[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.]
Syria says U.S. oil firm signed deal with Kurdish-led rebels (2 August 2020) Syria’s foreign ministry claimed that an American oil company had signed an agreement with Kurdish-led rebels who control northeastern oilfields in what it described as an illegal deal aimed at “stealing” Syria’s crude oil.
Pompeo, Taliban negotiator discuss Afghan peace process (3 August 2020) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a video meeting with the Taliban’s chief negotiator, Mullah Baradar Akhund, to discuss the state of the Afghanistan peace process, an insurgent spokesman said.
Trump security adviser warns against foreign military involvement in Libya (4 August 2020) The United States condemned all foreign military involvement in Libya, including the use of mercenaries and private military contractors, and said Libyans themselves must rebuild a unified country.
Pompeo says U.N. Security Council to vote next week on extending Iran arms embargo (5 August 2020) The United Nations Security Council will vote next week on a US bid to extend an international arms embargo on Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed, despite the warnings of some diplomats that the measure lacks support.
U.S. imposes Libya-related sanctions on individuals, company (6 August 2020) The United States imposed sanctions on three individuals and a Malta-based company, accusing them of acting as a network of smugglers and contributing to instability in Libya.
U.S. State Department says IG found U.S. arms sales to Saudi did not break law (10 August 2020) A final report by the office of the State Department Acting Inspector General found Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s emergency certification on arms sales to Gulf Arab states including Saudi Arabia last year did not break the law, a senior department official announced.
Syria’s Assad says new U.S. sanctions are part of drive to “choke” Syrians (12 August 2020) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that sweeping new US sanctions amounted to a new stage of economic warfare against his government and were part of long-standing US efforts to “choke” the living standards of Syrians.
Pompeo: U.S. will do utmost to renew Iran arms embargo(14 August 2020) The United States will do everything in its power to renew the international arms embargo on Iran under review at the United Nations, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated.
White House officials seek momentum with other countries after Israel-UAE deal (14 August 2020) Senior White House officials sought to use the momentum from a historic deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to appeal to more Arab and Muslim countries to set aside long-standing tensions and make similar agreements.
Turkey slams Biden’s past call for U.S. to back Erdogan opponents (15 August 2020) Turkey condemned as “interventionist” comments that US Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden had made in December when he advocated a new US approach to the “autocrat” President Tayyip Erdogan and support for opposition parties.
U.S. won’t approve Israeli annexations for “some time” Kushner says (17 August 2020) The United States will not consent to Israeli annexations in the occupied West Bank for “some time,” preferring to focus on the Israel-UAE normalization deal and wider regional peacemaking, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner claimed.
Despite U.S. sanctions bid, Iran aims to keep nuclear deal alive until U.S. election (18 August 2020) The fate of a fragile 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers hinges on the result of the US presidential election in November, not a planned US bid this week to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Tehran, said several Iranian officials.
U.S. imposes Iran-related sanctions on UAE-based companies (19 August 2020) The United States imposed sanctions on two United Arab Emirates-based companies, the US Treasury Department said, accusing them of providing material support to Iranian airline Mahan Air.
U.S.: “Rock bottom” Lebanon must reform for long-term aid (19 August 2020) There is no more foreign money for a Lebanese leadership that enriches itself and spurns the popular will, a top US official stated, saying Lebanon had hit “rock bottom” with its 4 August port explosion and must now enact profound reforms.
Pompeo warns Russia, China against ignoring move to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran (19 August 2020) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Russia and China not to disregard the re-imposition of all United Nations sanctions on Iran, which President Donald Trump has directed him to trigger at the UN Security Council in New York.
Trump expects Saudi Arabia to join UAE-Israel deal (19 August 2020) US President Donald Trump said he expected Saudi Arabia to join the agreement announced last week by Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalize diplomatic ties and forge a broad new relationship.
Pompeo reassured Netanyahu U.S. will ensure Israel’s military advantage (24 August 2020) The United States will ensure Israel retains a military advantage in the Middle East under any future US arms deals with the United Arab Emirates, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted.
Israeli delegation to visit UAE next week, accompanied by Trump aides (25 August 2020) An Israeli delegation and top aides to US President Donald Trump will fly together to the United Arab Emirates for talks on cementing the two Middle East countries’ deal to normalize relations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Pompeo discusses Gulf unity, regional stability with Bahraini leaders(26 August 2020) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed regional stability and Gulf unity with Bahraini leaders as part of a Middle East tour following an accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates on normalizing relations.
Pompeo discusses Libyan conflict, Iran with UAE counterpart (26 August 2020) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the Libyan conflict and countering Iranian regional influence with his Emirati counterpart during a brief visit to the United Arab Emirates.
U.S. troops injured in Russian vehicle collision in Syria, U.S. officials say (26 August 2020) US troops in Syria were wounded this week when a Russian military patrol slammed into their vehicle, US officials said, as Washington condemned the incident as a violation of safety protocols agreed with Moscow.
U.S. expected to reduce troops in Iraq by a third to about 3,500 (28 August 2020) The United States is expected to reduce its troops presence in Iraq by about a third in the coming months, a US official announced, a move that had been expected after President Donald Trump’s administration committed to a reduction recently.
Israeli, U.S. officials land in UAE, Kushner urges Palestinians to negotiate (31 August 2020) Senior US and Israeli officials landed in the United Arab Emirates on a historic trip to finalize a pact marking open relations between Israel and the Gulf state, and they told Palestinians it was now time for them to negotiate peace.
Macron says aid to blast-stricken Lebanon will not go to “corrupt hands” (6 August 2020) French President Emmanuel Macron promised aid to Lebanon but reassured angry citizens reeling from a blast that killed 145 people that no blank cheques will be given to its leaders unless they enact reforms and end rife corruption.
Amid tensions with Turkey, Greece in joint maneuvers with France(13 August 2020) The French military conducted training exercises with Greek forces off the southern island of Crete, defense sources said, as tension persisted with Turkey over disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.
France’s Macron pushes for a government of technocrats to rescue Lebanon (13 August 2020) French President Emmanuel Macron is pushing Lebanon’s political leaders to install an interim technocratic government able to enact reforms, win back public confidence and persuade donors to release billions of dollars in aid.
Turkish, Qatari, and German ministers visit Libya amid ceasefire efforts(17 August 2020) Turkey and Qatar’s defense ministers and Germany’s foreign minister visited the Libyan capital Tripoli amid efforts to secure a ceasefire in the divided country, Libyan and Turkish media reported.
France joins military exercises in east Mediterranean (26 August 2020) France is joining military exercises with Italy, Greece and Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean amid a worsening dispute between Turkey and Greece over energy resources in the region, Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly announced.
Turkey, Greece to hold rival naval drills as Germany aims to cool row (26 August 2020) Turkey and Greece were set to hold separate naval drills in the same region of the eastern Mediterranean on Tuesday, escalating tensions over overlapping resource claims ahead of talks in Athens and Ankara by Germany’s top diplomat.
France’s Macron says he set red lines with Turkey in eastern Mediterranean (28 August 2020) French President Emmanuel Macron said that he had taken a tough stance over the summer with regard to Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean, setting red lines because Ankara respects actions not words.
EU set to sanction Turkey over ships in disputed east Med exploration area (28 August 2020) The European Union is preparing sanctions against Turkey that could be discussed at the bloc’s next summit on 24 September in response to the eastern Mediterranean dispute with Greece, the European Union’s top diplomat announced.
Russian planes bomb rebel-held area in Syria’s Latakia, say opposition, war monitor (3 August 2020) Russian warplanes bombed Syrian rebel-held mountainous areas in the western coastal province of Latakia as Syrian government forces hit the area with artillery and rocket fire, an opposition group and a war monitor said.
China welcomes Putin’s proposed summit on Iran (17 August 2020) China welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposed summit of world leaders to avoid “confrontation” over a US threat to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran.
Other Countries/Middle East
Lebanese foreign minister quits over slow reforms, Aoun adviser takes over (3 August 2020) Lebanon named the president’s diplomatic adviser as new foreign minister after Nassif Hitti quit the post, blaming a lack of political will to enact reforms to halt a financial meltdown which he warned could turn Lebanon into a failed state.
Israeli aircraft hit Syria after squad tried to bomb border fence, military says (3 August 2020) Israeli aircraft attacked targets in Syria, the military claimed, describing the strikes as retaliation for an attempted bombing of the border fence by an enemy squad.
Egypt to withdraw from latest dam talks for internal consultations (4 August 2020) Egypt announced that it has decided to withdraw from the latest round of tripartite negotiations with Ethiopia over its multi-billion-dollar dam on the Blue Nile for internal consultations after Addis Ababa proposed new draft of filling guidelines.
Turkey considering quitting treaty on violence against women (5 August 2020) President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party is considering whether to pull Turkey out of an international accord designed to protect women, party officials said, alarming campaigners who see the pact as key to combating rising domestic violence.
Countries rally around Lebanon after Beirut blast (5 August 2020) Countries and international organizations lined up to help Lebanon after a massive warehouse explosion sent a blast wave across Beirut, killing at least one hundred people and injuring nearly four thousand.
Egypt and Greece sign agreement on exclusive economic zone (6 August 2020) Egypt and Greece signed an agreement designating an exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean between the two countries, an area containing promising oil and gas reserves, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said.
Erdogan says Turkey restarted energy exploration in east Mediterranean (7 August 2020) President Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey had resumed energy exploration work in the eastern Mediterranean as Greece had not kept its promises regarding such activities in the region.
Lebanon’s battered economy dealt fresh blow after port blast hits “Achilles heel” (7 August 2020) Lebanon’s economy, already sinking before the explosion that knocked out its main port, could now shrink by double the rate previously forecast for this year, making it even harder to secure the financing the country needs to get back on its feet.
Greece calls Turkey’s seismic survey in Mediterranean illegal (10 August 2020) Turkey dispatched a vessel to conduct a seismic survey in a disputed area in the eastern Mediterranean, a move which Greece said was illegal and is likely to heighten tensions between the two NATO allies.
Israel says it thwarted foreign cyber-attack on defense industry(12 August 2020) Israel said it thwarted a cyber-attack on its defense industry by a hacking group known as Lazarus, which the United States says is run by North Korean intelligence.
Israel, UAE to normalize relations in shift in Mideast politics; West Bank annexations on hold (13 August 2020) Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced that they will normalize diplomatic ties and forge a broad new relationship, a move that reshapes the order of Middle East politics from the Palestinian issue to the fight against Iran.
UAE says Israel agreement removes time-bomb of annexation (13 August 2020) The United Arab Emirates became the first Gulf Arab country to reach a deal on normalizing relations with Israel, securing an Israeli commitment to halt further annexations of Palestinian territories.
UAE’s Israel deal met with Arab dismay but quiet welcome in the Gulf (14 August 2020) From cries of “betrayal” to fears about “falling dominoes”, the deal making the United Arab Emirates the third Arab state to forge ties with Israel stirred anger and dismay around the Middle East, but a cautious welcome from the United Arab Emirates’ Gulf allies.
Erdogan says Turkey “will not back down” in east Mediterranean standoff (15 August 2020) President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will not back down to threats of sanctions nor to incursions on its claimed territory in the Mediterranean Sea, where it is in a standoff with EU-member Greece over oil and gas exploration rights.
Israel says it expects Bahrain and Oman to follow UAE in formalizing ties(16 August 2020) Bahrain and Oman could be the next Gulf countries to follow the United Arab Emirates in formalizing ties with Israel, Israel’s intelligence minister claimed.
Netanyahu says Israel preparing for direct flights to UAE over Saudi Arabia (17 August 2020) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel is preparing for direct flights, over Saudi Arabia, to the United Arab Emirates as part of its normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates.
Gaza’s lone power plant shuts down amid tensions with Israel (18 August 2020) Gaza’s lone power plant shut down, less than a week after Israel suspended fuel shipments to the Palestinian enclave over the launching of incendiary balloons that have caused brush fires in southern Israel.
Abbas says Palestinians not worried about “nonsense” Israel-UAE deal (18 August 2020) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Palestinians were not concerned about the normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, referring to the accord as “nonsense.”
Saudi remains committed to Arab Peace Initiative for Israel peace, foreign minister says (19 August 2020) Saudi Arabia remains committed to peace with Israel on the basis of the longstanding Arab Peace Initiative, its foreign minister said in the first official comment since the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalize relations with Israel.
Israel deal should remove any hurdle to F-35 sale, UAE official says (20 August 2020) The United Arab Emirates’ accord to normalize ties with Israel should remove “any hurdle” for the United States to sell the F-35 stealth fighter jet to the Gulf Arab state, a senior Emirati official stated.
Iran’s Rouhani: Talks possible if U.S. returns to 2015 nuclear deal (25 August 2020) If the United States wants an agreement with Iran, it must first come back to Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers that Washington abandoned two years ago, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated.
UAE, Israeli ministers pledge defense cooperation (25 August 2020) Top UAE and Israeli defense officials held their first publicly-acknowledged phone call since their countries’ agreement to normalize ties, officials said, heralding possible security cooperation.
Israel strikes Hezbollah posts in Lebanon after shots fired at troops, military says (25 August 2020) The Israeli military struck what it said were posts belonging to Lebanon’s Shi’i Hizballah group after shots were fired at troops in Israel, in a flareup that added to already high tensions along the frontier.
Israel’s top court rules for removal of settler homes from Palestinian land (27 August 2020) Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that a cluster of homes in a Jewish settlement outpost in the occupied West Bank was built on privately owned Palestinian land and must therefore be removed.
Greece ratifies deal with Egypt, Turkey to hold military drills in east Mediterranean (27 August 2020) Greece ratified an accord on maritime boundaries with Egypt, hours after Turkey extended the operation of a seismic survey vessel in the Eastern Mediterranean and said it will hold firing exercises in the region next month.
Israeli delegation plane will fly over Saudi to UAE, sources say (30 August 2020) An airliner carrying Israeli and US delegations to the United Arab Emirates will fly over Saudi Arabia, according to a source familiar with the itinerary, in what would be the first publicly acknowledged entry of an Israeli plane into Saudi air space.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics
GCC unites to seek U.N. extension of Iran arms embargo (9 August 2020) The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has asked the United Nations to extend an international arms embargo on Iran, a move pushed strongly by the United States.
For some Lebanese, U.N. tribunal’s Hariri ruling is not enough (18 August 2020) The son of Lebanon’s slain former premier Rafik al-Hariri vowed he would not rest until the killers are punished after a UN-backed court convicted a member of the Iran-backed Hizballah group of involvement in the 2005 assassination.
Red Cross: Libya’s humanitarian crisis deepens, talks needed (20 August 2020) Libya’s humanitarian crisis is worsening, compounded by the halt of oil operations, blockade of ports, and spread of COVID-19, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced.
U.N. Security Council president dismisses U.S. sanctions move on Iran (25 August 2020) The president of the UN Security Council, Indonesia, said it was “not in the position to take further action” on a US bid to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran because there is no consensus in the fifteen-member body.
U.N. to renew Lebanon peacekeeping mandate, reduce troops (28 August 2020) The UN Security Council will extend the mandate for a peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon for another year, but will reduce the number of troops amid US and Israeli criticism over the mission’s efficiency, diplomats said.