[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. halts secretive drone program with Turkey over Syria incursion (5 February 2020) The United States has halted a secretive military intelligence cooperation program with Turkey that for years helped Ankara target Kurdish PKK militants, four US officials told Reuters.
U.S. steps up warnings on Russia over Syria’s Idlib, military deconfliction (5 February 2020) The United States stepped up warnings to Russia over its Syria policy, saying Moscow was trying to challenge the US presence in northeastern Syria by violating the terms of a de-confliction agreement and was also helping escalate the fighting in the northwestern province of Idlib.
United States to extend waiver for Iraq to import Iranian energy (10 February 2020) The United States has agreed to extend a waiver for Iraq to import Iranian energy supplies, including gas, two Iraqi government officials claimed.
U.S.-led coalition says troops returned fire in northeast Syria(12 February 2020) The US-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants said its troops opened fire at a checkpoint in northeast Syria after they came under small arms fire.
NATO to expand Iraq training mission in response to Trump (12 February 2020) NATO defense ministers agreed to expand the Western alliance’s training mission in Iraq, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, responding to a demand by US President Donald Trump for NATO to do more in the Middle East.
U.S. warship in Arabian Sea seizes suspected Iranian weapons(13 February 2020) A US Navy warship seized weapons believed to be of Iranian “design and manufacture,” including 150 anti-tank guided missiles and three Iranian surface-to-air missiles, the American military announced.
Senate rebukes Trump, votes to limit Iran war making ability(13 February 2020) The US Senate passed legislation to limit President Donald Trump’s ability to wage war against Iran, rebuking him weeks after a strike against an Iranian military commander and Tehran’s retaliation raised fears of broader regional conflict.
Pompeo in Saudi Arabia to talk Iran, economy, and human rights (19 February 2020) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia to discuss regional security, namely Iran, after the US killing last month of a top Iranian general pushed the oil-producing region closer to an all-out war.
U.S. blacklists five Iranian officials for impeding ‘fair’ elections (20 February 2020) The United States blacklisted five Iranian officials, accusing them of preventing free and fair elections a day before a parliamentary vote that it branded a “sham.”
U.S., Taliban plan to sign accord after planned week-long ‘reduction in violence’ (21 February 2020) The United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on 29 February at the end of a planned week-long “reduction in violence” in Afghanistan, US officials and the Taliban announced, stirring fresh hopes for an end to the protracted conflict.
NATO calls on Russia, Syria to halt Idlib offensive (28 February 2020) NATO head Jens Stoltenberg urged Russia and Syria to halt their Idlib offensive and said the military alliance stood in solidarity with member state Turkey, which lost thirty-three soldiers in an air strike by Syrian government forces.
Pompeo to attend signing of U.S.-Taliban troop withdrawal pact (28 February 2020) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will witness the signing of a US-Taliban agreement on a withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, President Donald Trump announced, heralding an agreement that could help his re-election campaign.
U.S. to keep working with Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan on Blue Nile dam(28 February 2020) The United States will continue to work with Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan until they sign an accord on a giant Blue Nile hydropower dam, after failing to secure signatures from the three countries this week, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin claimed.
Iran’s president says Tehran ready to work with EU to resolve nuclear deal issues (3 February 2020) Iran is ready to cooperate with the European Union on issues related to the nuclear deal it agreed with world powers in 2015, President Hassan Rouhani was quoted as saying.
Europe to avoid taking Iran nuclear dispute to U.N., EU’s top diplomat says (4 February 2020) The European Union will extend indefinitely the time limit to resolve disputes in the Iran 2015 nuclear accord to avoid having to go to the UN Security Council or triggering new sanctions, the European Union’s top diplomat stated during a visit to Tehran.
EU rejects Trump Middle East peace plan, annexation(4 February 2020) The European Union rejected parts of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan for the Middle East, prompting an angry response from Israel which has strongly backed the US proposal.
EU agrees new Libya sea patrols after Austria lifts veto(17 February 2020) The European Union will launch a new naval and air mission in the eastern Mediterranean to stop more weapons reaching the warring factions in Libya, foreign ministers agreed after Austria lifted its veto.
Europeans demand Syria government, Russia return to 2018 Idlib ceasefire deal (26 February 2020) Foreign ministers from fourteen European countries, including France and Germany, demanded on Wednesday that Syrian government forces and their Russian backers end their offensive in Idlib province and return to the terms of a 2018 ceasefire deal.
Greece pushes back migrants after Turkish border ‘onslaught’ (29 February 2020) Greek police fired teargas to push back hundreds of stone-throwing migrants trying to cross the border from Turkey, as a crisis over Syria shifted onto the European Union’s doorstep.
Turkey says Russia must immediately stop Syrian attacks in Idlib(6 February 2020) Turkey expects Russia to stop the Syrian government’s attacks in the northwestern region of Idlib immediately, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced, adding that Ankara needs to work with Moscow to resolve problems in the region.
Russia accuses Turkey of breaking Syria deals, rejects Erdogan claim(12 February 2020) Russia accused Turkey of flouting agreements it had made with Moscow on Syria and of aggravating the situation in Idlib where Syrian forces have made gains in their campaign to eliminate the last insurgent bastion in a nine-year-old war.
Russia accuses Turkey of shelling Syrian army to help militants(20 February 2020) Russia accused Turkey of providing artillery support to militants fighting the Syrian army and said militants briefly broke through Syrian military positions in Idlib, Russian news agencies reported.
President Erdogan’s options narrow as Russia presses Syrian crisis to Turkey’s doorstep (27 February 2020) With nearly one million displaced Syrians massing near the Turkish border in the face of a Syrian government military offensive, President Tayyip Erdogan’s options are narrowing.
Russia sends warships to Syria, blames Ankara for killing of Turkish troops(28 February 2020) Russia announced it was sending two warships armed with cruise missiles to waters off the Syrian coast and blamed Ankara for the killing of thirty-three Turkish soldiers in Syria’s Idlib region the previous day.
Turkey’s Erdogan asks Russia to step aside in Syria (29 February 2020) Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan claimed he asked President Vladimir Putin for Russia to stand aside in Syria and let Turkey fight Syrian government forces alone, after thirty-four Turkish soldiers were killed this week.
Emirates, Etihad to stop most China flights as UAE announces suspension (3 February 2020) Emirates and Etihad Airways will have to suspend flights to mainland China, except Beijing, after the United Arab Emirates halted most flights between the two countries due to the coronavirus outbreak in China.
U.S. accuses Huawei of stealing trade secrets, assisting Iran (13 February 2020) US prosecutors accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and helping Iran track protesters in its latest indictment against the Chinese company, escalating the US battle with the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker.
Other Countries/Middle East
Palestinians cut ties with Israel, U.S. after rejecting peace plan(1 February 2020) The Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the United States and Israel, including those relating to security, after rejecting a Middle East peace plan presented by US President Donald Trump, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced.
Turkey hits back after Syrian shells kill Turkish troops (3 February 2020) Turkey said its military hit dozens of Syrian government targets after eight Turkish military personnel were killed by shelling in Idlib in northwest Syria, where fighting threatens to test ties between Ankara and Moscow.
Israel and Sudan will push to normalize relations (3 February 2020) Israel and Sudan have agreed to move toward forging normal relations for the first time, Israeli officials announced after the leaders of the two former foes met in Uganda.
Turkey’s Erdogan demands Syrian forces in Idlib withdraw (5 February 2020) Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan threatened to drive back Syrian troops in Idlib unless they withdraw by the end of the month to stem an assault which he said had displaced nearly one million people.
Sudan’s Burhan casts doubts on rapid normalization of ties with Israel (5 February 2020) The head of Sudan’s ruling council cast doubt on any rapid normalization of ties with Israel a day after meeting the Israeli prime minister in Uganda, saying that his country’s position on the Palestinian issue remains unchanged.
Turkey reinforces troops in Syria’s Idlib, talks with Russia (8 February 2020) Turkey reinforced its military presence in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province as Turkish and Russian officials held talks about the Syrian government offensive there, which has displaced more than half a million people in two months.
Netanyahu: Israel drawing up map for West Bank annexations(8 February 2020) Israel has begun to draw up maps of land in the occupied West Bank that will be annexed in accordance with US President Donald Trump’s proposed peace plan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced.
Turkish forces strike back after five soldiers killed in Syria(10 February 2020) Turkish forces struck dozens of Syrian government targets in northwestern Syria after five Turkish soldiers were killed in an attack on a military base in Idlib province, the Turkish defense ministry said.
Saudi-Qatari talks to end lengthy Gulf dispute falter(11 February 2020) Talks between Saudi Arabia and Qatar to resolve a bitter Gulf dispute broke down soon after starting, six sources said, leaving in place a political and trade embargo of Doha that hampers joint Gulf Arab efforts to counter Iran.
Haftar’s forces in Libya ban U.N. flights to embattled capital(12 February 2020) Eastern Libya forces will not allow the United Nations to use the only functioning airport in the capital Tripoli, a spokesman for the group that has been trying to capture the city from the internationally recognized government announced.
Saudi minister denies any plans for crown prince to meet Israeli PM (13 February 2020) Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister denied media reports of a possible meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, amid speculation about normalizing ties between Gulf Arab states and Israel.
Turkey says it will hit groups violating Idlib ceasefire(13 February 2020) Turkey will use force against rebel groups violating a ceasefire in Syria’s northwest Idlib region, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar asserted, in an apparent response to Russian criticism.
Despite Yemen violence spike, Saudi says talks with Houthis progressing(15 February 2020) Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said that Riyadh was still committed to back-channel peace talks with Yemen’s Houthi rebels, despite a recent increase in violence in the five-year conflict.
Syrian forces consolidate control of Aleppo, air strikes under way (17 February 2020) The Syrian army announced it had taken full control of dozens of towns in Aleppo’s northwestern countryside and it would press on with its campaign to wipe out militant groups “wherever they are found”.
Israel hopes Germany, other ICC members will help stave off Palestinian investigation (17 February 2020) Israel’s prime minister hailed what he called efforts by friendly states to stop the International Criminal Court opening an investigation into alleged war crimes against Palestinians.
Turkey edges towards direct conflict with Russian-backed Syria (19 February 2020) Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said a military operation by his forces to push back a Syrian government offensive against rebels in northwest Syria was now “a matter of time” after talks with Russia failed to halt the assault.
Netanyahu announces plans for 3,000 new settler homes near East Jerusalem(20 February 2020) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that he was reviving a plan for the construction of three thousand new settler homes near East Jerusalem, a project effectively frozen after international opposition.
Turkey says Syrian air strikes kill two troops near Idlib (20 February 2020) Turkey said two of its soldiers were killed and five others wounded in Syrian government air strikes in northwest Syria on Thursday, bringing Turkish military fatalities to fifteen so far this month in the Idlib region.
Flare-up in fighting in northwest Syria pulls in Russian, Turkish forces(20 February 2020) Turkish forces and Syrian rebels fought government troops in northwest Syria and Russian warplanes struck back in a sharp escalation of an intense battle over the last rebel bastions, Russian and Turkish officials said.
Eastern Libya forces say 16 Turkish soldiers killed in fighting (23 February 2020) Forces loyal to Libyan eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar said they had killed sixteen Turkish soldiers in recent weeks, a day after Turkey acknowledged it had lost several “martyrs” in combat in the north African country.
Israeli jets strike Islamic Jihad targets in Syria and Gaza(23 February 2020) Israeli fighter jets launched air strikes on suspected Islamic Jihad positions in Syria, the Israeli military announced, after the militant group and Israel exchanged rockets and air strikes around Gaza.
Saudi, Egypt, Bahrain to resume Qatar post services despite dispute(24 February 2020) Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahrain have agreed to resume postal services to Qatar almost three years after they were stopped due to a political dispute, the United Nations announced.
Gaza-Israel hostilities flare through second day with rocket attacks, air strikes(24 February 2020) Gaza militants fired rockets toward Israel, which responded with air strikes, in the second day of an escalation that began to ebb after the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad announced a halt to its attacks.
Saudi Arabia bars pilgrims and tourists amid coronavirus(26 February 2020) Saudi Arabia has closed its borders to foreign “umrah” pilgrims and to tourists from at least twenty-five countries where the new coronavirus has been found.
Turkey says will not stop Syrian refugees reaching Europe after troops killed (28 February 2020) Turkey will no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe, a senior Turkish official said, as Ankara responded to the killing of thirty-three Turkish soldiers in an air strike by Syrian government forces in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics
U.N.-brokered Libya military talks begin in Geneva (3 February 2020) Military officers from rival factions in Libya’s conflict began UN-led talks in Geneva aimed at securing a ceasefire after ten months of fighting on the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli.
Draft U.N. resolution condemns Israeli annexation in Trump peace plan (4 February 2020) A draft United Nations Security Council resolution condemned an Israeli plan to annex its settlements in the West Bank in a rebuke of President Donald Trump’s pro-Israel peace proposal.
U.N. watchdog sees no new Iranian violations of nuclear deal (5 February 2020) Iran has not taken further steps to violate its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers since it renounced last month all restraints imposed by the agreement, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency stated.
Aid to Houthi-controlled Yemen to be cut back over risk it can be diverted (6 February 2020) The world’s biggest humanitarian aid operation will be scaled-down next month in Houthi-controlled Yemen, because donors and aid workers say they can no longer ensure that food for millions of people is reaching those who need it.
U.N.: Syria displacement is worst since conflict began (11 February 2020) More people have fled fighting in Syria over the past ten weeks than at any other time in the nine-year-old conflict, and the city of Idlib, where many are sheltering, could become a graveyard if hostilities continue, two UN agencies announced.
U.N. report names 112 companies doing business with Israeli settlements(12 February 2020) The United Nations’ human rights office named 112 companies it said have business ties to Jewish settlements in the West Bank, angering Israel and prompting a Palestinian threat of legal action against the firms.
U.N.: Over 800,000 Syrian, mostly women and children, flee Russian-backed offensive(13 February 2020) More than 800,000 Syrians, mostly women and children, have fled their homes during a Russian-backed Syrian military campaign to clear the opposition in northwest Syria since 1 December, a senior UN spokesperson announced.
U.N. says Libya arms embargo a ‘joke,’ demands accountability (16 February 2020) An arms embargo aimed at curbing fighting in Libya has become meaningless because of violations and it is imperative that those who breach it are held to account, a senior UN official stated.