[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.]
Turkey says in Patriot Missile talks with U.S. (1 March 2019) Turkey and the United States are in talks over Washington’s offer to sell a Patriot Missile defense system to Ankara.
U.S.-backed Syrian force attacks final IS enclave (1 March 2019) US-backed forces launched an attack to evict the “Islamic State” from its last territorial bastion.
U.S. Palestinian mission in Jerusalem to merge with Israel embassy (3 March 2019) The US consulate in Jerusalem, which serves Palestinians, will be absorbed into the new US Embassy to Israel according to the State Department, a planned merger that has angered Palestinian leadership.
U.S. deploys THAAD missile system to Israel (4 March 2019) The US military has deployed its most advanced air and missile defense system to Israel for the first time.
Lockheed gets $1 billion down payment for Saudi THAAD missile system (4 March 2019) Lockheed Martin Corp will receive the first payment toward the installation of a fifteen-billion-dollar missile defense system in Saudi Arabia as part of a 110 billion-dollar arms package the Trump administration said it negotiated with the kingdom in 2017.
U.S. general: No pressure to withdraw from Syria by specific date (7 March 2019) The general overseeing US forces in the Middle East said that he was under no pressure to withdraw forces from Syria by any specific date, after President Donald Trump ordered the drawdown of most US troops from Syria.
Turkey and U.S. head for showdown over missile contracts (8 March 2019) Turkey is running out of time to avert a showdown with the United States over its plans to buy advanced Russian air defenses and spurn a counter-offer from its NATO partner, raising the chance of US sanctions against Ankara.
U.S. citizen Michael White sentenced in Iranian court (11 March 2019) A US citizen held in Iran has been sentenced for an unspecified crime, in a case likely to worsen already terrible relations with the United States.
Pompeo, Kushner, Greenblatt discuss Middle East with Jordan king (11 March 2019) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House senior advisors Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt discussed Middle East peace prospects with Jordan’s King Abdullah.
U.S. drops reference to “Israeli-occupied” Golan Heights in annual rights report (13 March 2019) The US State Department changed its usual description of the Golan Heights from “Israeli-occupied” to “Israeli-controlled” in an annual global human rights report.
Exxon eyes Israel gas bid in major Middle East shift (13 March 2019) Exxon Mobil Corp is considering exploring for oil and gas in Israel, in what would make Exxon the first major oil company to operate in the country still technically at war with Gulf Arab states.
U.S. sees Turkey’s Russian missile deal as a national security problem for NATO(14 March 2019) Senior US officials announced that Turkey’s pending purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system presents a national security problem for NATO, which would not be able to deploy F-35 aircraft alongside the Russian systems.
U.S.-Afghan tensions erupt over Kabul’s exclusion from peace talks (14 March 2019) The United States and Afghanistan clashed publicly over US peace talks with the Taliban, with a visiting Afghan official accusing the chief US negotiator of “delegitimizing” the Kabul government by excluding it from the deliberations.
Pompeo pays pre-election visit to Israel, cites close Trump-Netanyahu ties (20 March 2019) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showcased his close relationship with the Trump administration, hosting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo three weeks before an Israeli election.
U.S. may soon pause preparations for delivering F-35s to Turkey (21 March 2019) The United States could soon freeze preparations for delivering F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, in what would be the strongest signal yet by Washington that Ankara cannot have both the advanced aircraft and Russia’s S-400 air defense system.
In major shift, Trump says time for U.S. to recognize Israeli sovereignty over Golan(21 March 2019) US President Donald Trump stated that it was time to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights that Israel seized from Syria in 1967, marking a dramatic shift in US policy and giving a boost to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the middle of his re-election campaign.
U.S. sanctions Iran’s nuclear research unit, urges Tehran to negotiate (22 March 2019) The United States imposed sanctions on fourteen people and seventeen entities connected to an Iranian research organization it said had played a central role in the country’s past nuclear weapons effort and which remains active.
Trump claims Islamic State no longer holds any territory in Syria (22 March 2019) US President Donald Trump claimed that US-backed forces had dislodged the “Islamic State” militant group from its last holdout in Syria.
Netanyahu visits U.S. ally ahead of close Israeli election (24 March 2019) With Israel’s election only two weeks away, Benjamin Netanyahu will get to showcase his close ties with Donald Trump in a US visit days after the president backed Israel’s hold over the occupied Golan Heights.
U.S. envoy says fight against Islamic State militants will go on (25 March 2019) The US-led coalition fight against the “Islamic State” in Syria is not over, even though the group no longer controls territory, the chief US diplomat for Syria warned, and said the whereabouts of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were unknown.
U.S. envoy hints at peace deal with Israeli security control in West Bank (26 March 2019) The US ambassador to Israel stated that the Trump administration understands a need for Israel to “have overriding security control” in the occupied West Bank in any future peace deal with Palestinians.
U.S. approved secret nuclear power work for Saudi Arabia (27 March 2019) US Energy Secretary Rick Perry has approved six secret authorizations by companies to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia, according to a copy of a document seen by Reuters.
U.S. Senators introduce bill to stop transfer of F-35 fighters to Turkey (28 March 2019) Four US senators introduced a bipartisan bill to prohibit the transfer of F-35 fighter aircraft to Turkey until the US government certifies that Ankara will not take delivery of a Russian S-400 air defense system.
Germany likely to extend halt on Saudi arms export (1 March 2019) The German government announced it would decide before the end of March whether to extend its halt on weapons shipments to Saudi Arabia.
Iran condemns Britain for listing ally Hezbollah as terrorist group (2 March 2019) Iran criticized Britain for its decision to list Hizballah as a terrorist organization, saying it ignored both the will of a large portion of the Lebanese people and the group’s role in fighting the “Islamic State.”
Iran hopes trade channel skirting U.S. sanctions will work within weeks (6 March 2019) Iran hopes a new trade channel with Europe aimed at cushioning to blow of reimposed US sanctions will be working within weeks.
E.U. states block blacklisting Saudi, Panama over dirty money (7 March 2019) The twenty-eight member states of the European Union all backed a decision to reject a proposal from the EU executive to add Saudi Arabia to a blacklist of countries suspected of being lax on terrorist financing and money laundering.
Germany won’t classify Iran ally Hezbollah as terrorist (8 March 2019) Germany will not follow Britain’s lead in declaring Iran-backed Hizballah a terrorist organization, a decision that may fuel tensions with Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Germany criticizes Turkey in row over reporters (10 March 2019) Two German journalists left Turkey after authorities there rejected their press accreditations, a step that drew condemnation from Germany’s foreign minister and revived diplomatic tensions.
E.U. adds UAE, Bermuda to expand tax haven blacklist (12 March 2019) European Union governments adopted a broadened blacklist of tax havens, adding the United Arab Emirates and British and Dutch overseas territories in a revamp that tripled the number of listed jurisdictions.
E.U. parliament calls for freeze on Turkey’s membership talks (13 March 2019) EU lawmakers stated that the European Union should formally suspend Turkey’s negotiations to join the bloc, who Western governments accuse of widespread abuses of human rights.
French, German envoys write that fear stops Syria refugee return (15 March 2019) German and French diplomats blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for “a climate of fear and injustice” which they said was the main barrier to millions of refugees going home.
Germany’s SPD wants to extend arms export halt to Saudi (19 March 2019) Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) want to extend a freeze on arms exports to Saudi Arabia imposed after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, setting the stage for a row with their conservative partners.
Le Drian: Despite Washington talks, France still unclear over U.S. Syria plans (20 March 2019) France, one of the main contributors to the fight against the “Islamic State” in the Middle East, has reportedly received no answers to questions about US calls for it and others to help secure northeastern Syria.
France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere (25 March 2019) France has banned flights in and out of the country by Iran’s Mahan Air, accusing it of transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East warzones, after heavy US pressure on Paris to act.
Germany’s SPD ready to allow some arms exports to Saudis (27 March 2019) Germany’s junior coalition party is prepared to allow some arms exports to Saudi Arabia, a softening of its position, which may defuse a row with its conservative partners in power.
Germany extends Saudi arms sales ban for another six months (28 March 2019) The German government said it would extend for another six months a ban on exporting arms to Saudi Arabia which has strained ties with fellow European arms exporters with whom German companies have joint programs.
Qatar still studying Russian defense system, minister says (4 March 2019) Qatar announced that it was still studying the purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile air defense system, adding the potential deal – reportedly opposed by Saudi Arabia – was none of Riyadh’s business.
Erdogan says Turkey will not go back on missile defense deal with Russia (6 March 2019) Turkey will not go back on its agreement to buy the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, adding that Ankara may subsequently look into buying the S-500 system.
Russian and Syrian air strikes intensify on last rebel bastion (13 March 2019) The Syrian army, aided by Russian warplanes, attacked rebel-held towns in northwestern Syria in the most extensive bombardment in months against the last remaining rebel bastion in the country.
Turkish, Russian forces carry out patrols in Kurdish-controlled Syrian region (26 March 2019) Turkish and Russian forces carried out the first “independent and coordinated” patrols in the mainly Kurdish-controlled northern Syrian region of Tel Rifaat.
Turkey: air defense purchase from Russia “a done deal” (29 March 2019) Turkey will “honor its air defense deal with Russia,” Ankara stated, after four US senators introduced a bill to ban the planned delivery of F-35 fighter jets if Turkey ignored US opposition and accepted the Russian S-400 system.
China’s envoy says Turkish Uighur criticism could hit economic ties (1 March 2019) China’s envoy to Ankara warned that Turkey risks jeopardizing economic ties with China if it keeps criticizing Beijing’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, just as Chinese firms are looking to invest in Turkish energy and infrastructure mega-projects.
China praises Pakistan’s “restraint” over Kashmir tensions (6 March 2019) China has praised Pakistan’s “restraint” and willingness to talk with India to ease tensions between the two counties after a deadly bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir last month.
Saudi Aramco shifts strategy in China to boost oil sales (14 March 2019) Rising Russian and US competition has pushed Saudi Aramco to find new buyers for its oil in China, encouraging a shift toward independent refiners and newcomers to the business.
China foils bid to blacklist Kashmir attacker; U.S., India vow to keep pushing (14 March 2019) China prevented a UN Security Council committee from blacklisting the head of Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which said it attacked an Indian paramilitary convoy in disputed Kashmir.
Without papers, Uighurs fear for their future in Turkey (27 March 2019) Without work or residency papers in Turkey and unable to renew their Chinese passports, many Uighurs live in uncertainty in Istanbul.
Other Countries/Middle East
Syrian Kurds want secure border strip, reject Turkish “safe zone” (8 March 2019) The Kurdish-led authorities in northern Syria want a multinational force to deploy at the Turkish border and reject the creation of a large “safe zone” that Turkey hopes to control.
Saudi Arabia says it is too early to restore ties with Syria (4 March 2019) Saudi Arabia stated it was too early to restore diplomatic ties with Syria or reinstate Damascus to the Arab League without progress on a political process to end the eight-year-old war.
Big investors look past Khashoggi to opportunities in Saudi Arabia (11 March 2019) Big investors in Saudi Arabia are pushing ahead with deals and pouring money back into its stock market as the kingdom tries to move on from the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Iran’s Rouhani signs trade pacts in Iraq to help offset U.S. sanctions (11 March 2019) Iraq and Iran signed several preliminary trade deals as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani began his first visit seeking to bolster Tehran’s influence and expand commercial ties to help offset renewed US sanctions.
Turkey says it is discussing Syria offensive with Russia, U.S. (12 March 2019) Turkey is discussing with Russia and the United States a potential military offensive in a region of northeast Syria controlled by Kurdish fighters.
After defeating Islamic State, Syrian Kurds eye political battle (12 March 2019) Syrian Kurdish authorities that led the fight against the “Islamic State” are prepping for their next battle: a political struggle to win international recognition for their autonomous region and aid to help it recover from the war.
Gaza rockets rattle Tel Aviv, but hurt none; Hamas denies responsibility (14 March 2019) Two rockets were launched from the Gaza strip at the Tel Aviv area, in the first such attack there since the 2014 war in the Palestinian enclave.
Israeli warplanes strike Gaza after rockets fired toward Tel Aviv (14 March 2019) Israeli warplanes bombed Hamas targets in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza after Israel’s military said militants had fired two rockets toward the city of Tel Aviv.
Yemen’s Houthis say ready to strike Riyadh, Abu Dhabi if coalition moves on Hodeidah (17 March 2019) Yemen’s Houthis said they were building their ballistic capabilities and their forces stand ready to strike Riyadh and Abu Dhabi if implementation of a UN peace deal in the port city of Hodeidah is breached.
Iran demands U.S. leave Syria, Damascus threatens its ally (18 March 2019) Iran and Syria demanded that the United States withdraw its troops from Syria, and the Damascus government threatened to defeat Washington’s Kurdish allies by force if they did not submit to the return of state authority.
Turkey says agreed with Iran to continue operation against PKK, Iran says no joint operation (20 March 2019) Turkey said Turkish and Iranian military commanders had agreed to continue “simultaneous and coordinated operations” against Kurdish militants, though Iran’s armed forces later said there were no joint operations.
Qatar asks IAEA to intervene over “threat posed by UAE nuclear plant” (20 March 2019) Qatar has called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to intervene in a dispute over a twenty-four-billion-dollar nuclear power plant which the United Arab Emirates is building.
Sudan summons Egypt ambassador over Red Sea oil and gas exploration blocks(21 March 2019) Sudan’s Foreign Ministry announced that it has summoned Egypt’s ambassador to Khartoum, Hossam Issa, over Egypt offering oil and gas exploration blocks “in Red Sea areas subject to Sudanese sovereignty.”
Syria vows to recover Golan as Trump policy shift draws criticism (22 March 2019) The Syrian government vowed to take back the Israeli occupied Golan Heights as its allies and enemies alike condemned US President Donald Trump for moving to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the territory seized in war.
Security tops agenda as Iraqi PM visits Egypt in first foreign trip (23 March 2019) Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi sought Egypt’s support for efforts to tackle Islamist militants in the region during a visit to Cairo, his first trip abroad since taking office in October.
Israel, Hamas clash over Gaza, then truce reached (25 March 2019) Israel launched airstrikes on the Palestinian enclave of Gaza and deployed extra troops to the border in response to a long-range Hamas rocket attack.
Israel-Hamas cross-border fighting renews after lull (26 March 2019) Palestinian militants fired rockets from Gaza into Israel, drawing retaliatory air strikes and the breaking of a day-long lull in cross-border fighting between Israel and Hamas.
Syrian army says Israeli strikes hit northern Aleppo city, damages materials only (27 March 2019) The Syrian military said Israel launched raids on an industrial zone in the northern city of Aleppo, causing damage only to materials, while opposition sources said the strikes hit Iranian ammunitions stores and a military airport used by Tehran’s forces.
UAE official urges Arab openness to Israel (28 March 2019) Relations between Arab states and Israel need to shift to help progress towards peace with the Palestinians, a senior United Arab Emirates official was quoted as saying.
Netanyahu says Israel ready for Gaza campaign if needed; Palestinians plan huge march (28 March 2019) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel is prepared to wage a broad military campaign in Gaza if needed, following a two-day flareup of cross-border fighting that has thrust security policies to the fore two weeks before an election.
Tunisia says it will coordinate Arab response to U.S. move on Golan (29 March 2019) Tunisia will coordinate with fellow Arab countries to contain any fallout from the US decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Saudis gained access to Amazon CEO Bezos’ phone (30 March 2019) The security chief for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stated that the Saudi government had access to Bezos’ phone and gained private information from it.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics
Pakistan to lodge U.N. complaint against India for “eco-terrorism” forest bombing (1 March 2019) Pakistan plans to lodge a complaint against India at the United Nations, accusing it of “eco-terrorism” over air strikes that damaged pine trees and brought the nuclear-armed nations to blow.
U.N.: Israel should face justice for unlawful Gaza protest killing (1 March 2019) United Nations investigators announced that Israeli security forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in killing 189 Palestinians and wounding more than 6,100 at weekly protests in Gaza last year.
Chemical weapons agency: “toxic chemical” used in attack on Syrian rebel town last April (1 March 2019) Inspectors have concluded that a “toxic chemical” containing chlorine was used in an attack last April in the Syrian town of Douma, at the time held by rebels but besieged by pro-government forces.
Southern Yemenis warn exclusion from U.N. peace talks could trigger new conflict(1 March 2019) A separatist leader from south Yemen said a UN-mediated peace deal that fails to address the south’s wish for self-determination would be “dangerous” and could trigger a new conflict.
U.N.: Saudi laws stifle dissent, women activists (4 March 2019) United Nations human rights experts announced that Saudi Arabia is using its counter-terrorism laws to silence activists, including women, in violation of international law guaranteeing freedom of speech.
Saudi Arabia faces first-ever censure at U.N. rights forum (5 March 2019) European countries will urge Saudi Arabia to release detained activists and cooperate with a UN-led probe into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the first rebuke of the kingdom at the Human Rights Council.
Europe, Canada, Australia issue first rebuke of Saudi Arabia at U.N. forum (7 March 2019) Three dozen countries, including all twenty-eight EU members, called on Saudi Arabia to release ten activists and cooperate with a UN-led investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its Istanbul consulate.
U.N. agency calls for more access in Syria to help refugees return (9 March 2019) The United Nations refugee agency should have a bigger presence inside Syria to observe and help refugees returning from abroad and from displacement within the war-torn country, according to UNHCR Commissioner Filippo Grandi.
Red Cross: Some 20,000 Iraqis could return from Syria in weeks (11 March 2019) Around twenty thousand Iraqis in Syria, including women and children who fled the “Islamic State’s” last enclave, are expected to be sent home in weeks under an agreement with Baghdad.
U.N.: Twenty-tow civilians killed, including children, in north Yemen (11 March 2019) Air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition killed at least twenty-two civilians, including women and children, in a village in northern Yemen.
U.N. raises $7 billion for Syria from donors (14 March 2019) The United Nations acquired almost seven billion dollars in aid pledges for Syria, overcoming fatigue among donors after eight years of civil war and sidestepping divisions over how to deal with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
U.N. official condemns Hamas crackdown on Gaza protests (17 March 2019) A UN envoy condemned Hamas for what he called its campaign of arrests and violence in confronting street protests over the past few days against high prices.
U.N. experts urge Israel to rein in security forces (18 March 2019) UN war crimes investigators called on Israel to stop its snipers using lethal force against protesters on the border with Gaza.
U.N. to hold Libya conference in April to avoid military showdown (20 March 2019) The United Nations will hold a conference inside Libya in April to discuss elections as a way out of the country’s eight-year-long conflict, although it remains to be seen whether powerful factions will attend.
U.S. envoy blames Houthis for Yemen peace deal delays (21 March 2019) the US ambassador to Yemen blamed the Iran-aligned Houthi movement for the hold-up to a UN-led peace deal in the main port of Hodeidah and said Houthi weapons pose a threat to other countries in the region.
U.N. rights body calls for halt to Israeli expansion in Syrian Golan (22 March 2019) The UN Human Rights Council criticized Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights a day after US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the disputed territory.
U.N. rights forum condemns Israel over deadly Gaza protests (22 March 2019) The United Nations Human Rights Council condemned Israel’s “apparent intentional use of unlawful lethal and other excessive force” against civilian protestors in Gaza, and called for perpetrators of violations in the enclave to face justice.
U.N.: Ten children killed by U.S. air strike in Afghanistan (25 March 2019) Ten children, part of the same extended family, were killed by a US air strike in Afghanistan, along with three adult civilians, according to the United Nations.
Heavy-weapons-fire shakes Yemen’s Hodeidah as U.N. pushes to clinch troop pullout (25 March 2019) Yemen’s warring parties exchanged heavy-weapons-fire overnight in Hodeidah as the United Nations scrambled to salvage a ceasefire deal in the Yemini port city that is a lifeline for millions at risk of starvation.