[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.]
As Trump team prepares Mideast plan, Palestinians face financial crisis (1 May 2019) Israel and the United States are putting the financial squeeze on the Palestinian Authority, where opposition to a long-awaited, so-called, US peace plan and anger over Israeli sanctions remain strong.
U.S. and Taliban resume peace talks as Kabul seeks role in peace process (1 May 2019) American and Taliban officials resumed talks in Qatar aimed at ending the eighteen-year war in Afghanistan, while the Afghan government hosted a rare assembly in Kabul to ensure its interests are upheld in any peace deal.
U.S. says military killed 120 civilians abroad in 2018, lower than watchdog estimates (2 May 2019) The Pentagon announced in a report that US military actions killed about 120 civilians and injured sixty-five others in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia during 2018, far lower than the figures reported by watchdog groups.
New U.S. ambassador to Saudi arrives in Riyadh after two-year gap (2 May 2019) The new US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, retired General John Abizaid, officially arrived in Riyadh, filling a position vacant since President Donald Trump took office more than two years ago.
Envoy: U.S. may review ties with countries deemed anti-Israel (5 May 2019) The United States may review its ties with countries it deems as being anti-Israel after what a US envoy said was a shift in policy toward equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.
Pentagon says U.S. carrier, bombers sent to Middle East on “credible threat” by Iran(6 May 2019) US acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced that he approved sending a carrier strike group and bombers to the Middle East because of indications of a “credible threat by Iranian regime forces,” but did not provide any details on the underlying intelligence.
Pompeo: U.S. expects every country to take back foreign fighters (8 May 2019) The United States expects every country will work to take back their citizens who fought for the Islamic State in Syria, according to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Trump slaps new U.S. sanctions on Iran’s metals industry (8 May 2019) US President Donald Trump ordered new sanctions on Iran, this time targeting the Islamic Republic’s export revenues from its industrial metals sector, and vowed to keep squeezing Tehran unless it “fundamentally alters” its policies.
Trump urges Iran to talk over nuclear program, cannot rule out military action (9 May 2019) US President Donald Trump urged Iran’s leadership to sit down and talk with him about giving up Tehran’s nuclear program and said he could not rule out a military confrontation given the heightened tensions between the two countries.
Early version of U.S. House bill seeks to bar F-35 from Turkey (14 May 2019) A US House of Representatives committee released an early version of a spending bill that seeks to prevent the shipment of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, as US officials press Turkey not to buy a Russian S-400 air defense system.
Trump, Saudi Arabia warn Iran against Middle East conflict (18 May 2019) US President Donald Trump issued a new threat to Tehran, tweeting that a conflict would be the “official end” of Iran, as Saudi Arabia warned it stood ready to respond with “all strength” and said it was up to Iran to avoid war.
Palestinians to shun U.S.-led economic conference, prelude to Trump peace plan(20 May 2019) Palestinians will stay away from a US-led conference in Bahrain next month that the Trump administration has cast as an overture to its own plan for peace between them and Israel.
As U.S.-Iran tensions simmer, rocket fired near Iraq’s U.S. Embassy (20 May 2019) A rocket was fired into the Iraqi capital Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, falling near the US Embassy but causing no casualties.
Trump: U.S. will respond with “great force” if Iran attacks interests (20 May 2019) US President Donald Trump warned that Iran would be met with “great force” if it attacked US interests in the Middle East.
Reuters/Ipsos poll: Half of American adults expect war with Iran “within next few years” (21 May 2019) According to a Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll released amid increased tensions between Iran and the United States, half of all Americans believe that the United States will go to war with Iran “within the next few years.”
U.S. calls for ceasefire as more heavy fighting hits northwest Syria (22 May 2019) The United States called for a new ceasefire in Syria as rival forces clashed in the country’s northwest, where the government is waging an offensive on the last big stretch of rebel-held territory.
U.S. deploys more troops to the Middle East, blames Iran for tanker attacks (24 May 2019) The United States announced the deployment of 1,500 troops to the Middle East, describing it as an effort to bolster defense against Iran as it accused the country’s Revolutionary Guards of direct responsibility for this month’s tanker attacks.
Defying Congress, Trump sets $8 billion-plus in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE (24 May 2019) US President Donald Trump, declaring a national emergency because of tensions with Iran, swept aside objections from Congress to complete sale of over eight billion dollars’ worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan.
Bahrain responds frostily to French call for dialogue with opposition (1 May 2019) Bahrain’s foreign minister gave a frosty response after French President Emmanuel Macron urged the Gulf state to resume political dialogue with the opposition.
French official: Europe ready to reimpose sanctions if Iran breaches nuclear deal (7 May 2019) Europe would have to reimpose sanctions on Iran if Tehran reneged on parts of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, according to a French presidency source.
Britain says it shares same assessment of Iran as the United States (16 May 2019) British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that Britain agrees with the United States that Iran poses a heightened threat and will work closely with its ally.
Germany designates BDS Israel boycott movement as anti-Semitic (17 May 2019) The German parliament voted to condemn as anti-Semitic a movement that calls for economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian land, grant Arab citizens equal rights, and recognize the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
Commission: “Backsliding” Turkey’s EU bid slips further away (29 May 2019) Turkey’s hopes of joining the European Union are fading, the bloc’s executive announced, blaming authoritarian rule for worse conditions in courts, prisons, and the economy.
Russia, Syrian Army step up attacks on rebel-held northwestern Syria (2 May 2019) Russian and Syrian forces intensified air strikes and shelling in rebel-held northwestern Syria overnight, representing the heaviest assault since the area was declared a demilitarized zone under a Russian-Turkish deal.
Turkish minister: Turkey not distancing itself from NATO with Russian missiles deal (3 May 2019) Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced that Turkey is not distancing itself from the NATO alliance by buying Russian S-400 missile defense systems, adding that Ankara should not be excluded from the F-35 jet project over the purchases.
Turkey says it will not bow to U.S. sanctions over Russian S-400 deal (5 May 2019) Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay announced that Turkey will never bow to US sanctions over its agreement to purchase Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense systems.
Turkey, Russia reviewing deployment in Syria’s Tel Rifaat region (5 May 2019) Turkish and Russian officials are reviewing deployment of their forces in the Syrian border region of Tel Rifaat, a day after cross-border fire from the area killed one Turkish soldier.
Kremlin blames U.S. for Iran nuclear deal roll-back, urges restraint (8 May 2019) The Kremlin announced that Iran had been provoked into rolling back some of the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal due to external pressure which it blamed on the United States.
Kremlin condemns alleged U.S. ultimatum to Turkey over missile deal (22 May 2019) The Kremlin condemned as unacceptable an alleged US ultimatum to Turkey designed to force it to cancel a deal to buy Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems and purchase US Patriot Missile systems instead.
Taliban say “occupation” must end for Afghan peace as delegates meet in Moscow (28 May 2019) A Taliban delegation met a group of senior Afghan politicians in Moscow, insisting that international forces must leave Afghanistan for peace to be agreed.
Japan says Russia supports its plan to help ease U.S.-Iran tensions (30 May 2019) Russia expressed support for Japan’s intention to play a role in helping ease tensions between Iran and the United States after a meeting of Japan and Russia’s foreign and defense ministers.
Russia says an end to fighting in Syria’s Idlib is Turkey’s responsibility (30 May 2019) The Kremlin announced that it was Turkey’s responsibility to stop rebels in Syria’s Idlib province from firing on civilian and Russian targets, signaling it would continue to back a Syrian government offensive there despite Ankara’s protests.
China’s Xi speaks to Saudi king amid Iran tensions (8 May 2019) Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by telephone with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman amid tensions with Riyadh’s regional rival Iran after Tehran announced it was scaled back some commitments under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
China tells Turkey to support its fight against Uighur militants (16 May 2019) China has called on Turkey to support its fight against militants operating in China’s far western region of Xinjiang, following criticism from Turkey.
China backs Iran during U.S. tensions (17 May 2019) China offered strong support to Iran amid ongoing tensions between Tehran and the United States, with its top diplomat telling Iran’s foreign minister that China opposes unilateral sanctions and supports Tehran’s efforts to safeguard its interests.
Other Countries/Middle East
UAE minister: Arab states support Sudan transition, “want stability” (1 May 2019) A senior United Arab Emirates minister stated that Arab states allegedly support a transition in Sudan that balances the ambitions of the people with stability.
Haftar’s ally UAE says “extremist militias” control Libyan capital (2 May 2019) The United Arab Emirates stated that “extremist militias” were controlling the Libyan capital, which its ally Khalifa Haftar is fighting to capture from forces allied to Libya’s internationally recognized government.
Stalemate persists in Tripoli after overnight fighting, more civilians flee (3 May 2019) Fighting raged in the battle for the Libyan capital Tripoli, with neither faction able to secure gains as an offensive by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar entered its fifth week, killing almost four hundred people and displacing fifty thousand.
Turkey-backed Syrian rebels launch attach in Kurdish-held area (4 May 2019) Turkey-backed Syrian rebels launched an offensive into territory held by the Kurdish YPG militia north of the Syrian city of Aleppo, seizing some territory before heavy shelling forced them to retreat.
Gaza-Israel violence flares with rocket attacks, air strikes (4 May 2019) More than 250 rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel, prompting Israel to hit back with tank shelling and air strikes that Palestinian officials said killed four people.
Syrian Army attacks rebel stronghold (6 May 2019) The Syrian Army and its allies have launched ground attacks in the country’s northwest against the last major insurgent enclave after days of shelling and air strikes.
Iran to restart some nuclear activity in response to U.S. withdrawal from nuclear deal (6 May 2019) Iran’s state-run IRIB news agency reported that Iran will restart part of its halted nuclear program in response to the U.S. withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal but does not itself plan to pull out of the agreement.
Iraq close to signing $53 billion deal with Exxon, PetroChina; denies Iran link (7 May 2019) Iraq is close to signing a fifty-three-billion-dollar, thirty-year energy agreement with Exxon Mobil and PetroChina, denying any link between the mega-project and US permission for Iraq to do business with Iran.
Syrian government captures strategic town from rebel-residents (9 May 2019) The Syrian government has captured the town of Qalaat al-Madiq in northwest Syria, as it pushes into the biggest remaining rebel territory under a massive bombardment.
Israel counters Eurovision boycott campaign with Google ads (10 May 2019) Israel has launched a PR campaign to counter calls for a boycott of the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest final in Tel Aviv, using Google ads which refer to the boycott but lead to a glossy website extolling Israel.
Saudi oil tankers among those attacked off UAE amid Iran tensions (12 May 2019) Saudi Arabia stated that two of its oil tankers were among those attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and described it as an attempt to undermine the security of crude supplies amid tensions between the United States and Iran.
Iran’s Supreme Leader says there will be no war with U.S. (14 May 2019) Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced that Tehran does not seek war with the United States despite mounting tensions between the two countries.
“The world still has not done anything”, says slain Saudi journalist’s fiancée (16 May 2019) Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi, said that she could not believe that no one has yet faced serious consequences for the murder of Jamal.
Forces loyal to Libya’s U.N.-backed government receive military hardware (18 May 2019) A coalition of forces allied with Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) said it had received a shipment of armored vehicles and arms as it tries to stop Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) from taking the capital of Tripoli.
Japan PM Abe mulling visit to Iran as early as mid-June (24 May 2019) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering a visit to Iran as early as mid-June, the first such trip in four decades, as global concern grows about the tension between Iran and the United States.
Iraqi protesters urge Baghdad to stay out of U.S.-Iran showdown (24 May 2019) Thousands of supporters of a populist Iraqi Shi‘a Muslim cleric urged political and factional leaders to stay out of any conflict between Baghdad’s two biggest allies, Iran and the United States.
Turkey sands weapons to Syrian rebels facing Russian-backed assault (25 May 2019) Turkey has equipped an array of Syrian rebels it backs with fresh supplies of weaponry to help them try to repel a major Russian-backed assault.
Israel says it struck Syria, Damascus says soldier killed (27 May 2019) Israel’s military said it attacked a Syrian anti-aircraft position that fired on one of its warplanes, and Syrian state media reported that a soldier had been killed in what it called “Israeli aggression.”
Turkish military strikes against Kurdish militants in Iraq (28 May 2019) Turkey’s military dropped commandos on mountain ridges in a new operation against Kurdish militants based over the border in northern Iraq.
Israeli forces kill Palestinian trying to cross border (31 May 2019) Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager who was trying to climb a security fence and cross into Israel from the occupied West Bank.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics
With focus on Hodeidah truce, Yemen’s war rages on elsewhere (5 May 2019) With global attention on Yemen focused on a fragile truce in its main port of Hodeidah, fighting between rival forces in the country’s four-year war has surged elsewhere.
U.N. says UAE activist Mansoor’s prison conditions “may constitute torture” (7 May 2019) UN human rights experts stated that prominent United Arab Emirates pro-democracy campaigner Ahmed Mansoor may be suffering treatment amounting to torture, including prolonged solitary confinement.
Yemen’s Houthis begin withdrawal from Hodeidah ports in boost to peace deal (11 May 2019) Yemen’s Houthi movement reportedly starting withdrawing forces from Saleef port in Hodeidah under a UN-sponsored deal stalled for months, reviving hopes for peace efforts to end the four-year war.
Yemen warring parties hold fresh talks as Houthis withdraw from Hodeidah (13 May 2019) Yemen’s warring parties started fresh UN-sponsored talks in Jordan, two days after Houthi forces began withdrawing from the ports of Hodeidah, breaking a six-month stalemate.
U.N.: Syrians detained, killed in southern cradle of revolt (21 May 2019) At least 380 civilians have been arrested in Syria’s south and eleven civilians serving on local councils and former fighters have been killed or attacked there since the government retook the area.
U.N.: Countries fueling Libya conflict must be stopped (21 May 2019) A top UN official warned that Libya is on the brink of a civil war that could “lead to the permanent division of the country,” as he urged the world body to stop countries that were fueling the conflict with weapons.
Libya’s Haftar rules out Tripoli ceasefire, dismisses U.N-led talks (26 May 2019) Libyan eastern commander Khalifa Haftar has ruled out a ceasefire in the battle for Tripoli and accused the United Nations of seeking to partition Libya.
Rights group accuses Egyptian forces of war crimes in Sinai (28 May 2019) Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Egyptian security forces of committing widespread abuses against civilians in northern Sinai, some of which amount to war crimes.
Turkey told by U.N. to free and compensate Gulen-linked detainees (29 May 2019) A UN body announced that Turkey must release two men detained over suspected links to a cleric blamed for a 2016 coup attempt and pay them compensation for arbitrary detention.