased by Tehran.
France says Islamic State not defeated, troops to remain in Syria (20 December 2018) France has announced that it will keep its troops in northern Syria for now because Islamic State militants have not been wiped out, contrary to the view held by the current US administration.
Germany: U.S. Withdrawal from Syria could damage fight against IS (20 December 2018) German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced that the United States’ sudden change on Syria is surprising and risks damaging the fight against the so-called Islamic State.
Dutch worried by U.S. plans to pull forces from Syria, Afghanistan (21 December 2018) The Netherlands voiced its displeasure at the US decision to withdraw forces from Syria and said Washington’s plan to reduce its military presence in Afghanistan was premature.
France urges Israel to reconsider settler home approvals in West Bank (27 December 2018) France called on Israel to reconsider recently issued approvals for more than two thousand settler homes in the occupied West Bank, saying they would violate international law.
Israeli ex-general, polling closest to Netanyahu, joins 2019 election race (27 December 2018) Former Israeli Armed Forces Chief Benny Gantz has formally established a political party, thereby entering the 2019 election race.
Netanyahu briefs Putin on anti-tunnel operation on Lebanese border (8 December 2018) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefed Russian President Vladimir Putin on Israel’s crackdown along its border with Lebanon on tunnels it says were dug by Hizballah.
Kremlin presses on with Turkey missile contract despite possible U.S. arms deal (19 December 2018) The Kremlin announced that Russia was pressing ahead with a contract to deliver advanced S-400 missile air defense systems to Turkey despite the US State Department approving the possible sale of a rival US missile defense system to Ankara.
Russia says Gaddafi’s son should play a role in Libyan politics (25 December 2018) Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov was quoted as saying Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the most prominent son of the former Libyan leader, should play a role in the country’s political life.
China’s Iran oil imports set to rebound in December as buyers use U.S. waivers (7 December 2018) China’s Iranian oil imports are set to rebound in December after two state-owned refiners in the world’s largest oil importer began using the nation’s waiver from US sanctions on Iran.
China pledges to help Afghanistan and Pakistan bridge divisions (15 December 2018) China has pledges to help Afghanistan and Pakistan overcome longstanding suspicions, as officials from the three countries met in the latest round of diplomacy aimed at opening talks with the Taliban to end the Afghan war.
China says it discusses with Pakistan “new changes” in Afghanistan situation (25 December 2018) Senior Chinese and Pakistani diplomats discussed “new changes” to the situation in Afghanistan, amid plans by the United States to withdraw about half of the fourteen thousand US troops based in the country.
Other Countries/Middle East
Iran Navy launches stealth warship in Gulf (1 December 2018) Iran’s navy launched a domestically made destroyer in the Persian Gulf, which state media claimed has radar-evading stealth properties.
Gas-focused Qatar to exit OPEC in swipe at Saudi influence (3 December 2018) Qatar announced that it will quit OPEC in order to focus on gas in a swipe at Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of the oil exporting group.
Israel targets “Hezbollah attack tunnels” from Lebanon (4 December 2018) Israel announced that it had launched an operation to “expose and thwart” cross-border attack tunnels from Lebanon dug by Hizballah for the alleged purpose of attacking Israel.
UAE says Gulf Arab bloc still strong despite Qatar row (6 December 2018) The United Arab Emirates announced that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) remains valid despite a bitter row with Qatar.
Israel may expand anti-tunnel operation in Lebanon, minister says (7 December 2018) An Israeli cabinet minister announced that Israel is prepared to take action in Lebanon against Hizballah cross-border tunnels if necessary.
Netanyahu: Israel, courting ex-foes, can overfly Sudan (10 December 2018) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israeli airliners would now be able to overfly Sudan en route to South America, the latest development in Israel’s drive to improve ties with Muslim countries and isolate arch-foe Iran.
Arab League tells Brazil’s Bolsonaro that his Israel embassy move could harm ties (10 December 2018) The Arab League has told Brazil’s right-wing President-elect Jair Bolsonaro that moving Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would be a setback for relations with Arab countries.
Australian government discusses moving Israeli embassy to Jerusalem (11 December 2018) Australia’s government convened a meeting to discuss whether to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a decision that would break with decades of policy and risk angering Asian neighbors.
Turkey to launch operation against U.S.-backed Kurds in Syria “in a few days” (12 December 2018) Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey will launch a new military operation in northern Syria within days, targeting Kurdish militia fighters who are supported by US troops east of the Euphrates River.
Palestinian kills two Israeli soldiers after Israel kills two in West Bank raids (13 December 2018) A Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli soldiers at a bus station in the Occupied West Bank, hours after Israeli forces killed two alleged Hamas fugitives it blamed for earlier deadly attacks.
Israel to approve thousands of unauthorized West Bank settler homes (13 December 2018) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that Israel is set to authorize thousands of the settler homes built illegally in the occupied West Bank, some of them decades ago.
U.S.-backed SDF vows to fight any Turkish attack in north Syria (13 December 2018) The commander-in-chief of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces announced that the group will respond strongly to any Turkish attack but is pressing diplomatic efforts to deter an assault.
Turkey will keep attacking PKK in Iraq, foreign ministry says (15 December 2018) The Turkish military announced that they will keep striking Kurdish PKK fighters in northern Iraq, a day after Baghdad formally complained that repeated Turkish airstrikes violated its sovereignty and endangered civilians.
Australia recognizes west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, embassy not moving yet (14 December 2018) Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the country formally recognizes west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversing decades of Middle East policy, but will not move its embassy there immediately.
Bahrain foreign minister defends Australia’s decision on Jerusalem (16 December 2018) The foreign minister of US ally Bahrain has defended Australia’s formal recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying the move would not affect a future Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.
Israel signals displeasure at Australia’s “mistaken” west Jerusalem move (16 December 2018) Israel signaled displeasure with Australia’s recognition of west Jerusalem as its capital, saying it was a mistake to gainsay Israeli control over the whole city.
Netanyahu: Israel to escalate fight against Iran in Syria after U.S. exit (20 December 2018) Israeli Prime Minister announced that Israel will escalate its fight against Iranian-aligned forces in Syria after the withdrawal of US troops from the country.
Turkey says it will take over fight against IS after U.S. pull-out (21 December 2018) Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey will take over the fight against the so-called Islamic State as the United States withdraws its troops.
Turkey says nearly 300,000 Syrians return home after military operations (22 December 2018) Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu announced that nearly 300,000 Syrians have returned to their country after Turkey’s two cross-border operations in northern Syria.
Turkey bolsters military on Syrian border as U.S. readies pull-out (23 December 2018) Turkey began reinforcing its positions on both sides of its border with Syria as Ankara and Washington agreed to coordinate a US withdrawal from Syria.
Turkey determined to push east of Euphrates “as soon as possible” (25 December 2018) Turkey’s foreign minister was quoted as saying the country is determined to cross to the east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria as soon as possible, signaling renewed intent to launch a military campaign delayed by the US withdrawal.
Syrian Army reinforced close to front with Turkish-backed forces (25 December 2018) Syrian government troops backed by Russian forces have sent extra troops toward the city of Manbij in coordination with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as Turkish-backed Syrian rebels said they were preparing to attack it.
Syria state media says Israeli planes attack targets near Damascus (25 December 2018) Syrian state media announced that Israeli war planes attacked with missiles unspecified targets near Damascus, injuring three Syrian soldiers.
UAE reopens Syria embassy in boost for Assad (27 December 2018) The United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus, marking a diplomatic boost for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from a US-allied Arab state that once backed rebels fighting him.
Bahrain says no interruption to diplomatic ties with Syria (28 December 2018) Bahrain announced that its embassy in Damascus and the Syrian diplomatic mission in Manama had been operating “without interruption”, a day after the United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Syria, which is still suspended from the Arab League.
Syrian Army deploys to Manbij area after Kurdish calls to deter Turkey (28 December 2018) The Syrian Army deployed forces near Manbij in northern Syria after the Kurdish YPG militia urged Damascus to protect the town from the threat of a Turkish offensive.
Iraq hints at bigger role in Syria after U.S. withdrawal (30 December 2018) Iraq’s prime minister announced that top security officials from Baghdad had met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, and hinted at a bigger Iraqi role in fighting Islamic State militants in Syria as US troops withdraw.
Netanyahu: Brazil moving its embassy to Jerusalem matter of “when, not if” (30 December 2018) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro told him that it was a matter of “when, not if” he moves his country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Iran says Afghan Taliban arrived in Tehran, held peace talks (31 December 2018) Iran announced that Taliban representatives from Afghanistan negotiated with Iranian officials in Tehran, as the Islamic Republic seeks to advance peace talks in the neighboring country.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics
IOM: Yemen migrant route grows 50 percent, surpasses Mediterranean (4 December 2018) a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced that the number of migrants arriving in Yemen is set to rise fifty percent this year compared to 2017, with almost 150,000 risking the journey from the Horn of Africa toward the Arabian Gulf.
Yemen’s Houthis in Sweden for peace talks; U.N. warns of economic breakdown (4 December 2018) A Houthi delegation arrived in Sweden for UN-sponsored Yemen peace talks, the first since 2016, amid concern over a looming economic disaster.
Yemen’s warring sides agree at start of talks to free thousands of prisoners (6 December 2018) Yemen’s warring sides have agreed to free thousands of prisoners in what the United Nations called a hopeful start to the first peace talks in years.
Houthis reject government proposals over Sanaa Airport in Yemen peace talks(7 December 2018) Yemen’s Saudi-backed government has proposed re-opening the Houthi-held airport in the capital Sanaa on the condition that planes are inspected in the airports of Aden or Sayun which are under its control. The Houthis rejected the proposal outright.
UNHCR: 250,000 Syrian refugees could return home next year (11 December 2018) the UNHCR director for the Middle East and North Africa announced that up to 250,000 Syrian refugees could return to their devastated homeland in 2019, while many others face problems with documentation and property that the Damascus government must help resolve.
U.N.: Two missile launchers found in Yemen appear to be from Iran (11 December 2018) According to a confidential United Nations report seen by Reuters, two launch units for anti-tank guided missiles recovered by a Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen appear to have been manufactured in Iran during 2016 and 2017.
U.N. watchdog presses Saudi Arabia on alleged torture of activists (12 December 2018) A UN human rights watchdog has urged Saudi authorities to free over a dozen rights activists detained in the kingdom, alleging that some had been tortured or mistreated during interrogation.
Yemen’s warring parties agree to reopen Sanaa Airport, resume oil and gas exports (12 December 2018) Yemen’s warring parties have agreed to reopen Sanaa Airport in the Houthi-held capital and resume oil and gas exports.
Yemen’s warring parties agree to ceasefire in Hodeidah and U.N. role (13 December 2018) Yemen’s warring parties have agreed to cease fighting for the Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah and withdraw their troops. Allegations of a breach in the ceasefire followed soon after.
U.N. peacekeepers say two tunnels at Israel border breached U.N. resolution (17 December 2018) UN peacekeepers in Lebanon stated that two of the four tunnels found close to the border with Israel crossed the frontier demarcation between the two countries, violating a UN resolution that ended the 2006 war between Hizballah and Israel.
U.N. WFP to cut back food aid to Palestinians (19 December 2018) The World Food Programme’s (WFP) senior official for the Palestinian Territories announced that the WFP is to cut food aid in 2019 to nearly 190,000 poor Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank due to a shortage of funds.
U.N. says Yemen Houthis’ redeployment in Hodeidah should respect Stockholm deal (30 December 2018) The United Nations welcomed the redeployment of Yemen’s Houthi forces away from the port city of Hodeidah, but said this should be independently verified to ensure it is in line with the Stockholm ceasefire agreement.