[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. lawmakers still plot to push Saudi Arabia on rights, despite Trump (1 August 2019) The US Congress left Washington without enacting legislation to punish Saudi human rights abuses, but lawmakers said efforts to stop military sales and impose sanctions would continue after their August break.
Iran says ready for worst in battle to save nuclear deal amid standoff with U.S. (1 August 2019) President Hassan Rouhani stated that Iran was ready for the worst in an uphill struggle to salvage its nuclear deal with world powers abandoned by the United States, but that he was sure Tehran would eventually prevail.
Japan won’t contribute ships to U.S. Middle East maritime force(1 August 2019) Japan will not send warships to join a US-led maritime force to guard oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz fearing a military response from Iran, but it may send patrol aircraft, said the Mainichi newspaper, citing unidentified government sources.
Fresh round of U.S., Taliban talks in Doha, hope for peace deal rise(3 August 2019) A fresh round of US-Taliban peace talks began in Qatar’s capital Doha, officials said, describing it to be the “most crucial” phase of negotiations to end the eighteen-year war in Afghanistan.
Pentagon chief: any Turkish incursion into Syria ‘unacceptable,’ will prevent it (6 August 2019) US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said any Turkish operation into northern Syria would be “unacceptable” and the United States would prevent unilateral incursions, as tensions between Washington and Ankara simmer.
Turkey, U.S. agree to form joint operation center for Syria safe zone (7 August 2019) Turkey and the United States agreed to establish a joint operation center in Turkey to coordinate and manage a planned safe zone in northeast Syria, a move that appeared to reduce the chance of imminent Turkish military action.
Israel bars U.S. Democratic lawmakers Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib under pressure from Trump(15 August 2019) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on barred US Democratic Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from making a planned trip to Israel, shortly after US President Donald Trump called on his ally not to let them in.
U.S. issues warrant to seize Iranian tanker off Gibraltar (17 August 2019) The United States has issued a warrant to seize an Iranian oil tanker caught in the standoff between Tehran and the West in a last-ditch effort to prevent the vessel from leaving Gibraltar.
Pompeo, in call with Egypt’s Shoukry, urges political solution in Libya (19 August 2019) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed American concerns over the prolonged conflict in Libya in a phone call with his Egyptian counterpart, and they agreed on the need for a political solution, the State Department said.
Israel holds back on Trump’s Democrat Jews ‘disloyalty’ remark (21 August 2019) Israeli officials offered a muted response to remarks by US President Donald Trump who said American Jews who vote for the Democratic Party were “disloyal.”
Iran’s Rouhani rules out talks with U.S. until sanctions lifted (27 August 2019) Iran will not talk to the United States until all sanctions imposed on Tehran are lifted, President Hassan Rouhani announced, a day after President Donald Trump said he would meet his Iranian counterpart to try to end a nuclear standoff.
U.S. will not release Middle East peace plan before Israeli election (28 August 2019) The United States will not release the long-delayed political portion of its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan before Israel’s elections next month, White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt stated.
Trump: U.S. will maintain presence in Afghanistan even if deal reached with Taliban (29 August 2019) President Donald Trump stated that US troop levels in Afghanistan were being reduced to 8,600 but that American forces would remain in the country even if Washington reaches an agreement with the Taliban to end the eighteen-year war.
Defense Department: U.S. forces strike Syrian al-Qaeda facility (31 August 2019) US forces struck an al-Qa‘ida facility north of Idlib in Syria on Saturday in an attack aimed at the organization’s leadership, US Central Command, part of the Department of Defense, announced.
Iran says it will further breach nuclear deal in one month unless Europeans act (5 August 2019) Iran told European powers it would further reduce compliance with its 2015 nuclear deal in about a month’s time if they were still failing to protect it from crippling US sanctions, reimposed after Washington exited the deal.
UK joins United States for maritime security mission in Gulf (5 August 2019) Britain joined the United States in a maritime security mission in the Gulf to protect merchant vessels travelling through the Strait of Hormuz after Iran seized a British-flagged vessel.
Trump accuses France’s Macron of sending ‘mixed signals’ to Iran (8 August 2019) US President Donald Trump stated that no one is authorized to speak to Iran on behalf of the United States, and he accused French President Emmanuel Macron of sending “mixed signals” to Tehran over possible talks.
After Trump rebuke, France says it speaks for itself on Iran (9 August 2019) France does not need the permission of other states to try to defuse tensions with Iran, its foreign minister stated after US President Donald Trump accused President Emmanuel Macron of sending “mixed signals” to Tehran.
U.S. advisor Bolton to urge tougher UK stance on Iran and China (11 August 2019) John Bolton, US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, arrived in London for talks at which he is expected to urge Britain to toughen its stance on Iran and Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei.
Macron to meet Iranians before G7 to float ideas for defusing crisis (21 August 2019) France’s President Emmanuel Macron said he would meet Iranian officials ahead of this weekend’s G7 summit and make proposals aimed at de-escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Iran ready to work on French nuclear deal proposals, does not want war: foreign minister (22 August 2019) Iran is prepared to work on French proposals to salvage the international nuclear deal that Tehran signed with world powers in 2015 but it will not tolerate US interference in the Gulf, its foreign minister announced.
Russian envoy: Syrian constitution body could convene soon (9 August 2019) Russia hopes that an agreement can be reached soon under UN auspices on forming Syria’s new constitutional committee and that it can convene in Geneva as early as September, Moscow’s envoy announced.
Tens of thousands flee Russia-led attack on Syrian opposition enclave (21 August 2019) Tens of thousands of people have fled to Syria’s border with Turkey in the last few days as a Syrian army advance pushed further into the opposition’s last major stronghold.
Erdogan tells Putin that Syrian offensive is causing humanitarian crisis (23 August 2019) Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Russia’s Vladimir Putin that Syrian army attacks in northwest Syria are causing a humanitarian crisis and threaten Turkey’s national security, the Turkish presidency said.
Erdogan says Turkey wants to continue defense cooperation with Russia (27 August 2019) President Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey wants to continue defense industry cooperation with Russia, including on warplanes, following talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Putin: Russia, Turkey agree steps to tackle militants in Syria’s Idlib (27 August 2019) President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia and Turkey had agreed steps to tackle militants in northwest Syria and “normalize” the situation there after a Syrian army offensive encircled rebel fighters and a Turkish military post.
China might escort ships in Gulf under U.S. proposal: envoy(6 August 2019) China might escort Chinese commercial vessels in Gulf waters under a US proposal for a maritime coalition to secure oil shipping lanes following attacks on tankers, its envoy to the United Arab Emirates claimed.
China, Pakistan slam India’s move to change Kashmir’s special status(6 August 2019) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to change the status of Kashmir ran into fierce opposition from China and its ally Pakistan as the disputed territory lay under a telecoms blackout to forestall protests for a second day.
Islamic State could re-emerge in Syria, Chinese envoy warns (20 August 2019) A senior Chinese official said that there was a danger of Islamic State militants re-emerging in Syria and called for progress in the political process between the Damascus government and the opposition to end the war.
Other Countries/Middle East
Iran to further reduce commitments to nuclear deal: foreign minister (3 August 2019) Iran will take another step to reduce its compliance with a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced without elaborating, according to parliamentary news agency ICANA.
Ceasefire gives wary Syrians in Idlib respite from strikes (4 August 2019) Shopkeepers and residents in Syria’s Idlib city have found relief from air strikes but remain wary after a ceasefire halted fierce government bombing against the rebel foothold.
Iran seizes Iraqi oil tanker smuggling fuel in Gulf (4 August 2019) Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized an Iraqi oil tanker in the Gulf which they said was smuggling fuel and detained seven crewmen, Iran’s state media reported, in a show of power amid heightened tension with the West.
Turkey to launch offensive in Kurdish-controlled area in northern Syria (4 August 2019) Turkey will carry out a military operation in a Kurdish-controlled area east of the Euphrates in northern Syria, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced, its third offensive to dislodge Kurdish militia fighters close to its border.
Turkey wants to expand Asian diplomatic ties (5 August 2019) Turkey wants to expand its diplomatic presence in Asia as the region becomes the economic center of the world, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated, adding that the initiative did not mark a shift away from Western allies.
Syrian army resumes military operations against rebels in northwest Syria(5 August 2019) The Syrian army said it was resuming military operations in a Russian-led campaign in northwest Syria that has uprooted tens of thousands and killed hundreds, blaming Turkey for not abiding by its commitments under a truce deal.
Yemeni Houthis say launched drone attacks on Saudi airports, air base (5 August 2019) Houthi forces in Yemen launched drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid air base as well as the Abha and Najran civilian airports, the Houthis’ military spokesman claimed.
Aden attack exposes splits in Yemen’s anti-Houthi alliance (6 August 2019) Yemen’s southern separatists accused an Islamist party of complicity in last week’s deadly attack on Aden, the seat of government, exposing rifts in the Saudi-backed coalition battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.
Clashes erupt in Yemen’s Aden, three dead (7 August 2019) Southern separatists clashed with presidential guards in Aden, the seat of Yemen’s government, and three people were killed and nine injured.
Yemen’s pro-government coalition fractures as separatists grab control in Yemen (10 August 2019) Yemen’s southern separatists have taken effective control of Aden, seat of the internationally recognized government, fracturing the Saudi-led coalition which is trying to break the grip of the Iran-aligned Houthi movement on the country.
Aden standoff delays Saudi summit intended to forge new Yemen government (19 August 2019) The refusal of Yemeni southern separatists to hand back control of Aden port has delayed a summit in Saudi Arabia that is due to discuss reshuffling Yemen’s ousted government to include the separatists and end the stand-off, three Yemeni sources said.
Ex-Sudan president got millions from Saudis, court hears (19 August 2019) Sudan’s ousted president Omar Hassan al-Bashir acknowledged receiving millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, a police detective told a court at the start of a corruption trial that many Sudanese thought they would never see.
Yemini separatists extend control in south, Saudi-led forces strike capital (19 August 2019) Southern separatists seized most Yemeni government security and military bases near the port of Aden after clashes between nominal allies that have complicated UN peace efforts, residents and officials said.
Australia joins U.S.-led mission to protect Gulf shipping (20 August 2019) Australia will join the United States in a security mission to protect merchant vessels traveling through key Middle East waterways after Iran seized a British-flagged vessel, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced.
Turkey says all its observation posts in Syria will remain in place, support to continue (21 August 2019) All of Turkey’s observation posts, formed under an agreement with Russia and Iran, will remain in place and support will continue to be provided to the posts, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin announced.
Netanyahu hints at Israeli involvement in Iraq blasts (22 August 2019) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted of possible Israeli involvement in attacks against Iranian-linked targets in Iraq.
Syrian army takes towns in northwest that rebels held for years (23 August 2019) Syrian troops reclaimed a cluster of towns they had lost early in the eight-year-old war, pressing their offensive in the northwest, the country’s last big rebel stronghold.
Two Israeli drones fall in Beirut suburbs, one explodes: army, Hezbollah (24 August 2019) An Israeli drone fell in the Hizballah-dominated southern suburbs of Beirut and a second one exploded near the ground, the Lebanese army and Hezbollah said, in the first such incident in more than a decade.
Lebanon’s President Aoun likens Israeli drones to ‘declaration of war’ (26 August 2019) President Michel Aoun stated that Lebanon had a right to defend itself, likening Israeli drone strikes to a “declaration of war” amid rising tensions between Hizballah and Israel.
Lebanese army fires at Israeli drones near border (28 August 2019) The Lebanese army opened fire at two of three Israeli drones that breached Lebanese airspace in the south of the country near the Israeli border, and all three returned to Israeli airspace, the army said.
UAE carries out air strikes against Yemen government forces to support separatists (29 August 2019) The United Arab Emirates carried out air strikes against government forces in South Yemen in support of southern separatists who have deployed reinforcements to take back control of the port of Aden from their supposed allies in the Saudi-led coalition.
Turkey to launch own Syria plan in weeks unless has ‘safe zone’ control: Erdogan (31 August 2019) Turkey will launch its own operation to establish a “safe zone” in Syria if talks with the United States fail to give Turkish troops control of the area within a few weeks, President Tayyip Erdogan announced.
UAE firms scout trade at Syria fair, defying U.S. pressure (31 August 2019) A delegation of at least forty businessmen from the United Arab Emirates attended a state-backed trade fair in Syria’s capital, defying US warnings against doing business with the government and associates of President Bashar al-Assad.
Israeli military orders extra forces to Lebanon border area (31 August 2019) Israel’s military stated it had ordered extra forces to deploy to its northern command and postponed a training exercise as tensions remained high with Lebanon’s heavily armed Shi’i movement Hizballah.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics
U.N. to investigate attacks on humanitarian sites in northwest Syria (1 August 2019) The United Nations will investigate attacks on UN-supported facilities and other humanitarian sites in northwest Syria, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced, two days after two-thirds of the Security Council pushed for an inquiry.
Rights groups criticize U.N. decision to hold conference on torture in Egypt (15 August 2019) Human rights activists criticized a United Nations decision to hold a conference in Cairo on torture with an Egyptian state organization.
Pompeo warns of ‘new turmoil’ if U.S. arms embargo on Iran lifted in 2020 (20 August 2019) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed the international community to work out how to stop Iran from being “unshackled to create new turmoil” when a United Nations arms embargo on the country and a travel ban on the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force expire in October 2020.
U.N. warns 22 aid programs in Yemen will close if countries do not pay pledges (21 August 2019) he United Nations warned that twenty-two “life-saving” aid programs will be forced to close in Yemen in the next two months if countries do not pay more than one billion dollars in funding that they pledged earlier this year.
U.N. Security Council mulls calling for Idlib truce, Russia likely to oppose (29 August 2019) The United Nations Security Council is considering a draft resolution that would call for a truce in northwestern Syria “to avoid a further deterioration of the already catastrophic humanitarian situation,” though diplomats said that such a move is likely to face opposition from veto-power Russia.
Iran goes further in breaching nuclear deal, IAEA report shows (30 August 2019) Iran has gone further in breaching its nuclear deal with world powers, increasing its stock of enriched uranium and refining it to a greater purity than allowed, the UN atomic agency report claimed.