[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. targets Iranian top leader’s inner circle with new sanctions (4 November 2019) The United States imposed sanctions on nine people close to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, including his chief of staff, one of his sons and the head of the judiciary.
Israeli official: Israel aiding Syria’s Kurds, advocating for them with the U.S. (6 November 2019) Israel is assisting Syrian Kurds battered by a month-old Turkish incursion, seeing them as a counterweight to Iranian influence and advocating for them in talks with the United States, the deputy Israeli foreign minister announced.
Trump says talks with Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan on dam dispute went well (6 November 2019) U.S. President Donald Trump said he had held talks with officials from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over a disputed new dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River.
U.S. accuses two former Twitter employees of spying for Saudi Arabia (6 November 2019) Two former employees of Twitter and a third man from Saudi Arabia face U.S. charges of spying for the kingdom by digging up private user data and giving it to Saudi officials in exchange for payment, a complaint from the Department of Justice shows.
Pentagon: revenue from Syria oil fields to go to SDF, not United States (7 November 2019) The Pentagon claimed that revenue from oilfields in northeastern Syria will go to U.S.-backed forces rather than the United States itself.
Erdogan says U.S. not fulfilling Syria promises, ahead of Trump talks (7 November 2019) Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused the United States and Russia of failing to fulfill their part of a deal for Kurdish militia to leave a Syrian region bordering Turkey, and said he would raise this with President Donald Trump next week.
White House official: Turkey should scrap Russian missile system or face U.S. sanctions (10 November 2019) The United States is very upset about Turkey’s purchase of Russian missile defense systems and could impose sanctions on Ankara if it does not “get rid” of them, White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien announced.
U.S. calls on Libya’s Haftar to halt Tripoli war, warns against Russia’s role (15 November 2019) The United States called on eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar to stop his offensive on the capital held by the internationally recognized government and warned against Russian interference.
U.S. official: Egypt risks U.S. sanctions over Russian fighter jet deal (18 November 2019) The United States could impose sanctions on Egypt and block it from future military sales if it goes ahead with a purchase of Russian warplanes, a U.S. official claimed.
U.S. backs Israel on settlements, angering Palestinians and clouding peace process (18 November 2019) The United States effectively backed Israel’s right to build Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank by abandoning its four-decade-old position that they were “inconsistent with international law,” a stance that may make Israeli-Palestinian peace even more elusive.
Pentagon: IS exploited Turkey’s Syria invasion, drawdown of U.S. troops (19 November 2019) Islamic State has exploited Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria and the drawdown of U.S. troops from the region, according to a report published by the Pentagon’s Inspector General, adding that the militant group will likely have the “time and space” to target the West.
U.S. Central Command says anti-IS operations to pick up in coming days, weeks (23 November 2019) U.S. Central Command chief General Kenneth McKenzie said about 500 U.S. personnel in east Syria are expected to resume operations against Islamic State in coming days and weeks.
Qatar, Kuwait told U.S. they will join naval coalition, official says (25 November 2019) Qatar and Kuwait have told the United States that they will join a U.S.-led naval coalition in the Gulf which was established in response to a series of attacks on oil tankers, a U.S. military official claimed.
U.S. officials meet with Libya’s Haftar amid push to end Tripoli offensive (25 November 2019) U.S. officials met with eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar as Washington presses him to end his offensive on the capital, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.
Pompeo: turkey’s test of Russian weapons system ‘concerning’ (26 November 2019) Turkey carrying out tests with the Russian defense system it purchased was “concerning,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced, but added that talks between Washington and Ankara to resolve the issue were still underway.
Pompeo urges Egypt to respect freedom of press after journalist detentions (26 November 2019) U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Egypt to respect freedom of the press, days after Egyptian security forces raided the office of independent news website Mada Masr and briefly detained three of its staff.
U.S. accuses Russia of helping Syria cover up chemical weapons use (28 November 2019) The United States accused Russia of helping Syria conceal the use of banned toxic munitions in the civil war by undermining the work of the global chemical weapons agency trying to identify those responsible.
After Trump’s Afghan visit, Taliban say they are ready to resume peace talks (29 November 2019) The Taliban stated that they were ready to restart peace talks with the United States, a day after President Donald Trump visited U.S. troops in Afghanistan and said he believed the group would agree to a ceasefire.
Germany decries Iran’s move to speed up nuclear work, urges return to accord (4 November 2019) Iran’s announcement that it has developed advanced machines to speed up uranium enrichment jeopardizes a 2015 accord with world powers, Germany’s foreign minister stated, urging Tehran to return to the pact.
NATO experiencing ‘brain death,’ France’s Macron says (7 November 2019) France’s president warned fellow European countries that NATO was dying, citing a lack of coordination and U.S. unpredictability under President Donald Trump, comments quickly rejected as “drastic” by the German chancellor.
EU agreed on Sanctions for Turkey over Cyprus drilling, to add names later (11 November 2019) European Union foreign ministers agreed on Monday economic sanctions over Turkey’s drilling off the coast of Cyprus, setting up the legal framework for travel bans and asset freezes but leaving names until a later date.
France, Germany, Britain urge Iran to reverse nuclear deal breaches (11 November 2019) France, Britain and Germany stated they would consider a dispute resolution mechanism enshrined in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that could lead to United Nations sanctions being re-imposed for recent breaches of the pact.
EU court rules goods from Israeli settlements must be labeled (12 November 2019) The EU’s top court ruled that goods from Israeli settlements must be labeled as produced in occupied territory, a decision hailed by Palestinians and condemned by Israel, which said it would try to persuade countries to ignore it.
Turkey, Russia hold first joint patrol in northeast Syria (1 November 2019) Turkish and Russian troops in armored vehicles held their first joint ground patrols in northeast Syria under a deal between the two countries that forced a Kurdish militia away from territory near Turkey’s border.
Turkey says delivery of second Russian S-400 batch may be delayed (4 November 2019) Delivery of a second batch of Russian S-400 missile defense systems to Turkey may be delayed beyond a planned 2020 timeline by talks on technology sharing and joint production, the head of Turkey’s Defense Industry Directorate claimed.
Russia sets up helicopter base in northern Syria after U.S. exit (14 November 2019) Russia has set up a helicopter base at an airport in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, the Russian Defense Ministry’s Zvezda TV channel announced, a move designed to increase Moscow’s control over events on the ground there.
Russia lands forces at former U.S. air base in northern Syria (15 November 2019) Russia landed attack helicopters and troops at a sprawling air base in northern Syria vacated by U.S. forces, the Russian Defense Ministry’s Zvezda TV channel reported.
Russia balks at Turkish idea of new Syria military operation (19 November 2019) Russia said it was bewildered by a Turkish pledge to conduct a new military operation in northern Syria if the area was not cleared of people Ankara calls terrorists, warning that any such move would damage efforts to stabilize the region.
Turkey says talking with Russia over Kurdish YPG in northeast Syria (21 November 2019) Turkey is discussing with Russia how to address the continued presence of Kurdish YPG militants in areas covered by an agreement between the two countries, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced.
Russia hopes to sign new S-400 missile deal with Turkey next year (26 November 2019) Russia hopes to seal a deal to supply Turkey with more S-400 missile systems in the first half of next year, the head of Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport was cited as saying.
Turkey holds up NATO military plans over Syria dispute (26 November 2019) Turkey is refusing to back a NATO defense plan for the Baltics and Poland until the alliance offers Ankara more political support for its fight against Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria, four senior alliance sources said.
Other Countries/Middle East
Israeli minister: no Israeli government involvement in alleged NSO-WhatsApp hack (1 November 2019) The Israeli government has denied any involvement in an alleged cyber- hack by Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group.
Iran’s Zarif calls on U.S. to return to 2015 nuclear deal (1 November 2019) The United States should return to a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced, saying the new U.S. sanctions imposed on Tehran showed failure of Washington’s policy.
As protests rock Baghdad and Beirut, Iran digs in (1 November 2019) As governments in Iraq and Lebanon stagger and stumble under huge waves of popular protest, powerful factions loyal to Iran are pushing to quash political upheaval which challenges Tehran’s entrenched influence in both countries.
Israel-Egypt gas pipeline deal seen imminent (3 November 2019) A deal that would transfer control of a natural gas pipeline between Israel and Egypt is expected to be closed in the next few days, the companies stated.
Iran’s Khamenei renews ban on talks with U.S. (3 November 2019) Iran will not lift its ban on talks with the United States, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced, describing the two countries as implacable foes on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
Saudi Arabia starts Aramco IPO process (3 November 2019) Saudi Arabia’s state oil company kick-started its initial public offering (IPO), announcing its intention to list on the domestic bourse as the kingdom seeks to diversify and create the world’s most valuable listed company.
Turkey’s Erdogan says Kurdish YPG have not left Syria ‘safe zone’ (5 November 2019) Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan claimed that the Kurdish YPG militia had not withdrawn from some Syrian border areas and that U.S. forces were still carrying out joint patrols with the group, contrary to an agreement between them.
Yemen government and separatists sign deal to end power struggle in south (5 November 2019) Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and southern separatists have reportedly signed an agreement to end a power struggle in the south of Yemen that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince hailed as a step toward a wider political solution to end the multifaceted conflict.
Erdogan says Turkey will not leave Syria until other countries pull out (8 November 2019) Turkey will not leave Syria until other countries pull out, President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying, and Ankara will continue its cross-border offensive against Kurdish fighters until every one of them has left the region.
UAE calls for Iran talks with world powers, region (10 November 2019) Iran should come to the negotiating table with world powers and Gulf countries to seek a new deal that would deescalate regional tensions and revive its economy, a senior United Arab Emirates official announced.
Israel targets Damascus home of Islamic Jihad official, group says (11 November 2019) The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad said Israel targeted the house of one of its officials in the Syrian capital, killing one of his sons.
Turkish forces in patrol shoot at protestors in Syria’s Kobani: witness, observatory (12 November 2019) Turkish forces conducting a joint patrol in northern Syria under a Russian-Turkish deal fired live rounds at protesters near the mainly Kurdish town of Kobani, a witness and a monitor said.
Israel kills Islamic Jihad commander, rockets rain from Gaza (12 November 2019) Israel killed a top commander from the Iranian-backed Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, drawing day-long rocket salvoes in the worst cross-border fighting in months.
Tenuous truce in Gaza as Islamic Jihad, Israel differ on terms (13 November 2019) Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad and Israel declared a halt to hostilities across the Gaza Strip border, but a lasting ceasefire appeared tenuous as they differed on terms.
Palestinian rockets, Israeli airstrikes jolt tenuous Gaza truce (15 November 2019) Palestinian militants fired two rockets deep into southern Israel from Gaza, and the Israeli military responded with a number of air strikes on militant targets, shaking an already tenuous truce.
Anadolu: Turkey will launch another Syria operation if area not cleared of Kurdish YPG (18 November 2019) Turkey’s foreign minister said Ankara would launch a new military operation in northeast Syria if the area was not cleared of what he called terrorists, state-owned Anadolu agency reported.
Israel launches air strikes in Syria; Damascus says two killed (19 November 2019) Israel said its aircraft struck dozens of Iranian and Syrian military targets in Syria in retaliation for rockets fired towards Israel a day earlier.
UAE in weapons making push as allies restrict sales (22 November 2019) The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is making a push to develop high-tech military hardware that would give it control over critical defense capabilities and lessen reliance on imports.
Qatari foreign minister’s Saudi visit seen easing Gulf rift (28 November 2019) Qatar’s foreign minister has made an unannounced visit to Riyadh, two sources told Reuters, amid signs that a 2-1/2-year rift among U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states could soon subside.
Iraqi forces kill 45 protesters after Iranian consulate torched (28 November 2019) Iraqi security forces shot dead at least 45 protesters on after demonstrators stormed and torched an Iranian consulate overnight.
Lebanon crisis wreaks havoc on Syria’s war-torn economy (29 November 2019) A financial crisis in Lebanon has hit the economy of neighboring Syria hard, choking off a vital source of dollars and dragging the Syrian pound to record lows.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics
U.N. nuclear watchdog, Western powers criticize Iran for holding inspector (7 November 2019) The United Nations nuclear watchdog and Western powers strongly criticized Iran for preventing one of the agency’s inspectors from leaving the country last week.
U.N.: strikes on Syrian medical facilities appear deliberate (8 November 2019) More than 60 medical facilities have been hit in Syria’s Idlib province in the past six months, including four this week, and appear to have been deliberately targeted by government-affiliated forces, a U.N. rights spokesman announced.
Israeli troops kill West Bank Palestinian, U.N. demands probe (11 November 2019) Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian during confrontations with stone-throwing protesters in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian health officials said, drawing a U.N. demand for the incident to be investigated.
U.N. report: Jordan, UAE, Turkey, and Sudan accused of violating sanctions on Libya (11 November 2019) Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey have repeatedly violated an arms embargo on Libya and it is “highly probable” that a foreign attack aircraft is responsible for a deadly strike on a migrant detention center, according to U.N. experts monitoring the implementation of sanctions on Libya.
U.S. presses Egypt on alleged torture, mass arrests at U.N. review (13 November 2019) The United States and other Western countries urged Egypt to investigate alleged killings and torture by its security forces and to release journalists and others arrested for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
U.N., Red Cross say Israeli settlements still unlawful (19 November 2019) The United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stated that Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory remain in breach of international law, rejecting the Trump administration’s position accepting them.
Amnesty International: more than 100 protestors killed in Iran during unrest (19 November 2019) Amnesty International stated that more than 100 protestors had been killed in 21 cities in Iran during unrest that broke out over a rise in fuel prices last week.
U.N. envoy: Saudi-led coalition air strikes in Yemen down 80% (22 November 2019) United Nations Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths told the U.N. Security Council that the number of air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition battling Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen has dropped nearly 80% in the last two weeks.
Turkey must halt Syrian rebel abuses, Human Rights Watch says (27 November 2019) Turkey’s Syrian rebel allies have summarily executed civilians during Ankara’s military offensive in northeast Syria and looted property belonging to Kurdish families displaced by the fighting, Human Rights Watch said in a report.