[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.]
USAID assistance in the West Bank and Gaza has ceased (1 February 2019) A US official announced the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has ceased all assistance to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Syrian media cites source saying U.S.-led coalition jets attacked army (3 February 2019) Syrian state media, citing a military source, said US-led coalition jets hit a Syrian army position near the battle front against Islamic State pocket, causing damage and injuries.
Trump wants U.S. military in Iraq to “watch Iran” (3 February 2019) US President Donald Trump said it was important to keep a US military presence in Iraq so that Washington can keep a close eye on Iran “because Iran is a real problem.”
U.S. calls on countries to take Islamic State prisoners from Syria (4 February 2019) The US State Department called on countries to take in foreign fighters captured by America’s Kurdish allies in Syria, two days ahead of a meeting in Washington of dozens of coalition partners fighting the “Islamic State” to discuss the way forward in Syria.
As U.S. withdraws, top general warns on Islamic State threat in Syria (5 February 2019) A top US general warned that the Islamic State group would pose an enduring threat following a planned US withdrawal from Syria, saying the militant group retained leaders, fighters, facilitators, and resources that will fuel a menacing insurgency.
Taliban rejects Trump’s suggestion of lingering U.S. counter-terrorism presence (6 February 2019) The Taliban reiterated their long-held demand that all foreign troops get out of Afghanistan, rejecting a suggestion by US President Donald Trump of a lingering US focus on counter-terrorism after troops are drawn down.
With eye on Afghanistan talks, Trump vows to stop “endless wars” (6 February 2019) President Donald Trump told Americans his administration had accelerated talks for a political settlement in Afghanistan and would be able to reduce US troops there as negotiations advance to end America’s longest war.
Afghan Taliban: no date yet for U.S. troops drawdown (6 February 2019) A Taliban official announced that no timetable had been agreed upon with the US government for the partial withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, and that negotiations were still underway.
U.S. lawmakers criticize Saudi Arabia, ask about weapons restrictions (6 February 2019) The chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee said he was troubled by a report that Saudi Arabia transferred weapons to extremist groups in Yemen and questioned whether Congress should consider more restrictions on weapons sales to the Saudi-led coalition.
U.S. blocks U.N. statement on Hebron monitors (6 February 2019) The United States blocked a draft United Nations Security Council statement that would have expressed great regret at Israel’s decision to eject a foreign observer force from the flashpoint Palestinian city of Hebron.
WSJ: U.S. military aims to withdraw from Syria by April (8 February 2019) Citing current and former US officials, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US military is preparing to withdraw American forces from Syria by the end of April and that a significant portion of them will be out by the middle of March.
Trump may skip deadline for report on Saudi journalist’s murder (8 February 2019) The Trump Administration signaled it was unlikely to meet a deadline to report to Congress on whether it intends to impose sanctions on those responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
U.S.-backed Syrian force launches “final battle” against Islamic State (9 February 2019) the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) began an assault against the final Islamic State enclave in eastern Syria, aiming to wipe out the last vestige of the jihadist group’s “Caliphate” in the SDF’s area of operations.
Pompeo: U.S. will keep investigating journalist Khashoggi’s murder (11 February 2019) The United States is still probing the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Trump objects to measure ending U.S. support for Saudis in Yemen war (11 February 2019) The Trump administration threatened to veto an effort in the US Congress to end US military support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in the war in Yemen.
Citigroup sees Saudi Arabia, UAE as top Mideast markets for deals this year (12 February 2019) Citigroup expects the majority of investment banking opportunities in the Middle East to come from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this year.
U.S. Senate proposal would block Saudi path to atomic weapon in nuclear deal (12 February 2019) US Senators from both parties introduced a resolution requiring that any deal to share US nuclear power technology with Saudi Arabia block the kingdom from making a nuclear weapon.
U.S. delivers missiles to Lebanese army (13 February 2019) The United States delivered laser-guided rockets valued at more than sixteen million dollars to the Lebanese military, demonstrating what is said was Washington’s “firm and steady commitment” to Lebanon’s army.
U.S. meeting on Middle East brings together Israel, Gulf Arab states (13 February 2019) A US-sponsored Middle East conference aimed at building a coalition against what Washington sees as a threat posed by Iran also produced signs of a warming of ties between Israel and some Arab countries.
Trump to nominate Satterfield as ambassador to Turkey (15 February 2019) President Donald Trump intends to nominate David Satterfield to be US ambassador to Turkey.
U.S. pressing Gulf States to keep Syria isolated (18 February 2019) The United States is reportedly lobbying Gulf States to hold off restoring ties with Syria, including the United Arab Emirates which has moved closer to Damascus to counter the influence of its rival Iran.
U.S.-backed Syria force seeks help with Islamic State prisoner “time bomb” (18 February 2019) US-backed forces announced that hundreds of foreign jihadist fighter held in Syria represent a “time bomb” and could escape and threaten the West unless countries do more to take them back.
U.S.-backed Syrian forces call for 1,500 coalition troops to stay (18 February 2019) The commander of US-backed forces in Syria called for about one thousand to 1,500 international forces to remain in Syria to help fight the Islamic State and expressed hope that the United States would halt plans for a total pull out.
Palestinians’ lawsuit in U.S. vs. Adelson, others is revived (19 February 2019) A US appeals court has received a one-billion-dollar lawsuit by Palestinians seeking to hold billionaire Sheldon Adelson and more than thirty other pro-Israel defendants liable for alleged war crimes and support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
In reversal, U.S. to leave a total of about 400 troops in Syria (22 February 2019) The United States will leave about four hundred troops split between two different regions of Syria, a reversal by US President Donald Trump that could pave the way for US allies to keep troops in Syria.
Qatar says Taliban political chief will lead U.S.-Taliban talks in Doha this week (24 February 2019) Qatar announced that the latest round of peace talks between the United States and the Taliban will begin in Doha this week and include Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, despite earlier reports suggesting his absence.
Kushner, in Gulf, says U.S. Mideast peace plan addresses borders issue (26 February 2019) White House advisor Jared Kushner, giving a broad outline of a US peace plan for the Middle East, said it will address final-status issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including establishing borders.
Italian coastguard blocks migrant rescue ship in Sicily port (1 February 2019) Italy’s coastguard blocked a Sea-Watch 3 migrant rescue ship in the port of Catania citing safety and environmental concerns, delaying the vessel’s plans to return to patrolling the Libyan coastline.
British lawmakers say highest Saudi authorities may be responsible for activists’ torture (4 February 2019) Three British lawmakers endorsed reports that women activists detained in Saudi Arabia have been tortured, and said responsibility for what is likely a violation of international law could lie with “Saudi authorities at the highest level.”
Pope arrives in UAE for historic Gulf visit, condemns Yemen war (4 February 2019) Pope Francis became the first pontiff to set foot on the Arabian Peninsula, just hours after issuing his strongest condemnation yet of the war in Yemen, where his host the United Arab Emirates has a leading military role.
Backing Chad’s Deby, French warplanes stop rebel advance from Libya (4 February 2019) French warplanes struck a rebel convoy in northern Chad, helping local troops repel an incursion across the border from Libya, a sign France’s support for President Idriss Deby goes beyond fighting Islamist militants.
Iran’s top judge: E.U. preconditions for non-dollar trade channel “unacceptable” (4 February 2019) Iran’s top judge announced that Tehran would never accept the “humiliating conditions” set by the European Union for non-dollar trade intended to evade US sanctions.
E.U. concerned by Iran missile work, regional security role (4 February 2019) The European Union stated that it was gravely concerned by Iran’s ballistic missile launches and tests and called on Tehran to stop activity that deepened mistrust and destabilized the region.
French jets strike Chadian rebels to head off Deby destabilization (6 February 2019) French warplanes destroyed about twenty pick-up trucks in a third day of air strikes against a Chadian rebel convoy that crossed from Libya, an operation the French military said was aimed at preventing the destabilization of its former colony.
London pushes to take Saudis off E.U. dirty money blacklist (8 February 2019) Britain is reportedly leading a group of European Union states who are trying to block an EU plan to include Saudi Arabia and twenty-two other jurisdictions on a blacklist of countries that pose money-laundering and terrorism financing threats.
Contradicting Trump, Merkel says Islamic State not defeated (8 February 2019) German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the Islamic State is far from defeated and is instead morphing into an asymmetrical warfare force after the militant group lost almost all of the territory it once controlled in Syria.
Three Syrians arrested in Germany and France for suspected crimes against humanity (13 February 2019) Police have detained two Syrians in Germany and one in France on suspicion of torture and other crimes against humanity, the first such arrests in Europe against suspected figures in Syria’s feared security service.
E.U. adds Saudi Arabia to dirty-money blacklist, upsets U.K., U.S. (13 February 2019) The European Commission added Saudi Arabia, Panama, and four US territories to a blacklist of nations it considers a threat because of lax controls on terrorism financing and money laundering.
E.U. lawmakers urge Saudi Arabia to end women’s guardianship system (14 February 2019) The European Parliament urged Saudi Arabia to abolish its male guardianship system, under which women have to seek permission from their guardian on issues such as getting married.
Airbus: German halt in Saudi arms sales causing serious problems (15 February 2019) An Airbus official announced the Germany’s halt in exports to Saudi Arabia is preventing Britain from completing the sale of forty-eight Eurofighter Typhoon warplanes to Riyadh, and has delayed potential sales of other weapons such as the A400M military transport.
Saudi Arabia signs warship construction deal with France’s Naval Group (17 February 2019) Saudi Arabia signed a preliminary agreement with France’s Naval Group to build warships in the kingdom as part of its efforts to develop domestic manufacturing capabilities.
Swiss ex-sergeant convicted for leading Christian militia in Syria (22 February 2019) A former Swiss soldier who commanded a Christian militia fighting the Islamic State in Syria was found guilty of violating Swiss neutrality.
Arab League, E.U. seek synchrony on regional crises in first summit (24 February 2019) Arab and European states sought common ground on security threats and regional crises at their first joint summit held in Egypt.
Egypt rebukes Turkey in spat with E.U. after executions (27 February 2019) Egypt rebuked Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan after he criticized European leaders for attending a summit hosted by Cairo days after nine men were executed.
Russia, Turkey agree on “decisive action” in Syria’s Idlib (11 February 2019) Russia and Turkey agreed that they needed to take decisive measures to stabilize the situation in Syria’s Idlib province after talks between the two country’s defense ministers.
Turkish MP says Ankara sticking to Russian missile purchase (14 February 2019) Turkey announced it is going ahead with a purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system.
Kremlin, after summit, says no offensive planned in Syria’s Idlib (14 February 2019) Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia, Turkey, and Iran had agreed to take unspecified extra steps to clear Syria’s Idlib region of what he called “a hotbed of terrorists,” but the Kremlin said there would be no military operation there.
U.S., Russia to find ways to life travel ban on Taliban leaders for peace talks (23 February 2019) The United States and Russia have agreed to explore options on securing travel waivers for Taliban negotiators to participate in talks to end the war in Afghanistan.
Russia offers to help mediate between India and Pakistan (28 February 2019) Russian government officials announced they are ready to mediate between India and Pakistan to try to calm tensions between the two nuclear powers.
Turkey calls on China to close internment camps for Muslims (10 February 2019) Turkey called on China to close its internment camps for Muslims, saying the camps which reportedly hold one million ethnic Uighur people are a “great shame for humanity.”
China releases video it says “proves reports of Uighur poet’s death untrue” (11 February 2019) Chinese state media has released a video it said proves Uighur poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit is alive, after Turkey cited reports of his death in custody in a strongly-worded condemnation of “human rights violations” in Xinjiang.
Ahead of Saudi visit, China seeks “deeper trust” with Iran (19 February 2019) China wants to deepen “strategic trust” with Iran, China’s top diplomat told Iran’s foreign minister, days before Saudi Arabia’s crown prince visits Beijing.
China’s desire for close Iran ties unchanged, Xi says ahead of Saudi prince’s visit (20 February 2019) China’s desire to develop close ties with Iran will remain unchanged, regardless of the international situation, President Xi Jinping told the speaker of Iran’s parliament.
Wary of Xinjiang backlash, China invites waves of diplomats to visit (21 February 2019) China is stepping up its diplomatic outreach over controversial camps in its heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang, inviting more foreign diplomats to visit as it seeks to head off criticism from Muslim-majority countries and the United Nations.
Turkey, Britain raise China’s treatment of Uighurs at U.N. rights forum (25 February 2019) Turkey and Britain voiced concern at China’s alleged mistreatment of Uighurs and other Muslims in its Xinjiang region.
China urges “objective” view of Xinjiang after Turkey criticism (27 February 2019) China’s government stated that countries should take an “objective” view of Chinese policy in Xinjiang and “stop saying the wrong things.”
China expresses “deep concern” over India-Pakistan conflict (27 February 2019) A senior Chinese diplomat expressed “deep concern” over the escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan, after the two counties said they shot down each other’s fighter jets.
Other Countries/Middle East
Forty years since revolution, Iran taunts “declining” America (1 February 2019) Forty years after its revolution, Iran has “no fear of a declining America,” a senior cleric stated at the start of official commemorations.
Qatar, Exxon to proceed with $10 billion Texas LNG project (1 February 2019) Qatar Petroleum and Exxon Mobil Corp are expected to announce plans to proceed with a ten-billion-dollar project that will expand a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in Texas.
UAE’s Noor Capital says it bought 3 tons of gold from Venezuela (1 February 2019) Abu Dhabi investment firm Noor Capital said that it bought three tons of gold on 21 January from Venezuela’s central bank, at a time when President Nicolas Maduro is seeking to keep his crisis-stricken government solvent.
Egypt hosts Palestinian groups, urges calm with Israel (3 February 2019) Egypt will hold talks with leaders of two major Palestinian factions to try to salvage faltering unity efforts and to restore calm with Israel.
Erdogan says Turkey has maintained contacts with Damascus (3 February 2019) Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan stated that Turkey has maintained low-level contact with the Syrian government, even though Ankara has supported rebels who fought for years go topple President Bashar al-Assad.
Lebanon’s Berri: Israeli move threatens Lebanon’s oil wealth (7 February 2019) Lebanon’s parliament speaker stated that an Israeli move to license energy exploration near a disputed maritime boundary threatened to drain Lebanese oil wealth before its own drilling has started.
Israeli gunfire kills Gaza teens during border protests (8 February 2019) Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinian teenagers including a fourteen-year-old boy during Gaza border protests.
Morocco recalls envoy to Saudi Arabia for consultations (8 February 2019) Morocco has recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia for consultations, indicating apparent cracks in relations between the traditional allies over Yemen, Qatar, and the Western Sahara.
Arab League chief: no consensus yet for Syria return (11 February 2019) The Arab League announced that there was no consensus yet among member states that may allow the reinstatement of Syria’s membership which was suspended in 2011 over its crackdown on protesters at the start of the civil war.
Venezuela’s Guaido says he is working to restore ties with Israel (12 February 2019) Venezuela’s self-declared leader Juan Guaido stated he was working to restore ties with Israel that Caracas cut off a decade ago in solidarity with the Palestinians.
India’s PM Modi warns Pakistan of strong response to Kashmir attack (15 February 2019) India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned Pakistan to expect a strong response to a suicide attack that killed forty-four paramilitary policemen in Kashmir, ratcheting up tension between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Afghan Taliban likely to meet Saudi crown prince in Pakistan (16 February 2019) Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is likely to meet Afghan Taliban representatives during his visit to Pakistan, part of efforts to broker an end to Afghanistan’s seventeen-year-old civil war.
Israel trims funds to Palestinians over militant stipends (17 February 2019) Israel will cut around five percent of the tax handovers to the Palestinian Authority over its financial support for jailed Palestinian militants, following similar US legislation last year.
Saudi crown prince begins Asia tour with $20 billion Pakistan investment pledge (17 February 2019) Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated that Saudi Arabia has signed investment agreements worth twenty billion dollars during his high-profile visit to Pakistan, where tensions were flaring up with nuclear-armed rival India.
Saudi prince expects investment worth more than $100 billion in India (20 February 2019) Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he expected investment opportunities worth more than one hundred billion dollars in India over the next two years as he began his official visit amid tensions between India and Pakistan.
Jordan’s PM appeals for more aid as most Syrian refugees set to stay (20 February 2019) Jordan’s prime minister appealed to major donors to continue multi-dollar funding for Syrian refugees in the kingdom, saying most of those who had fled the eight-year conflict had no intension of returning any time soon.
Iran will not rule out possibility of military conflict with Israel (20 February 2019) Iran’s foreign minister accused Israel of engaging in “adventurism” with its bombing campaigns in Syria and said he could not rule out the possibility of a military conflict between the two countries.
UAE signs $5.5 billion in military contracts as Yemen war heightens scrutiny (21 February 2019) The United Arab Emirates awarded 5.5 billion dollars’ worth of military procurement contracts during a defense show at a time when arms sales to the country are under scrutiny due to its role in Yemen’s devastating war.
India reiterates plan to stop sharing of excess water with Pakistan (21 February 2019) An Indian government minister reiterated the country’s plan to restrict the flow of water to Pakistan from its share of rivers, the latest effort by New Delhi to pressure its neighbor after a militant attack in Kashmir.
Erdogan says safe zone on Syria border must be under Turkey’s control (23 February 2019) Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan stated that any safe zone along Turkey’s border with Syria must be under Turkish control.
Assad meets Khamenei in first Iran visit since Syrian war began (25 February 2019) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made his first public visit to Iran since the start of Syria’s war in 2011, meeting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and championing their alliance.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif, architect of nuclear deal, resigns (25 February 2019) Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced his resignation unexpectedly on Instagram.
Air strikes up sharply in rebel-held northwest Syria (26 February 2019) Air strikes stepped up against rebel-held northwestern Syria, prompting thousands of civilians to flee the town of Khan Sheikhoun.
India launches air strike in Pakistan; Islamabad denies militant camp hit (26 February 2019) India said its warplanes killed a “very large number” of fighters when they struck a militant training camp inside Pakistan, although Pakistani officials denied there had been any casualties.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics
UNHCR: Syrian civilians fleeing fighting need transit site, aid (1 February 2019) The UN refugee agency stated that it had asked the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to designate a transit site en route to a camp where civilians fleeing fighting in the harsh winter can get life-saving aid after twenty-nine children died.
U.N. raises “serious doubts” whether Bahrain opposition leaders got fair trial (1 February 2019) The UN Human Rights Office announced that there were “serious doubts” whether three Bahraini opposition leaders were given a fair trial after Bahrain’s highest court upheld their life sentences on charges of spying for Qatar.
Yemen’s warring parties meet on a ship to discuss stalled troop withdrawal (3 February 2019) Representatives from both sides in the Yemen conflict met on a ship in the Red Sea in a UN-led push to implement a stalled troop withdrawal from Yemen’s main port of Hodeidah as agreed at December peace talks.
Amnesty accuses UAE of diverting arms to “militias” in Yemen (5 February 2019) Amnesty International accused the United Arab Emirates of diverting arms supplied by Western and other states to “unaccountable militias accused of war crimes” in Yemen.
U.N. aid convoy reaches remote Rukban camp in Syria (6 February 2019) The largest United Nations humanitarian aid convoy since the start of the Syrian conflict has reached Rukban refugee camp, where thousands of desperate people are stranded in the desert close to the border with Jordan.
U.N.: Yemen warring parties agree to a preliminary compromise on Hodeidah (7 February 2019) The United Nations announced that Yemen’s warring parties have reached a “preliminary compromise” on how to implement a truce and troop withdrawal accord in the port city of Hodeidah, although the deal has not yet been finally agreed upon.
U.N.: Evidence shows Khashoggi murder planned, carried out by Saudi officials (7 February 2019) A United Nations-led inquiry into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi announced that evidence pointed to a brutal crime “planned out and perpetrated” by Saudi officials.
U.N. court rules it has jurisdiction to hear Iran claim against U.S. (13 February 2019) Dismissing US objections, judges at the International Court of Justice ruled that the UN body has jurisdiction to hear a claim by Iran to recover 1.75 billion dollars in assets frozen by Washington.
New U.N. Syria envoy seeks Syria constitution talks, no firm timeframe (15 February 2019) The new UN envoy tasked with forgoing peace in Syria hopes to convene a constitutional committee in Geneva “as soon as possible,” without giving a firm timeframe for the latest attempt to end the country’s devastating war.
India, Pakistan to argue at World Court amid tensions (15 February 2019) The World Court will hear arguments in a dispute between India and Pakistan about a former Indian navy commander sentenced to death by Islamabad for allegedly being an intelligence spy.
Pakistan urges U.N. to intervene over Kashmir tension with India (19 February 2019) Pakistan’s foreign minister appealed to the UN secretary general to help ease tension with India that has escalated sharply following a suicide bomb attack in the Indian part of disputed Kashmir.
Iran still holding up its end of nuclear deal, IAEA report shows (22 February 2019) A report by the UN nuclear watchdog showed that Iran has remained within the key limits on its nuclear activities imposed by the 2015 deal with major powers despite growing pressure from newly re-imposed US sanctions.
Peace deal in Yemen’s main port hits snag as U.N. seeks aid pledges (26 February 2019) A peace deal in Yemen’s main port city appears to have stalled again despite UN efforts to salvage the pact intended to clear the way for wider negotiations to end the four-year war.