[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. sanctions Iranian-Iraqi businessman over support for Iran’s Quds Force (1 May 2020) The United States imposed sanctions on an Iranian-Iraqi businessman and his mining company, accusing him of involvement in efforts by Iran’s elite Quds Force to generate revenue illegally and smuggle weapons abroad, the U.S. Treasury Department said.
GAO: U.S. should keep Congress informed about nuclear talks with Saudis (4 May 2020) The U.S. Departments of State and Energy should commit to regular briefings to relevant committees in Congress on talks about nuclear power cooperation with Saudi Arabia, a congressional watchdog announced.
Iran’s Rouhani pledges “crushing response” if U.S. extends arms embargo (6 May 2020) Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened a “crushing response” if the United States goes ahead with plans to extend an embargo on Iranian trade of conventional arms, which the United Nations is set to lift later this year.
Israel plans thousands of new settler homes ahead of Pompeo visit (6 May 2020) Israel announced a plan for thousands of new Jewish settlement homes in the occupied West Bank as Washington voiced readiness to back de facto Israeli annexations there.
U.S. announces $225 million in emergency aid to Yemen (6 May 2020) The United States announced it will provide $225 million in emergency aid to Yemen to support food programs, and called on the Houthis to do more to allow aid operations to operate “independently and neutrally”.
Turkey says it is still delivering parts for U.S. F-35 jets (7 May 2020) Turkey is still producing and delivering parts for U.S. F-35 jets despite being suspended from the program nearly a year ago over its purchase of a Russian anti-aircraft defense system, Defense Industry Director Ismail Demir claimed.
U.S. Senate upholds Trump veto of ‘insulting’ Iran war powers resolution (7 May 2020) The U.S. Senate failed to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a resolution that would have reined in his ability to wage war against Iran by requiring him to obtain congressional authorization for military action.
Trump, Saudi king reaffirm defense ties amid tensions(8 May 2020) President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman spoke by phone and “reaffirmed the strong United States-Saudi defense partnership,” the White House said, amid tensions over Saudi’s oil output.
In Israel, Pompeo discusses West Bank and coronavirus with Netanyahu (13 May 2020) U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke of the complexities of Israel’s planned de facto annexation of the occupied West Bank, saying after talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the move must be done in accordance with a U.S. peace plan.
U.S. envoy threatens to trigger return of U.N. sanctions on Iran (13 May 2020) The United States publicly threatened to trigger a return of all United Nations sanctions on Iran if the U.N. Security Council does not extend an arms embargo on Tehran that is due to expire in October under the Iran nuclear deal.
U.S. blacklists Iran’s interior minister over human rights abuses(20 May 2020) The United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s interior minister, accusing him of engaging in serious cases of human rights abuse.
White House: Trump urges Libya de-escalation on call with Erdogan (23 May 2020) U.S. President Donald Trump called for a “rapid de-escalation” of the Libyan conflict on a call with Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said, after recent gains by forces backed by Turkey prompted threats of retaliation.
U.S. to end sanctions waivers allowing some work at Iran nuclear sites (27 May 2020) The United States said it will terminate sanctions waivers that had allowed Russian, Chinese and European companies to carry out work originally designed to make it harder for Iranian nuclear sites to be used for weapons development.
Iranian foreign minister challenges Trump to return to nuclear deal (5 June 2020) Seizing on Donald Trump’s conciliatory tone after Tehran released an American Navy veteran, Iran’s foreign minister challenged the U.S. president to return to the nuclear deal that Washington abandoned two years ago.
Erdogan says he and Trump agreed on ‘some issues’ regarding Libya(8 June 2020) Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he discussed the conflict in Libya with U.S. President Donald Trump in a phone call and that the two leaders agreed on “some issues” related to developments there.
Iraq, U.S. affirm commitment to U.S. troop reduction(11 June 2020) Iraq and the United States affirmed their commitment to the reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq, a statement from the two countries said, as officials discussed Washington’s future relationship with Baghdad.
What do new U.S. sanctions mean for Syria? (15 June 2020) The toughest U.S. sanctions yet on Syria take effect this week, increasing the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad as he grapples with a deepening economic crisis after a decade of war.
U.S. hits Syria with toughest sanctions yet to push Assad to end war (17 June 2020) The United States imposed its toughest sanctions ever targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to choke off revenue for his government in a bid to force it back to United Nations-led negotiations and broker an end to the country’s nearly decade-long war.
Pompeo says up to Israel to decide on annexation as Trump aides meet (24 June 2020) U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was up to Israel to decide whether to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to do despite international opposition.
Saudi, U.S. officials call for extending U.N. arms embargo on Iran (29 June 2020) Saudi and U.S. officials urged the international community to extend a U.N. arms embargo on Iran, saying that letting the ban expire would allow Tehran to further arm its proxies and destabilize the region.
Pompeo pushes Iran arms embargo at U.N., Russia says U.S. knee on Iran’s neck (30 June 2020) U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed the U.N. Security Council to extend an arms embargo on Iran before it expires in October, prompting Russia to slam Washington’s policy toward Tehran as like “putting a knee” to the country’s neck.
Lebanon summons German ambassador over Hezbollah ban (5 May 2020) Lebanon’s foreign minister summoned the German ambassador to explain Berlin’s decision last week to ban the Shi’ite Hezbollah movement on its soil.
France pushing for tough EU response to West Bank annexation (11 May 2020) France is urging its European Union partners to consider threatening Israel with a tough response if it goes ahead with a de facto annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, three EU diplomats said.
Norway urges Israel not to annex parts of the West Bank (2 June 2020) Norway, which chairs a group of international donors to the Palestinians, urged Israel not to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
EU calls on conflict parties in Libya to withdraw foreign forces (9 June 2020) The European Union’s top diplomat has urged all conflict parties in Libya to immediately stop all military operations and engage constructively in peace negotiations.
French official: NATO must deal with, not ignore, Turkish problem (17 June 2020) NATO must not bury its head in the sand with regard to Turkey’s recent behavior towards its allies, a French defense ministry official said, accusing the Turkish navy of harassing a French warship on a NATO mission.
Europe tells U.S.: We won’t back unilateral Iran sanctions snapback (19 June 2020) Britain, France and Germany said they would not back U.S. efforts to unilaterally trigger the re-imposition of United Nations sanctions on Iran, but said they wanted talks with Tehran over its ongoing violations of a 2015 nuclear accord.
France ‘will not tolerate’ Turkey’s role in Libya, Macron says (22 June 2020) France will not tolerate Turkey’s military intervention in Libya, President Emmanuel Macron stated, accusing Ankara of playing “a dangerous game”.
U.N. report: Up to 1,200 deployed in Libya by Russian military group (6 May 2020) Russian private military contractor Wagner Group has up to 1,200 people deployed in Libya, strengthening the forces of eastern-based military leader Khalifa Haftar, according to a confidential United Nations report seen by Reuters.
U.S. says Russia is working with Syria’s Assad to move militia to Libya (7 May 2020) The United States does not support the offensive of Libya’s eastern-based military leader Khalifa Haftar against Tripoli and believes Russia is working with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to transfer militia fighters and equipment to Libya, senior U.S. officials stated.
Russia slams U.S. assertion at U.N. that it remains party to Iran nuclear deal(12 May 2020) Russia’s U.N. ambassador slammed the United States as “ridiculous” for arguing it was still a member of the Iran nuclear deal two years after it quit, so Washington could trigger a return of all United Nations sanctions on Tehran.
U.S. military says Russia deployed fighter jets to Libya (26 May 2020) The U.S. military claimed that Russia has deployed fighter aircraft to Libya to support Russian mercenaries fighting for eastern forces, adding to concerns of a new escalation in the conflict.
Russia has no objection to earlier OPEC+ meeting (31 May 2020) Russia has no objection to the next meeting of OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+, being brought forward to June 4 from the following week, three OPEC+ sources familiar with the meeting’s preparations told Reuters.
Saudi, Russia agree on oil cuts extension, raise pressure for compliance(3 June 2020) OPEC leader Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia have agreed a preliminary deal to extend existing record oil output cuts by one month while raising pressure on countries with poor compliance to deepen their cuts, OPEC+ sources told Reuters.
Russia sends second batch of fighter jets to Syria (4 June 2020) Russia flew a batch of advanced MiG-29 fighter jets to Syria, Moscow’s embassy in Damascus said, with Syrian pilots already using the planes to conduct missions within the country’s airspace.
Russia, China build case at U.N. to protect Iran from U.S. sanctions threat(9 June 2020) Russia and China have started making the case at the United Nations against Washington’s claim that it can trigger a return of all sanctions on Iran at the Security Council, with Moscow invoking a 50-year-old international legal opinion to argue against the move.
Turkey and Russia put off talks expected to tackle Libya and Syria (14 June 2020) Russia and Turkey have postponed ministerial-level talks which were expected to focus on Libya and Syria, where the two countries support opposing sides in long-standing conflicts.
Russian aircraft active in Libya, AFRICOM says (18 June 2020) Russian jets delivered to Libya in May are being actively used in the North African country, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced.
Russia quits U.N. system aimed at protecting hospitals, aid in Syria(25 June 2020) Russia said it has quit a voluntary United Nations arrangement that aimed to protect hospitals and humanitarian aid deliveries in Syria from being hit by the warring parties.
Libya’s NOC says Russian mercenaries entered oilfield, with output blocked (26 June 2020) Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) said Russian and other foreign mercenaries had entered the Sharara oilfield, adding that it completely rejects “attempts by foreign countries to prevent the resumption of oil production”.
China rejects planned U.S. moves at U.S. on Iran sanctions(14 May 2020) China rejected a planned push by the United States to extend a United Nations arms embargo on Iran and, if that fails, Washington’s assertion that it could trigger a return of all sanctions on Tehran at the U.N. Security Council.0
China, U.S. coronavirus tensions spill over in U.N. Syria meeting (19 May 2020) Growing tensions between China and the United States around the coronavirus pandemic publicly spilled over during a U.N. Security Council meeting on humanitarian aid operations in Syria as envoys traded barbs over global leadership.
U.S. blacklists Chinese logistics firm over business with Iran airline(19 May 2020) Washington imposed sanctions on a China-based company it accused of acting on behalf of U.S.-blacklisted Mahan Air, the Treasury Department said, and denounced the Iranian airline’s flights to Venezuela.
Other Countries/Middle East
Syrian army says Israeli jets hit military outposts in Aleppo province (4 May 2020) Syrian air defenses thwarted an Israeli missile attack on a research center and a military base in the northern province of Aleppo, state media announced, in the fifth such strikes in two weeks on suspected Iranian targets.
‘What’s the point of staying?’: Gulf faces expatriate exodus (7 May 2020) A popular Saudi talk show host told private businesses it was their national duty to lay off foreign rather than local employees, warning that the dominance of Saudi Arabia’s workforce by expatriates was a “real danger”.
Turkey threatens to target Haftar’s forces in Libya if attacks persist (10 May 2020) Turkey announced it would deem the forces of Libyan General Khalifa Haftar “legitimate targets” if what it termed their attacks on its interests and diplomatic missions in Libya persisted.
Turkey says UAE spreading chaos in Middle East (12 May 2020) Turkey accused the United Arab Emirates of bringing chaos to the Middle East through its interventions in Libya and Yemen, allegations which are likely to inflame tensions between the regional rivals.
Saudi wealth fund boosts U.S. holdings with stakes in Citi, Boeing, Facebook (16 May 2020) Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has bought minority stakes in major American companies including Boeing, Facebook and Citigroup, a regulatory filing showed, giving it a portfolio of nearly $10 billion in U.S.-listed stocks.
Israel’s outgoing defense minister says Iran starting to withdraw from Syria (18 May 2020) Iran has begun withdrawing its forces from Syria, Israel’s outgoing defense minister claimed, without offering any evidence to support his assertion.
Eastern Libyan forces pull out of parts of Tripoli (19 May 2020) Eastern Libyan forces pulled out of parts of Tripoli overnight, they said, after losing one of their main strongholds in western Libya on Monday, in a major blow to their year-long campaign to seize the capital.
Threat to hit Turkey in Libya underscores risk of escalation(21 May 2020) Turkey warned against any attacks on its interests in Libya by Khalifa Haftar’s forces after his Libyan National Army (LNA) threatened to respond to recent military setbacks by striking Turkish positions in the country.
Palestinians shun CIA after declaring end to security coordination with U.S. and Israel(21 May 2020) The Palestinians have suspended contacts with the CIA after announcing an end to security coordination with Israel and the United States in protest at Israeli proposals to annex territory in the West Bank, a Palestinian official stated.
Israel’s Netanyahu says he won’t miss West Bank annexation opportunity (25 May 2020) Israel will not miss a “historic opportunity” to extend its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, calling the move one of his new government’s top tasks.
Foreign powers in Libya risk ever bloodier stalemate (29 May 2020) As Turkish drones helped drive eastern Libyan forces back from Tripoli this month, Russia was said to be reinforcing them with warplanes, raising the stakes in a stalemated civil war that has partitioned the country.
Israeli defense chief says he’s preparing for consequences of West Bank annexations (1 June 2020) Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he ordered the military to step up preparations for Israel’s pending annexation of parts of the West Bank, a plan that could stoke Palestinian violence.
Eastern forces quit Libyan capital after year-long assault (4 June 2020) Libya’s internationally recognized government regained control of Tripoli, driving eastern forces out of the capital after a 14-month battle in which foreign powers poured in arms and fighters.
Turkey vows more support to secure gains in Libya conflict(4 June 2020) President Tayyip Erdogan vowed to ramp up Turkey’s support for its ally in Libya to lock in recent military gains, and promised joint exploration for oil at sea following talks in Ankara ahead of a potential ceasefire push.
Qatar’s foreign minister says there is a new initiative to end Gulf crisis (5 June 2020) Qatar’s foreign minister claimed there is a new initiative to end the three-year-old Gulf crisis and that Qatar is open to negotiations, Qatar’s Al Jazeera broadcaster reported on its twitter account.
Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan resume talks on Blue Nile dam(9 June 2020) Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia resumed talks on the giant Blue Nile hydropower dam after the failure of a U.S-led mediation effort earlier this year, a Sudanese official said.
Turkey eyes Libya bases for lasting military foothold (15 June 2020) Turkey and Libya’s internationally recognized government are discussing possible Turkish use of two military bases in the North African country, a Turkish source said, with a view to a lasting Turkish presence in the south Mediterranean.
Greek PM visits Israel, hoping to restore tourism and warning on Turkey (16 June 2020) Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited Israel in a show of confidence in the countries’ anti-coronavirus measures which Athens hopes can be translated into a resumption of tourism.
Senior official: UAE can work with Israel, despite political differences (16 June 2020) The United Arab Emirates can work with Israel on some areas, including fighting the new coronavirus and on technology, while still having political differences with the state, a senior official stated.
Egypt has a legitimate right to intervene in Libya, Sisi says (20 June 2020) Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi claimed that his country has a legitimate right to intervene in neighboring Libya and ordered his army to be ready to carry out any mission outside the country, if necessary.
Morocco used NSO’s spyware to snoop on journalist, Amnesty says(22 June 2020) Technology developed by Israeli cyber security company NSO Group was used by the Moroccan government to spy on journalist Omar Radi, a critic of Morocco’s human rights record, Amnesty International stated.
Saudi Arabia to bar arrivals from abroad to attend he haj (22 June 2020) Saudi Arabia announced it will bar arrivals from abroad to attend the haj this year due to the coronavirus, allowing only a limited number of Saudi citizens and residents to make the pilgrimage with social distancing measures enforced.
Syrian army says Israel hits several bases across country (23 June 2020) The Syrian army responded to Israeli strikes on southern, central and eastern Syria in which two soldiers were killed, the army announced, in what military defectors and intelligence sources said was a wave of raids that targeted Iranian bases.
Clock ticks on push to resolve Egypt-Ethiopia row over giant Nile dam (26 June 2020) Egypt is counting on international pressure to unlock a deal it sees as crucial to protecting its scarce water supplies from the Nile river before the expected start-up of a giant dam upstream in Ethiopia in July.
U.S. sanctions, coronavirus make for Iran’s toughest year, Rouhani says (28 June 2020) Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that his country is experiencing its toughest year because of U.S. sanctions coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iran issues warrant for Trump over killing of top general (29 June 2020) Iran has issued an arrest warrant for U.S. President Donald Trump and 35 others over the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani and has asked Interpol for help, Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr claimed, according to the Fars news agency.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics
U.N.: Yemen warring parties make ‘significant progress’ on truce (14 May 2020) The warring parties in Yemen have made “significant progress” toward agreeing a ceasefire, U.N. Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths told the Security Council.
Amid ‘some calm’, U.N. envoy urges U.S., Russia push for Syria peace (18 May 2020) The United Nations Syria mediator urged the United States and Russia to make the most of “some calm” in the war-torn country and talk with each other about a push for peace.
U.N. envoy: Syria’s warring parties agree to Geneva talks (19 May 2020) Opposing sides in the Syrian civil war have agreed to reconvene in Geneva for negotiations on the constitution, United Nations Special Envoy Geir Pedersen announced, saying that it could provide the arena for bridging “deep, deep mistrust”.
U.N. agency: Child labor, marriages on rise in Yemen as COVID spreads(26 May 2020) The U.N. refugee agency stated that its work in Yemen was near a “potential breaking point” as coronavirus spreads in the war-damaged country, with rising numbers of families resorting to begging, child labor and marrying of children.
U.N. seeks $2.4 billion for Yemen, warns operation nearly broke(28 May 2020) U.N. agencies trying to help the millions at risk from the conflict in Yemen are nearly broke, U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock announced, announcing a drive to raise some $2.4 billion next week to pay for the world biggest aid operation.
Donors promise Yemen $1.35 billion, falling short of U.N. target to save aid operations(2 June 2020) International donors raised $1.35 billion in humanitarian aid for Yemen on Tuesday but the amount fell short of the United Nations’ target of $2.4 billion needed to save the world’s biggest aid operation from severe cutbacks.
U.N. Libya mission says warring sides have engaged in truce talks(19 June 2020) Libya’s warring sides have begun to engage in a new round of ceasefire talks, the United Nations claimed, after rapid gains by the internationally recognized government ended with heavy fighting around the central coastal city of Sirte.
U.N. decries reported mass graves found in Libya town after LNA retreat (11 June 2020) The United Nations mission in Libya stated that it was horrified by the reported discovery of mass graves in the town of Tarhouna after the internationally recognized government recaptured it from eastern-based forces.
Saudi-led coalition cut from U.N. blacklist of warring parties killing children(15 June 2020) U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres removed a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition from a United Nations blacklist, several years after it was first named and shamed for killing and injuring children in Yemen.
U.N. rights experts condemn Israel’s annexation plan and U.S. support (16 June 2020) U.N. human rights experts said that Israel’s plan to annex significant parts of the occupied West Bank would violate international law banning the taking of territory by force, and urged other countries to actively oppose it.
Yemen’s government, separatists agree on ceasefire, Saudi-led coalition says(22 June 2020) Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and southern separatist forces have agreed on a ceasefire and will begin talks in Saudi Arabia on implementing a peace deal, the Saudi-led coalition said.
U.N. chief calls on Israel to abandon West Bank annexation plan (24 June 2020) United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Israel to abandon plans to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, warning this threatened prospects for peace with the Palestinians.
U.N. raises $7.7 billion for Syrians beset by war and COVID-19 (29 June 2020) The United Nations raised $7.7 billion in humanitarian aid for Syria, where nine years of war have displaced millions in a humanitarian crisis exacerbated by soaring food prices and the coronavirus crisis.