[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. commander discusses Iran with Saudi naval commander (1 October 2019) The commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command visited Riyadh to discuss with the head of Saudi Arabia’s naval forces reinforcing defenses against Iranian threats.
Pakistan and Taliban call for U.S. to resume Afghan peace talks (3 October 2019) Peace talks in Afghanistan must resume as soon as possible, Pakistan and the Taliban militant group urged, after President Donald Trump broke off negotiations last month seeking to end the United States’ longest war.
Kurdish-led Syrian force: U.S. forces have quit Turkish border area (7 October 2019) Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria stated that U.S. forces had withdrawn from areas at the border with Turkey where a threatened Turkish offensive would hurt its war against Islamic State and roll back security achievements.
Trump says ‘too costly’ to back Kurdish forces in Syria(7 October 2019) U.S. President Donald Trump defended the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, saying it was too costly to keep supporting U.S-allied, Kurdish-led forces in the region fighting Islamic State militants.
Trump threatens Turkey with ‘extremely decimated economy’ over Syria (7 October 2019) President Donald Trump launched a harsh verbal attack on NATO ally Turkey, threatening to destroy its economy if Ankara takes a planned military strike in Syria too far, even though the U.S. leader himself has opened the door for a Turkish incursion.
Trump defends U.S. relations with Turkey after bipartisan backlash (8 October 2019) U.S. President Donald Trump continued to defend Washington’s relationship with Turkey after a bipartisan backlash over his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria.
U.S.-backed Syrian forces halt counter-Islamic State operations (9 October 2019) U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters have halted operations for now against Islamic State in Syria as Turkey launches a military offensive in Syria’s northeast, two U.S. officials and a Kurdish military source stated.
Trump says he hopes he can mediate between Turkey and the Kurds (10 October 2019) U.S. President Donald Trump said he hopes he can mediate between Turkey and the Kurds following Turkey’s offensive on U.S.-allied Kurds in northeast Syria.
At evangelical conference, concerns about Syria but cheers for Trump (11 October 2019) Prominent evangelical leaders have sharply criticized U.S. President Donald Trump over his decision to pull American military forces out of Syria, saying he was endangering tens of thousands of Christians in the Muslim-dominated region.
U.S. says deploying more forces to Saudi Arabia to counter Iran threat (11 October 2019) The United States announced the deployment of additional American military forces to Saudi Arabia to bolster the kingdom’s defenses after the Sept. 14 attack on its oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Iran.
‘We feel betrayed’: Kurds in U.S. voice anger at Trump’s troop pullback (11 October 2019) “We feel betrayed, we feel angry,” said Antar, a 26-year-old student, during at a meeting to plan a Saturday rally in New York City decrying Turkey’s strikes, which sparked international criticism and fears of a humanitarian catastrophe.
Pentagon: U.S. troops in Syria came under fire from Turkish positions (11 October 2019) .S. troops in northern Syria came under artillery fire from Turkish positions but none were wounded, the Pentagon said, an incident that highlights the risks to U.S. troops as Turkey wages an offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish militia.
U.S. to pull last troops from north Syria; Syrian army to redeploy on border (13 October 2019) The United States announced it will withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops from northern Syria in the face of an expanding Turkish offensive while Syria’s army struck a deal with Kurdish forces to redeploy along its border with Turkey, both major victories for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
NATO’s Stoltenberg defends stance on Turkey’s offensive in Syria (14 October 2019) NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg defended his stance on Turkey’s attack on Kurdish militants in northeastern Syria as he came under pressure from some members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly to be tougher with Ankara.
U.S. demands Syria ceasefire, slaps sanctions on turkey over incursion (14 October 2019) President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Turkey and demanded the NATO ally stop a military incursion in northeast Syria that is rapidly reshaping the battlefield of the world’s deadliest ongoing war.
Trump downplays Turkey’s assault in Syria, touts sanctions over fighting (16 October 2019) U.S. President Donald Trump played down the crisis in Syria touched off by Turkey’s incursion against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces, saying the conflict was between Turkey and Syria and that it was up to the countries there to work it out.
U.S. carried out secret cyber strike on Iran in wake of Saudi oil attacks (16 October 2019) The United States carried out a secret cyber operation against Iran in the wake of the Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh blame on Tehran, two U.S. officials have told Reuters.
Trump leaves Turkey, Syria ‘to argue it out’ and clashes with U.S. House Speaker (16 October 2019) U.S. President Donald Trump said he did not mind Russia helping Syria in a conflict with NATO ally Turkey and rejected criticism of his withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria that exposed Kurdish allies, calling it “strategically brilliant.”
Turkey agrees with U.S. to pause Syria assault while Kurds withdraw (17 October 2019) Turkey agreed to pause its offensive in Syria for five days to let Kurdish forces withdraw from a “safe zone” Ankara had sought to capture, in a deal hailed by the Trump administration and cast by Turkey as a complete victory.
Pompeo assures Israel that U.S. focus stays on Iran ‘threat’ (18 October 2019) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo underscored U.S.-Israeli efforts to counter Iran in talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an apparent attempt to ease Israeli concerns that Tehran could exploit a U.S. military pullback in Syria.
Defense secretary: U.S. ground troops will not enforce Syria safe zone (18 October 2019) U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that no U.S. troops will take part in enforcing the so-called safe zone in northern Syria and the United States “is continuing our deliberate withdrawal from northeastern Syria.”
Five U.S. officials including Kushner, Mnuchin to attend Saudi financial conference (22 October 2019) U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and presidential adviser Jared Kushner will lead Washington’s delegation to an annual financial conference in Saudi Arabia, government sources claimed.
Evidence found of war crimes during Turkish offensive in Syria, says U.S. official (23 October 2019) President Donald Trump’s special envoy for Syria said that U.S. forces had seen evidence of war crimes during Turkey’s offensive against the Kurds in Syria, and had demanded an explanation from Ankara.
Trump says Turkey’s ceasefire in northern Syria now permanent, sanctions lifted (23 October 2019) U.S. President Donald Trump stated that a ceasefire in northern Syria is now permanent and lifted sanctions on Turkey as a result, rejecting criticism of his decision to pull out U.S. troops that allowed Kurdish allies to come under attack.
Pentagon chief: U.S. to strengthen troop presence near Syria oil fields (25 October 2019) The United States will strengthen its military presence in Syria with “mechanized forces” to prevent Islamic State fighters seizing oil fields and revenue, the U.S. Defense Secretary announced, the latest twist in President Donald Trump’s confusing policy on Syria.
Trump announces grisly death of Islamic State leader Baghdadi during U.S. raid (27 October 2019) U.S. President Donald Trump announced that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself during a daring overnight raid by elite U.S. special operations forces in Syria, in a major victory as he fights a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry.
Iran's Rouhani says French plan for talks broadly is acceptable (2 October 2019) A plan for talks presented to the United States and Iran by French President Emmanuel Macron is broadly acceptable to the Islamic Republic, President Hassan Rouhani announced during a cabinet meeting that was broadcast live on state TV.
France gives one month to get Iran-U.S. to negotiating table (3 October 2019) ran and the United States have one month to get to the negotiating table, France’s foreign minister warned, suggesting that Tehran’s plan to increase its nuclear activities in November would spark renewed tension in the region.
Fearing Islamic State revival, France warns U.S., Turkey after Syria moves (7 October 2019) The U.S. decision to withdraw from northeastern Syria leaving Turkey to launch an offensive against Kurdish militants in the region could open the door to a revival of Islamic State, France’s armed forces minister announced.
France, Britain, Germany to condemn Turkish offensive in Syria (9 October 2019) France, Britain and Germany are set to issue a statement strongly condemning Turkey’s offensive in northeastern Syria, France’s European affairs minister announced.
Furious with Turkey, EU threatens sanctions, arms embargo (11 October 2019) EU governments threatened sanctions against Turkey over its offensive in Syria, angrily rejecting President Tayyip Erdogan’s warning that he would “open the gates” and send 3.6 million refugees to Europe if they did not back him.
Germany bans exports of arms to Turkey (12 October 2019) Germany has banned arms exports to Turkey over its assault against Kurdish YPG militia in Syria, a foreign ministry spokeswoman announced.
Kurds march in Paris and Athens to protest Turkish incursion into Syria (12 October 2019) Thousands of Kurds and their local supporters rallied in France and in Greece to protest against Turkey’s military action in northeast Syria.
UK says Lebanon protestors must be heard, urges swift reforms (24 October 2019) The “legitimate frustrations” of Lebanon’s protesters should be heard and reforms enacted urgently, the British embassy in Lebanon announced amid nationwide protests that have swept the country since last week.
Russia summons Iranian ambassador over journalist’s arrest in Tehran (4 October 2019) Russia’s foreign ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador over the detention of a Russian journalist in Tehran, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
For Putin, Turkish move in Syria a chance to ramp up Middle East role (10 October 2019) Turkey’s incursion into Syria is an opportunity for Russia to dial up its influence in the region as Washington appears to be pulling back, but the risks to Moscow’s diplomacy will rise the longer the operation goes on, people close to the Kremlin say.
Putin offers to help ease Gulf tensions before Saudi trip (13 October 2019) Russia can play a positive role in easing tensions in the Gulf following a spate of attacks in the region, President Vladimir Putin said in comments published before his first visit to Saudi Arabia in over a decade.
Russia takes part in talks between Syria and Kurdish-led SDF (13 October 2019) The Syrian government and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been holding negotiations with Russian participation, a Syrian Kurdish politician claimed, expressing hope for a deal that would halt a Turkish attack.
Saudi visit signals Putin’s growing Middle East influence (14 October 2019) President Vladimir Putin signaled Moscow’s growing Middle East clout on his first visit to Saudi Arabia in over a decade, buoyed by Russian military gains in Syria, strong ties with Riyadh’s regional rivals and energy cooperation.
Russia says ‘unacceptable’ Turkish incursion into Syria must be temporary (15 October 2019) Russia called Turkey’s military incursion into northeast Syria “unacceptable” and said the operation had to be limited in time and scale, a rare broadside that suggests Moscow’s patience with Ankara is wearing thin.
Turkey, Russia strike deal to remove Syrian Kurdish YPG, launch joint patrols (22 October 2019) Turkey and Russia agreed to remove the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia to beyond 30 km (19 miles) from the Turkish border, after which their troops will jointly patrol a narrower strip of land in a “safe zone” Ankara has long sought in northern Syria.
Kremlin says U.S. betrayed Kurds in Syria, tells Kurds to withdraw or be mauled (23 October 2019) The Kremlin said that the United States had betrayed and abandoned the Syrian Kurds and advised the Kurds to withdraw from the Syrian border as per a deal between Moscow and Ankara or be mauled by the Turkish army.
More Russian military police arrive in Syria under peace deal with Turkey (25 October 2019) Russia sent about 300 more military police and more than 20 armored vehicles to Syria under an accord between Ankara and Moscow that has halted Turkey’s military incursion into northeast Syria.
Erdogan: Turkey will clear Syria border area of Kurdish fighters if Russia fails to act (26 October 2019) Turkey will clear northeast Syria of Kurdish YPG militia if Russia does not fulfill its obligations under an accord that helped end a Turkish offensive in the region, President Tayyip Erdogan announced.
China’s Xi voices support for Pakistan over Kashmir(9 October 2019) Chinese President Xi Jinping said he was watching the situation in Kashmir and would support Pakistan in issues related to its core interests, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
U.S. ‘deeply concerned’ about untraceable China ships carrying Iran oil (16 October 2019) The White House is warning Chinese shipping companies against turning off their ships’ transponders to hide Iranian oil shipments in violation of U.S. sanctions, two senior administration officials said.
Other Countries/Middle East
Erdogan says Turkey has no choice but to go its own way on Syria ‘safe zone” (1 October 2019) Turkey has no choice but to act alone given too little progress has been made with the United States forming a “safe zone” in northeastern Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan stated in his most direct indication of a cross-border offensive.
Gulf military chiefs say attacks on Saudi flew through GCC airspace (3 October 2019) Gulf military leaders condemned the use of their countries’ airspace to carry out attacks last month against a Saudi crude processing plant, a statement that indicated oblique backing for a U.S./Saudi account blaming Iran for the attack.
Syrian rebels vow to back any Turkish operation into northeast (4 October 2019) Turkey-backed Syrian rebels pledged to back a potential cross-border offensive that Ankara has threatened to mount against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria.
Egypt says talks over Ethiopia’s Nile dam deadlocked, calls for mediation(5 October 2019) Egypt announced that talks with Sudan and Ethiopia over the operation of a $4 billion hydropower dam that Ethiopia is constructing on the Nile have reached a deadlock, and it called for international mediation.
Erdogan says Turkey to launch military operation in northeast Syria (5 October 2019) Turkey announced that it will mount a military operation in northeast Syria, after accusing Washington of not doing enough to expel Syrian Kurdish fighters from its border.
Saudi Arabia working to remove Sudan from U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list (6 October 2019) Saudi Arabia is working to remove Sudan from the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism, a Saudi foreign ministry tweet claimed.
Abu Dhabi crown prince, top Saudi defense official discuss military, defense matters(6 October 2019) The de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates held talks with Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister in Abu Dhabi on military and defense matters and regional security at a time of heightened tensions with common foe Iran.
Ethiopia says Egypt trying to maintain ‘colonial era’ grip over Nile(8 October 2019) Ethiopia has accused Egypt of trying to maintain its grip over the waters of the Nile with a proposal it says would imperil a giant hydropower dam under construction on Ethiopia’s Blue Nile, in a growing diplomatic spat.
Sudan has received half the $3 billion promised by Saudi Arabia and the UAE (8 October 2019) Sudan has received half of the $3 billion in aid promised by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in April and expects the remainder to be paid by the end of next year, Sudan’s finance minister stated.
Turkey’s plan to settle refugees in northeast Syria alarms allies (8 October 2019) As Turkish troops finalize plans to attack northeast Syria, Ankara’s scheme to move millions of refugees into conquered territory there is alarming some Western allies as much as the military operation itself.
UAE pulls some forces from Yemen’s Aden as deal nears to end standoff (8 October 2019) The United Arab Emirates pulled some of its forces from Yemen’s southern port of Aden, officials and witnesses said, as a Saudi-led military coalition works to end a power struggle between the Yemeni government and separatists in the city.
Thousands flee, hundreds reported dead in Turkish attack on U.S.-allied Kurds in Syria (10 October 2019) Turkey pounded Kurdish militia in northeast Syria for a second day, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee and killing at least dozens of people in a cross-border assault on U.S. allies that has turned the Washington establishment against President Donald Trump.
Turkey intensifies Syria campaign as Islamic State strikes Kurds (11 October 2019) Turkey intensified its air and artillery strikes in northeast Syria in an offensive against Kurdish militia that has raised the prospect of a humanitarian disaster and questions about U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy in the region.
Saudi Arabia opens tourist visas to U.S., European visa holders(13 October 2019) Tourist visas for Saudi Arabia are now available online and on arrival to holidaymakers who already hold a visa from the United States, Britain or the EU’s Schengen zone, expanding eligibility beyond an initial list of 49 countries.
Syrian army to deploy along Turkish border in deal with Kurdish-led forces (13 October 2019) The Syrian army will deploy along the length of the border with Turkey in an agreement with the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria to help repel a Turkish offensive, the Kurdish-led administration announced.
Saudis take control of Yemen’s Aden to end stand-off between allies (14 October 2019) Saudi Arabian forces have taken over control of Yemen’s southern port of Aden as part of efforts to end a power struggle between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and southern separatists, four sources familiar with the matter said.
Erdogan signals Turkish operation to Syria’s Manbij(14 October 2019) President Tayyip Erdogan signaled that Turkey aims to drive Kurdish-led fighters from the northern Syrian town of Manbij, after Syrian Kurdish officials struck a deal with the Syrian government to confront Ankara’s offensive.
Erdogan says Turkey will never declare ceasefire in northern Syria (15 October 2019) President Tayyip Erdogan told U.S. President Donald Trump that Turkey will never declare a ceasefire in northeastern Syria and that it will not negotiate with Kurdish forces it is fighting in its offensive into the region.
Yemeni government, separatists seen inking deal to end Aden standoff (16 October 2019) Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and southern separatists are expected to sign a deal to end a power struggle in the southern port of Aden that fractured an Arab coalition battling the Iran-aligned Houthi group, officials said.
Senior Israeli official attends Bahrain security meeting focusing on Iran (21 October 2019) A senior Israeli official attended a maritime security conference in Bahrain in another sign of Gulf Arab nations and Israel transcending longtime enmities to focus on a perceived common threat from Iran.
Netanyahu says Iran seeking means to attack Israel from Yemen (28 October 2019) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of seeking the means to launch precision-guided missiles at Israel from Yemen, a signal that the war-torn Gulf Arab country could come under pre-emptive Israeli attack.
UAE withdraws its troops from Aden, hands control to Saudi Arabia (30 October 2019) The United Arab Emirates announced that its troops have left Yemen’s southern port of Aden and returned home, handing over control to Saudi Arabia which is leading an Arab military coalition engaged in Yemen.
Syria’s Assad says Kurdish controlled northeast Syria must return to state authority (31 October 2019) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stated that his government’s ultimate goal was to restore state authority over Kurdish controlled areas in northeast Syria after an abrupt U.S. troop withdrawal but he expected it to happen gradually.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics
U.N. investigator says Saudi royal adviser should be tried for Khashoggi killing (2 October 2019) Supporters of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi called for justice a year after his death and a U.N. investigator said Saud al-Qahtani, a key adviser to the kingdom’s crown prince, should be put in the dock.
U.N. expert: Saudi prince seeks to dodge blame for Khashoggi killing (2 October 2019) Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is trying to repair damage to his image done by Jamal Khashoggi’s murder by insisting “layers and layers” of hierarchy separated him from the Saudi agents who killed the journalist, the U.N. investigator told Reuters.
U.N. report says U.S. air strikes on Afghan drug labs unlawful, hit civilians (9 October 2019) U.S. air strikes on alleged Taliban drug labs in Afghanistan in May killed or wounded at least 39 civilians, including 14 children, and violated international humanitarian law as the victims were non-combatants, a United Nations report claimed.
U.N.: Over 130,000 people displaced by fighting in northeastern Syria(13 October 2019) More than 130,000 people have been displaced from rural areas around the northeast Syrian border towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain as a result of fighting between Turkish-led forces and Kurdish militia, the United Nations announced.
U.N. urges Turkey to investigate executions in Syria (15 October 2019) Turkey could be deemed responsible for summary executions by an affiliated armed group of captured Kurdish fighters and a politician, acts that may amount to war crimes, the United Nations announced.
U.N.: Afghanistan suffers record 4,300 civilian casualties in three months (17 October 2019) A record 4,313 civilians were injured or killed in Afghanistan’s war against the Islamist Taliban between July and September, the United Nations announced.
U.N.: Iraq violated human rights in protest crackdown (23 October 2019) Iraqi authorities committed serious human rights violations and abuses in their response to a wave of anti-government protests earlier this month that saw 149 civilians killed, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) announced.
Amnesty says Turkey deporting Syrians to planned ‘safe zone’ region (25 October 2019) Turkey is forcibly sending Syrian refugees to an area of Syria near the border where it aims to set up a “safe zone” even though the conflict there has not ended, Amnesty International stated in a recently published report.
IMF urges Lebanon reforms, protestors keep up pressure (28 October 2019) The International Monetary Fund stated that Lebanon should urgently implement reforms to restore confidence and economic stability, as protesters kept up the pressure on politicians they accuse of corruption by setting up new road blocks.