[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.]
U.S. willing to give Turkey ammunition for Syria’s Idlib (3 March 2020) The United States is willing to give NATO ally Turkey ammunition alongside humanitarian assistance in northwestern Syria where Ankara is in a deepening standoff with Russia, the US special representative for the region announced.
Trump tells Sisi U.S. to pursue efforts for deal on Ethiopia dam (3 March 2020) US President Donald Trump told Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that Washington will keep up efforts for a deal among Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over a dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile, Egypt’s presidency said.
U.S. divided over support for Turkey in Syria, Jeffrey says (5 March 2020) There is no unanimity in Washington over support for Turkey in Syria’s Idlib because of Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 defense systems, US envoy James Jeffrey announced.
Turkey says U.S. offering Patriot missiles if S-400 not operated(10 March 2020) The United States has offered to sell Turkey its Patriot missile defense system if Ankara promises not to operate a rival Russian system, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said, in what he called a significant softening in Washington’s position.
U.S. House votes to limit Iran warmaking ability, heads to veto fight (11 March 2020) The US House of Representatives passed legislation to limit President Donald Trump’s ability to wage war against Iran, amid continuing concern about broader conflict after a January strike killed an Iranian commander.
Trump authorizes military to respond after deadly attack blamed on Iran-backed militia(12 March 2020) President Donald Trump has authorized the US military a rocket attack in Iraq that killed two American troops and a British service member, the Pentagon announced, blaming Iran-backed militia.
U.S. wages retaliatory strikes against Iran-backed militia in Iraq(12 March 2020) The United States waged a series of precision air strikes against an Iran-backed militia in Iraq that it blamed for a major rocket attack a day earlier that killed two American troops and a twenty-six-year-old British soldier.
U.S. blacklists Chinese, South African companies over Iran oil trade (18 March 2020) The United States identified seven companies that it has blacklisted for trade in Iranian petrochemicals—three based in mainland China, three in Hong Kong and one in South Africa—the State Department said in a statement.
Trump says he will enter Saudi-Russia oil fray at appropriate time(19 March 2020) US President Donald Trump said he would get involved in the oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia at the appropriate time, saying low gasoline prices were good for US consumers even as they were hurting the industry.
U.S. to Iran: Coronavirus won’t save you from sanctions (20 March 2020) The United States sent Iran a blunt message this week: the spread of the coronavirus will not save it from US sanctions that are choking off its oil revenues and isolating its economy.
U.S. to reduce Afghan aid by $1 billion after Pompeo fails to break impasse(23 March 2020) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a one-billion-dollar cut in US aid to Afghanistan after he failed to convince Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political foe to end a feud that has helped jeopardize a US-led peace effort.
U.S.-led forces depart Iraqi military base near Mosul in drawdown(26 March 2020) Troops with the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State began departing an air base in northern Iraq, handing it over fully to the Iraqi military as part of a reduction of foreign forces in the country.
U.S. imposes fresh Iran-related sanctions despite coronavirus (26 March 2020) The United States blacklisted five Iran- and Iraq-based companies and fifteen individuals for supporting terrorist groups, its third round of sanctions on Iranian targets in the last two weeks even as Tehran battles the coronavirus outbreak.
U.S.-Saudi oil alliance idea born at White House, put on back burner for now (31 March 2020) Top US officials have for now put aside a proposal for an alliance with Saudi Arabia to manage the global oil market, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter, an idea one of them said came from White House national security advisers.
Divided over Turkey, EU left scrambling to respond as migrants reach borders (1 March 2020) The European Union, anxious to avoid any repeat of the 2015-16 migration chaos, is scrambling to react after Turkey said it would no longer abide by a 2016 deal under which it has been preventing refugees and migrants from heading for Europe.
UK foreign minister visits Oman, Saudi Arabia to boost post-Brexit ties (1 March 2020) British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab will begin his first official visit to the Gulf for talks with leaders in Saudi Arabia and Oman, expected to cover trade, human rights issues and climate change.
EU in dilemma over Turkey, but says migrants must not be allowed in (2 March 2020) The European Union’s chief executive, Ursula von der Leyen, expressed sympathy with Turkey over the conflict in Syria but said it was impermissible for Ankara to let refugees and migrants on its territory cross into Europe.
EU tells Turkey to pull back migrants back from Greek border (9 March 2020) Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan sought more European support over the war in Syria and for hosting millions of refugees, but was told he must first stop encouraging migrants to cross into Greece.
Turkey defies EU pressure to shut border, says to host migration summit (10 March 2020) President Tayyip Erdogan said he would not stop migrants trying to cross Turkey’s border into Greece despite EU pressure to do so, but he also announced a summit next week in Istanbul with European leaders to seek a solution to the crisis.
EU to launch new Libya sea patrols from April(26 March 2020) The European Union will launch a new Mediterranean naval and air mission in April to stop more arms reach warring factions in Libya, EU diplomats announced, with Greece agreeing to take in any migrants rescued at sea.
Kremlin to Turkey: We cannot guarantee safety of your planes over Syria(2 March 2020) Russia said it cannot guarantee the safety of Turkish aircraft over Syria, after Turkey shot down two Syrian war planes and struck a military airport, the latest clashes that have brought Moscow and Ankara closer than ever to direct confrontation.
Kremlin ‘strongly rejects’ U.N. allegations that Russia committed war crimes in Syria in 2019(3 March 2020) The Kremlin rejected allegations by the United Nations that Russia may have committed war crimes in Syria last year, saying the UN investigators were in no position to know what is happening on the ground.
OPEC, Russia moving closer to big oil cut as coronavirus hits demand (3 March 2020) A panel of OPEC and its allies recommended cutting oil output by an extra one million barrels per day (bpd) on Tuesday signaling that Russia and Saudi Arabia were moving closer to a deal to prop up prices which have been hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
Turkey, Russia face off in Syria as fighting escalates, plane shot down (3 March 2020) Turkey shot down a Syrian government warplane over northwest Syria, where fighting has intensified in recent days, bringing Turkish and Russian forces close to direct conflict in the battle over the last swathe of Syria still held by rebels.
First Russian-Turkish patrol on Syrian highway cut short by protests (15 March 2020) Russia and Turkey cut short their first joint patrol in Syria’s Idlib after rebels and civilians opposed to a ceasefire agreement cut off a main roadway to block its path, according to witnesses and Russian news agencies.
Newly obtained documents show Huawei role in shipping prohibited U.S. gear to Iran (2 March 2020) China’s Huawei Technologies, which for years has denied violating American trade sanctions on Iran, produced internal company records in 2010 that show it was directly involved in sending prohibited US computer equipment to Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator.
Other Countries/Middle East
Turkey strikes Syrian planes and airports, escalating Idlib fight (1 March 2020) Turkey shot down two Syrian warplanes over Idlib and struck a military airport well beyond its frontlines in a sharp escalation of its military operations following the death of dozens of Turkish soldiers.
Saudi Arabia restricts entry for Gulf citizens, residents(3 March 2020) Saudi Arabia barred citizens and residents of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries from entering the kingdom for fourteen days after returning from outside the region due to coronavirus concerns.
Egypt bars Qataris over coronavirus fears (4 March 2020) The Egyptian government has decided to bar Qataris from Egypt from 6 March, including those who have valid residency, amid fears over the coronavirus, the cabinet stated.
Coronavirus fears, oil price plunge pummel world markets(8 March 2020) Global stock markets plunged and oil prices tumbled by as much as a third after Saudi Arabia launched a price war with Russia, sending investors already spooked by the coronavirus outbreak fleeing for the safety of bonds and the Japanese yen.
Oil plunges 25%, hit by erupting Saudi-Russia oil price war (8 March 2020) Crude prices suffered their biggest daily rout since the 1991 Gulf War as top producers Saudi Arabia and Russia began a price war that threatens to overwhelm global oil markets with supply.
Jordan bars entry from West Bank, Israel, Iraq, Egypt due to coronavirus(10 March 2020) Jordan closed border crossings with Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank and its seaports to shipping from Egypt as well as barred overland passenger traffic from Iraq to protect the kingdom from coronavirus, the health minister said.
Saudi-led coalition blocks separatist leaders from returning to Aden (12 March 2020) The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi movement in Yemen blocked southern separatist leaders from returning to Aden city, Yemeni officials stated, as a deal to end a power struggle in the south with the Saudi-backed government faltered.
Bahrain accuses Iran of ‘biological aggression,’ Gulf states try to curb coronavirus(12 March 2020) Bahrain accused Iran of “biological aggression” by covering up the spread of the coronavirus and failing to stamp Bahraini travelers’ passports.
Crude posts biggest weekly losses since 2008, hit by coronavirus and Saudi price war(12 March 2020) Oil prices posted their biggest week of losses since the 2008 global financial crisis, rocked by the coronavirus outbreak and efforts by top exporter Saudi Arabia and its allies to flood the market with record levels of supply.
Iraq condemns U.S. airstrikes, warns of consequences(13 March 2020) Iraq condemned overnight US air strikes, saying they killed six people, and warned of dangerous consequences for what it called a violation of sovereignty and targeted aggression against the nation’s regular armed forces.
Israel to use ‘anti-terror- tech to counter coronavirus ‘invisible enemy’ (14 March 2020) Israel plans to use “anti-terrorism” tracking technology and a partial shutdown of its economy to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced.
Israel says its spies have procured coronavirus kits abroad (19 March 2020) Israel’s foreign intelligence service Mossad has obtained coronavirus testing kits for the country, Israeli officials announced.
Shattered by years of war, Syria braces for coronavirus spread (23 March 2020) The spread of coronavirus to Syria brings the prospect of a deadly outbreak to a population devastated by nine years of war, with ravaged hospitals and tightly-packed camps likely to accelerate infection, doctors and aid workers stated.
Istanbul prosecutor indicts Saudi suspects for Khashoggi killing (25 March 2020) Istanbul prosecutors said they had prepared an indictment against a close aide to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and a former deputy head of general intelligence over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Iran has limited scope for coronavirus economic stimulus(25 March 2020) Shut out of international capital markets and facing a further hit to its finances with the collapse in oil prices coming on top of US sanctions, Iran is struggling to shield its economy from the coronavirus pandemic.
Saudi intercepts missiles in attacks claimed by Yemen’s Houthis (28 March 2020) Saudi Arabia said its air defenses intercepted two ballistic missiles in an attack that Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group on Sunday said they had launched towards the capital Riyadh and southern areas near the Yemeni border.
Air strikes hit Houthi-held Yemeni capital Sanaa(30 March 2020) The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi group in Yemen carried out several air strikes on the capital Sanaa, witnesses and media said, killing dozens of horses at a military school.
Israel to use computer analysis to find likely coronavirus carriers(30 March 2020) Israel’s defense ministry plans to use software that analyses data gathered from mobile phones—produced, according to Israeli media, by the spyware firm NSO—to help locate likely carriers of the coronavirus in order to test them.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics
Russia, Turkey may have committed war crimes in Syria, U.N. says (2 March 2020) Russia killed civilians in air strikes in Syria last year while rebels allied to Turkey carried out murder and pillage in Kurdish areas, UN investigators announced—actions it said could amount to war crimes by both Moscow and Ankara.
U.N. official: Relief operations in Syria’s Idlib overwhelmed (3 March 2020) Relief operations to meet the needs of nearly one million people who fled recent fighting in northwest Syria’s Idlib have been overwhelmed, the UN aid chief said on Tuesday as the United States and Britain pledged to step up aid efforts.
WHO: More than 500 medical sites struck in Syria since 2016 (11 March 2020) The World Health Organization (WHO) said that it has documented more than five hundred military attacks on medical facilities in Syria since it began counting them in 2016, with nearly as many deaths among staff and patients.
U.N., Red Cross: Syrian ceasefire critical to combating coronavirus (24 March 2020) An immediate nationwide ceasefire is needed across Syria to enable an “all-out-effort” to stamp out the coronavirus and prevent it from ravaging a beleaguered population, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross announced.