[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.]
Israel warns US over plan to reopen Jerusalem consulate (1 September 2021) Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid voiced his concern regarding the Biden administration’s intention to reinstate the American consulate in Jerusalem. The Trump administration closed the consulate, which previously had an important role in maintaining ties with Palestinian officials until they moved the US embassy to Jerusalem. The Biden administration is seeking to reinvigorate ties with Palestinian officials, but Lapid warned that reopening the consulate could potentially destabilize the newly formed Israeli government that recently ousted longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
US sanctions four Iranians over alleged plot to kidnap journalist (3 September 2021) The US Treasury Department announced sanctions on four members of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) who were accused of plotting to kidnap a reporter based in the United States. Senior Iranian intelligence official Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani has also been implicated in other operations to silence other dissidents in the United States, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
US top diplomat Blinken visits Qatar in wake of Taliban takeover | Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani News (7 September 2021) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to thank them for their help in evacuating 58,000 people from Afghanistan. Qatar continues to be an important mediator in Afghanistan, as the Taliban’s political bureau is located in Doha. Qatar is currently negotiating with the Taliban to reopen the airport in Kabul and has been sending humanitarian aid to the country on a near-daily basis.
Biden authorises nearly $50m in aid to Lebanon's cash-strapped army (8 September 2021) US President Joe Biden approved the transfer of $50 million to the Lebanese army, to help stabilize a vital institution of a country that has been ravaged by an economic crisis. The current army salary places soldiers below the poverty line, with the military paying the equivalent of $84 per month, as the government looks to mitigate the effects of a fuel shortage that has provoked severe power outages.
US, Germany press for Iran to return soon to nuclear talks (8 September 2021) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas convened to discuss the state of the nuclear talks with Iran, with Maas stating that the two to three months that the Iranian delegation requested due to the change in administration is an unacceptably long timetable. Secretary Blinken backed his German counterpart stating that the option of returning to the deal would not be indefinite. Since the US withdrawal under the Trump administration, Iran has violated the terms of the previous deal to pressure Europe to offer more concessions to outweigh the sanctions that went into place after the US withdrawal.
The US-Saudi 'special' relationship 20 years after 9/11 | Saudi Arabia (9 September 2021) Many analysts were quick to contextualize and explain the nature of the US-Saudi relationship in the aftermath of 9/11, but it could be argued that the period after 2011 did more to deteriorate ties between Riyadh and Washington. There remain questions within the Saudi government about the US’s commitment to being in lockstep with Riyadh on defense issues, particularly after the subdued response from the Trump administration following the 2019 Iranian attack on Saudi oil facilities. This, combined with the fact that the US-Saudi relationship has become increasingly partisan, has pushed Saudi Arabia to look elsewhere to find partners that will be more in line with their interests in the region, as the US looks to lessen their military involvement in the Middle East.
Families expect US release of FBI report on Saudi role in 9/11 (10 September 2021) A 16 page FBI report detailing the role of the Saudi Arabian government in the 9/11 attacks is expected to be released before the 20th anniversary of the attacks. Families of the victims are suing the Saudi Arabian government in a federal court, hoping that the report will shed light on their involvement. While the 9/11 commission found no conclusive evidence that the Saudi government was directly involved, material declassified during the Obama administration showed that there was some level of contact between hijackers and individuals connected with the Saudi government.
US pulls missile defences in Saudi Arabia amid Yemen attacks (11 September 2021) The US military has removed Patriot missile defense systems from Saudi Arabia in a move that has caused unease among Gulf Arab states that are seeing the US security focus shift more towards Asia than the Middle East. Recent Houthi drone attacks on Saudi Arabian soil and longstanding tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have heightened the prospect of conflict in the region, yet both Riyadh and Washington issued statements reaffirming the strength of the US-Saudi relationship.
US calls out Saudi Arabia over aid worker ‘torture’ allegations (13 September 2021) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress would monitor the appeal hearing of Saudi Arabian aid worker Abdulrahman al-Sadhan who, according to the NGO MENA Rights Group, has been a victim of torture during his detention by Saudi authorities. US State Department spokesman Ned Price echoed Pelosi’s concern, yet many believe the Biden Administration has not gone far enough in castigating Saudi Arabia for their human rights violations. Their decision to not enact sanctions on Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, after the US intelligence community effectively placed the murder of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his feet, has been met with criticism.
U.S. to hold $130 mln of Egypt's military aid over human rights -State Dept (15 September 2021) The US State Department announced they would withhold $130 million of the $300 million military aid package apportioned to Egypt this fiscal year. Human rights groups had called for the suspension of the entire aid package citing Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s brutal repression of political dissidents, particularly those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and secular activism. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the rest of the aid package would be freed if the Egyptian government met certain human rights criteria, but critics claim that the $130 million on hold is insufficient to incentivize Sisi to make meaningful concessions.
US sanctions financial networks supporting Hezbollah and Iran (17 September 2021) The US Department of State in conjunction with the Treasury Department unveiled sanctions against financial intermediaries aiding Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF). The sanctions against these financial brokers come as Iran recently announced an agreement with Hezbollah to send Iranian fuel to Lebanon, which is experiencing a severe fuel shortage.
US House approves $1bn for Israel’s Iron Dome after uproar (23 September 2021) After an intense congressional debate, the US House of Representatives passed a 1 billion USD bill to fund Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. The provision was initially a part of a wider spending bill to avoid a US government shutdown but was ultimately voted on separately. This aid package is a significant increase in financial support for Israeli missile defense, but the separation of the aid from the broader spending bill reflects the growing strength of the progressive faction of the Democratic Party that is concerned with Israel’s human rights record.
US senators urge State Dept to confront Bahrain’s ‘repression’ (24 September 2021) A group of US Senators have written a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressing him to challenge Bahrain on their human rights abuses. Bahrain, a Shia majority country ruled by a Sunni monarchy, has been quelling dissent since the 2011 pro-democracy protests and has been accused of torturing and forcing confessions from political prisoners. As President Biden has reiterated his desire to place human rights at the center of his foreign policy, activists and elected officials have warned him that by not speaking out he is legitimizing the Bahrain’s government, a US ally, in repressing their own citizens.
France, Germany urge Iran to return speedily to nuclear deal talks (1 September 2021) French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian to resume negotiations for the nuclear deal during a phone call between the two. Since the United States left the agreement in 2018, Iran has been steadily increasing their production of enriched uranium, and all signs indicate that newly elected Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi will adopt a more uncompromising position to the talks than his predecessor Hassan Rouhani.
Iran warns West of IAEA move as U.S says time running out to save nuclear deal (8 September 2021) The International Atomic Energy Agency released a report stating that they were not offered explanations for uranium traces at undeclared sites and that they needed immediate access to monitoring equipment to oversee the state of Iran’s nuclear program. However, Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi warned that he viewed these measures as provocative and admonished Western states that Iran would not respond constructively if they acceded to the demands of the UN atomic watchdog.
Syria: France upholds guilty verdict against Bashar al-Assad's uncle for money laundering (9 September 2021) Former Syrian Vice President Rifaat al-Assad, who had been convicted of money laundering by a French court, saw his guilty sentence upheld. Rifaat al-Assad is the uncle of current Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and led the armed forces in suppressing protests in the Syrian city of Hama which left 40,000 dead.
German FM arrives in Libya to reopen the country's embassy (9 September 2021) German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas traveled to Tripoli to reopen the German embassy. Libya has been in tumult since a 2011 NATO-backed insurrection deposed Moammar Gadaffi and has more recently experienced conflict as military commander Khalifa Hifter has led an insurgency supported by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to take back Tripoli. Germany has played an important role in mediating conflict in the region and pledged in a UN conference in Berlin to keep foreign forces at bay as Libya looks to hold elections in December.
EU Parliament resolution urges sanctions on Lebanon officials (16 September 2021) The EU passed a motion calling for targeted sanctions on Lebanese officials involved in stalling independent investigations into the origins of the port explosion in Beirut, and for protracting the economic crisis plaguing Lebanon by turning down an IMF recovery plan. The bailout package was contingent upon economic reforms that would expose the sources of corruption in Lebanon’s Central Bank. The EU motion also proposed a timeline for elections in May of 2022 as they adopt a more involved hardline position regarding their policy on Lebanon.
Turkey warned by Council of Europe to release Osman Kavala or face action (17 September 2021) The Council of Europe is set to begin enacting punitive measures against Turkey unless they release Osman Kavala, a philanthropist who has been detained for his involvement in anti-government protests. The European Human Rights Council concluded in 2019 that his arrest was politically motivated, and opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has pointed out that the EHRC ruling trumps domestic law according to the Turkish constitution.
Germany’s post-Merkel Middle East policy: What to expect (20 September 2021) While German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to leave her post this year after 16 years as head of state, there is little reason to believe that Germany’s Middle East policy will deviate significantly with the new German government. The Merkel era was marked by unwavering support for Israel’s security as a raison d’etat, and the admission of several hundred thousand Syrian refugees. Germany will also likely continue to pursue its humanitarian and democratic priorities in the region even though it also provides armaments to a wide variety of state actors in the Middle East.
Putin meets Assad, takes swipe at US and Turkish forces in Syria (14 September 2021) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Vladimir Putin in person for the first time since 2018. Putin declared that the most important problem in the Syrian civil war is the presence of foreign troops that are combatting Assad’s forces without a UN mandate. Russia has been Syria’s most important ally, and the airstrikes provided by the Russian air force were crucial in helping Assad recover the territory he had lost to rebel forces.
Erdogan and Putin to discuss Syria in Sochi - Turkish officials (17 September 2021) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet Vladimir Putin in Sochi, with the conflict in Syria high on the discussion agenda. The two had negotiated a ceasefire in the northwestern region of Idlib in Syria, but an attack there earlier this month killed two Turkish soldiers and has imperiled the armistice between government and rebel forces. Although they also supported separate factions in the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan earlier this year, Turkey is also expected to move forward on a purchase of an anti-aircraft defense system from Russia.
Iran denounces ‘unilateralism’ as it becomes full SCO member (17 September 2021) Iran has now officially joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and in his inaugural speech, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi voiced his intention to expand Iran’s political, economic, and defense ties to neutralize the effects of US sanctions. Raisi claimed that Iran’s admission to the SCO exemplifies its commitment to multilateralism in the region and contrasts with the unilateral approach that the US demonstrated when they left the JCPOA in 2015. Raisi also hinted at increased cooperation with China on their Belt and Road Initiative citing Iran’s energy supplies and geopolitical position.
Other Countries/ Middle East
Are frosty relations between Turkey and Armenia thawing? (1 September 2021) Re-elected Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan expressed his desire to ameliorate relations with Turkey nearly four decades after the borders between the two countries were closed. In addition to the economic benefits, both countries are also keen to reap the geopolitical rewards of improved relations. For Turkey, this means closer ties with Russia and playing a role in negotiating regional conflicts such as the Nagorno-Karabakh peace deal brokered by Moscow earlier this year, and for Armenia, this means stabilizing the armistice with Azerbaijan.
Libya’s foreign minister says December polls could be delayed (1 September 2021) Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush suggested that the elections scheduled for late December could be postponed if the Libyan Parliament does not move forward on passing an electoral law that remains in the legislative chamber. Libya possesses Africa’s greatest oil reserves and has been in a state of conflict since Muammar Gaddafi was deposed in 2011. Currently, 20,000 foreign fighters continue to combat within Libya, per UN estimates.
Kuwait oil minister says OPEC+ keen on providing markets with enough supplies - KUNA (1 September 2021) Kuwaiti oil minister Mohammad Abdulatif al-Fares reiterated that OPEC and its partners will continue to supply markets at the current rate of oil production. The US has pressured OPEC to increase its quota, but they have not yet yielded to this pressure.
New Iranian foreign minister hints at nuclear deal approach (1 September 2021) In his first statement Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian echoed the Iranian President’s desire for a two to three month window before returning to nuclear talks in Vienna. Still to be determined is who will lead these negotiations, with some speculating that it could fall to Iran's Supreme National Security Council, rather than the Foreign Ministry which represented the Iranian government during the Rouhani administration.
Leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Palestinian Authority meet in Cairo (2 September 2021) PA’s Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and King Abdullah II of Jordan met in Cairo to bolster the Israel-Hamas ceasefire negotiated in May and the framework for the two-state solution. The Egyptian government played a vital role in the truce between Israel and Hamas and is keen on preserving the peace between the two sides. While all three leaders admonished the Israeli government against developing illegal settlements in East Jerusalem, el-Sisi also stressed the need for unity in the Palestinian camp to move forward on the two-state solution.
Israel appoints first ambassador to Bahrain (2 September 2021) The Israeli government named their first ambassador to Bahrain, Eitan Na'eh, who previously served as the head of the Israeli mission at the embassy in the United Arab Emirates. The normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries was mediated in the Abraham Accords during the Trump administration.
UAE sends plane carrying aid to Afghanistan: State media (3 September 2021) According to the official state news agency, the United Arab Emirates has sent its first plane with medical and food aid to Afghanistan after the Taliban successfully ousted the central government led by now former President Ashraf Ghani. The Emiratis were one of only three countries that recognized the Taliban when they previously held power, and are now playing an essential role in stabilizing Afghanistan along with Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait.
Lebanon gov’t delegation in highest level Syria visit in years (3 September 2021) Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad received a delegation from Lebanon to discuss a plan approved by the US government to have Lebanon receive natural gas and electricity from Jordan and Egypt through Syrian territory. Lebanon is currently in the throes of a fuel shortage that has been brought on by the financial crisis they’ve been struggling with since 2019. The US sanctions on the Syrian government under the Caesar Act, which aims to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to find a political solution to the Syrian civil war, have complicated the negotiations, but US officials have expressed optimism that the plan will move forward.
Israeli President and Jordanian king hold secret talks (4 September 2021) Israeli President Isaac Herzog disclosed a meeting he had in Amman with Jordanian King Abdullah II where they discussed energy policy among other political and economic issues. Relations between the two nations regressed during Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure as Prime Minister. Netanyahu sought to curry favor with Arab nations that held greater financial clout such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, but newly elected Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has wanted to reinvigorate ties with the Hashemite Kingdom.
Israel’s ‘alarmist claims’ raise the stakes against Iran (5 September 2021) As the resumption of the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna remains on hold, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has raised the pressure on the Biden administration to develop a contingency plan to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons if diplomatic efforts prove ineffective. Bennett claims that Iran is months away from obtaining nuclear weapons, but some believe this assertion to be exaggerated and feel that it is intended to push the United States to take a more aggressive approach to deal with Iran.
Syrian army resumes shelling of rebel enclave after collapse of deal (5 September 2021) An armistice negotiated by Russia between rebel groups and the Syrian army fell apart as the army and Iranian backed forces proceeded to bomb the city of Deraa in southern Syria. The agreement was ruptured after rebel and local authorities in Deraa refused to allow the army to conduct house to house searches and install checkpoints throughout the city. In 2011 Deraa held peaceful protests in defiance of the Assad regime which sparked the civil war that continues to plague Syria.
Qatar to operate daily aid flights to Afghanistan (5 September 2021) Qatar will continue its role in steadying Afghanistan by sending essential medical and food supplies. The International Organization for Migration has stated that 40 million people in Afghanistan depended on humanitarian aid at the start of this year before the Taliban capture of Kabul provoked the withdrawal of Western aid to the country.
Islamic State attack kills 10 policemen near Iraq's Kirkuk (5 September 2021) Following a clash in the town of Rashad, an attack on a police outpost in Kirkuk claimed the lives of ten policemen. Despite the disintegration of the Islamic State in 2017, remnants of the group remain active in Iraq and are continuing to pose an important security threat in Iraq.
Saudis intercept Houthi missile and drones aimed at oil region (5 September 2021) Saudi Arabia successfully disrupted a drone attack aimed at Aramco oil facilities. While this particular strike from the Yemeni Houthi forces had little effect on the petroleum infrastructure in Eastern Saudi Arabia, a previous strike in 2019 was able to cut Saudi oil production by half. Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels since Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was deposed in 2014, in a conflict that has brought the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and claimed more than ten thousand lives.
Turkey realigning ties with Egypt and Gulf rivals (6 September 2021) Turkish and Egyptian officials will gather in Ankara in what is a historic rapprochement between two countries that have been at odds for the last decade. Since the onset of the Arab Spring in 2011, Turkey has aligned itself with the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia and the UAE view as a threat to their form of rule as absolute monarchies. When in 2013 Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi was ousted by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, relations between Egypt and Turkey reached their nadir. Now that the momentum for the uprisings of the Arab Spring has passed, Turkey is looking to ameliorate relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE primarily to reap the economic benefits of improved ties, even though there remain important obstacles to overcome.
Six Palestinians escape from high-security prison in Israel (6 September 2021) Six Palestinian prisoners managed to break out from a maximum-security prison in Northern Israel. The escape from Gilboa prison has initiated a nationwide manhunt for the prisoners who comprise among them a former Fatah party leader and several members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Currently, some 4,750 Palestinians are being held across detention facilities in Israel.
Israel’s military chief says ‘accelerating’ Iran strike plans (7 September 2021) Chief of General Staff Aviv Kohavi stated in an interview that the recent increase in the Israeli defense budget is to prepare for a potential military strike against Iran if the return to the 2015 Nuclear Deal does not materialize. Israel is wary of the support Tehran offers to non-state actors such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and while the Biden administration has presented the return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a major foreign policy objective, little progress has been made.
Several civilians killed in Syrian government attacks in Idlib (8 September 2021) A government strike on the rebel stronghold of Idlib has killed at least five civilians and wounded several more. Activists claim that the offensive was intentionally targeting civilians and that the larger goal was to demonstrate that the Syrian government and its allies are militarily in control of the region. While a ceasefire between government and rebel forces has held since 2020, this attack is the greatest escalation since the armistice mediated by Turkey and Russia.
India's deepening love affair with Israel | Politics (9 September 2021) Following the revelation that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party used Pegasus spyware, a cyberweapon developed by former Israeli Intelligence Corps members, to surveil opposition leaders, activists, and journalists, it is becoming increasingly clear that the bilateral relationship between the two countries has grown substantially over the past several decades. This trend was further solidified during the premierships of Modi and Netanyahu because of their ideological parallelism, and the robust mutual defense partnership that saw India become the largest buyer of Israeli weapons.
Iran insists on 'inclusive' government in Afghanistan | Taliban News (9 September 2021) After the Taliban announced the formation of a new government that does not include any women or members of the Shia community, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian met virtually with neighboring countries to express his concern. As Iran shares a 600km border with and has already taken in approximately 4 million refugees from Afghanistan, they are keen on ensuring that the situation is stabilized, and this objective is jeopardized if the new government does not reflect the ethnic and religious diversity of the country.
Iranian, Qatari ministers meet amid Iran-U.S. tensions (9 September 2021) Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met with his Iranian counterpart in Tehran to discuss economic ties and the ongoing situation in Afghanistan. Abdulrahman met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken some days earlier in Qatar, as the deadlock between Tehran and Washington over the restoration of the 2015 nuclear deal continues.
Egyptian prime minister says ties with Turkey could be restored this year (9 September 2021) Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly voiced his optimism for restoring diplomatic ties with Turkey, which were severed when Mohammed Morsi was deposed by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in 2013. The major obstacle to re-establishing ties between the two countries is the situation in Libya, where in 2019 military officer Khalifa Haftar led an offensive backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates against the internationally recognized government of Libya which received protection from Turkey. Madbouly added in his remarks that he wanted Libyans to decide their future free from foreign interference.
Turkey hits out at Cyprus for removing schoolbook praising Ataturk (9 September 2021) Turkey’s foreign ministry chastised the Republic of Cyprus for discarding from their national curriculum a history textbook that lauded Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern-day Turkey. The Republic of Cyprus is a Greek Cypriot majority population, whereas the northern region of Cyprus has been under Turkish rule since 1974 when Ankara intervened to prevent the unification of Cyprus with Greece.
Palestinian Authority withdraws from Qatar funding scheme for Gaza - Qatari envoy (10 September 2021) Qatari envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi confirmed the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) retraction from a deal that would have financed infrastructure and humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip. The PA cited concerns of legal exposure due to the lack of control they have from preventing funds being siphoned by Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza. Since the peak of violence in May, the flow of money that Qatar would normally send to Gaza has been interrupted. Meanwhile, two million Palestinians live in the enclave that is under a blockade held by Israel and Egypt.
Israel arrests 4 Palestinian fugitives who escaped prison (11 September 2021) Four of the Palestinian prisoners who escaped a maximum security facility in Israel have been arrested. A total of six prisoners managed to break out of an Israeli prison by digging a manhole and sidestepping a sleeping security guard. The event has sparked anger in Israel and exposed considerable flaws in their prison system. Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, released a statement saying that the prisoners would be at the top of an eventual prisoner exchange list, but there is no indication that such a swap will occur soon.
Qatar foreign minister in Afghanistan in first high-level visit (12 September 2021) Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani became the first high-level official to visit Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover. While there he met with acting Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund and former President Hamid Karzai. As one of the few countries to recognize the Taliban when they last held power and a vital player in aiding Afghan refugees and Western nationals depart from Afghanistan in September, Qatar will continue to play an instrumental role in maintaining stability as the new Taliban government is formed. The US and the International Monetary Fund have made clear that financial support for the Taliban will be contingent upon meeting humanitarian objectives and the formation of an inclusive Afghan government.
Iraqi PM becomes the first foreign leader to meet Iran's Raisi (12 September 2021) Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi became the first foreign leader to meet with newly elected Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Iraq has been caught in the middle of the geopolitical rivalry between the Gulf Arab states and Iran and this has been a major obstacle to stability there. The leaders also discussed energy issues as Iraq receives most of its natural gas from Iran and has had its supply cut sharply due to outstanding payments to Tehran.
Israeli PM Bennett visits Egypt on invitation of el-Sisi | Israel-Palestine conflict News (13 September 2021) In the first trip of an Israeli Prime Minister to Egypt in at least a decade, Naftali Bennett met with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Sharm El-Sheikh. Their discussion was centered on the situation in Gaza where there has been an escalation of violence over the past month. For el-Sisi meeting with Bennett was an opportunity to show the Biden administration their desire to maintain a constructive relationship between the two largest recipients of US military aid. While few believe that this meeting will lead to a comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Bennett is a member of the far-right Yamina party which opposes Palestinian statehood, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has indicated a willingness to an “economy in exchange for security” approach to relieving the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza.
Algeria, Saudi Arabia discuss OPEC, regional, international issues (14 September 2021) Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud met in Algiers to discuss bilateral engagement among other regional issues. Their talks also touched on coordinating their policies concerning OPEC.
Egypt's Sisi meets Libya's eastern commander Khalifa Haftar in Cairo (14 September 2021) Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi met with Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar and Libyan jurist Aguila Saleh in Cairo. Khalifa remains in control of the majority of eastern Libya, and in 2019 launched an unsuccessful offensive to take Tripoli and oust the UN-backed government. Sisi expressed his desire to have elections in Libya in December, but the dissension within the Libyan military and the presence of more than 20,000 foreign troops imperil are putting these elections at risk.
Syrian military chief makes a rare visit to Jordan (20 September 2021) Syrian Defense Minister and Chief of Staff Ali Ayyoub met with Jordanian army head Lieutenant-General Yousef Hunaiti in the first meeting between the Syrian and Jordanian military in more than ten years. While talks revolved around anti-terrorism and border control, the discussion between the two countries is a marked departure from their cold relations over the last decade; Jordan is one of the US’s closest regional allies and supported the insurgency against the Assad regime when civil war broke out in 2011. Jordan’s King Abdullah also praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for bringing stability to Syria, and in the negotiation of surrender deals in the Syrian city of Deraa, Syrian rebels relinquished arms they had acquired through Jordan.
Algeria closes airspace to all Moroccan planes | Aviation News (22 September 2021) Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced that Moroccan planes would be prohibited from flying in Algerian airspace. The move is a continuation of heightening tensions between the two countries, as Algeria severed diplomatic relations with Morocco in August. At the heart of the conflict is the dispute over the Western Sahara where Algeria backs the Polisario Front, and in response, Morocco has called for allowing self-determination for the Tamazight minority in the Kabylie region of Algeria.
Palestinian Authority urges Sudan to hand over confiscated assets (25 September 2021) Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh called on the Sudanese government to release assets it had seized from their crackdown on revenue streams that were supporting Hamas. Since the departure of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who supported Hamas when he was in power, Sudan has had a more adversarial relationship with Hamas, especially after the Abraham Accords with the United States that saw Sudan removed from the list of international sponsors of terrorism in exchange for recognizing the government of Israel.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, Statistics
Think disasters are isolated? Think again, warns the UN (8 September 2021) A report by the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security warns that treating disasters as anomalous events is a wholly inadequate approach to addressing these kinds of events. The report examines many different calamities to arrive at its conclusion but offers the ammonium nitrate explosion in the port of Beirut as an example where this particular disaster placed an excessive burden on a healthcare system already in the throes of the fight against COVID-19.
Lebanon to get Egyptian gas via Syria in plan to ease crisis (8 September 2021) Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, and Jordanian ministers reached an agreement to begin sending Egyptian natural gas to Lebanon through Syria. Lebanon is enduring a severe fuel shortage and economic crisis that has seen the Lebanese currency depreciate by more than 90%. The United States has been involved in exempting sanctions on Syria to make the deal possible, as they look to undercut Hezbollah’s fuel contributions that are made possible by Iran. At the moment, most businesses and households in Lebanon generate their electricity through private generators.
UN: 18,000 Yemeni civilians killed in airstrikes since 2015 (9 September 2021) A report presented to the UN Human Rights Council has concluded that Yemen has had an average of 10 airstrikes a day since the Saudi coalition entered the conflict in 2015. While the death count remains difficult to assess accurately due to the nature of the conflict, estimates place the toll at around 200,000 casualties, with approximately 100,000 having been from preventable causes such as malnutrition. While the report also faults both sides with violations of international law, the Saudi coalition is responsible for the airstrikes as the Houthi rebels do not have a functioning air force and use mostly drones to attack their targets.
UN to distribute cash aid to Gaza families, envoy says (12 September 2021) The UN will begin a cash aid program at more than 700 sites that has been funded by the government of Qatar and coordinated by the UN and Israel. This aid will be sent directly to families and is separate from the aid deal that was meant to finance civil servants in Gaza that collapsed after the Palestinian Authority left the agreement. While the UN stated that this aid would be delivered in cash, the office of Israeli Prime Minister declared that it would be given through vouchers to ensure that funds would not reach Hamas.
IAEA and Iran reach agreement to avert nuclear deal crisis (12 September 2021) Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, met with Mohammad Eslami, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, to discuss the state of Iran’s nuclear program. While an agreement was reached to replace cameras in various nuclear sites, Iran also cautioned the IAEA that passing a resolution against Iran would be grounds for walking away from the negotiating table to reestablish the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Turkey talks with UN over returning Syrian refugees (12 September 2021) Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu voiced his support for the repatriation of Syrian refugees from Turkey despite concerns that without a political solution to the conflict in Syria that it would remain unsafe for refugees to do so. Turkey has taken in 3.7 million Syrian refugees and in 2016 secured funding from the European Union in exchange for ensuring that no more Syrian migrants would enter the EU.
UN chief Guterres: ‘We are on the edge of an abyss’ (21 September 2021) In his speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres outlined several of the most urgent crises that the international community is facing. Among these were the inequality of vaccine distribution, the looming rivalry between the US and China, the impending climate crisis, and the asymmetrical economic recoveries of rich and developing countries from the COVID-19 pandemic. Secretary-General Guterres also cited the heightening inequalities between men and women throughout the pandemic as he pointed out that frontline worker positions are occupied mostly by women and the curtailment of educational opportunities that allow women to be economically independent.
New UN death toll: At least 350,000 people killed in Syria’s war (24 September 2021) The UN human rights office released a report estimating the death toll of the Syrian Civil war at no less than 350,000. One of every thirteen of these victims was a woman or child. The largest concentration of these fatalities was the rebel stronghold of Aleppo. The conflict has also produced more than 6 million refugees during the ten years that Bashar al-Assad’s government and rebel forces have been fighting.
Abbas gives Israel 'one year' to leave Palestinian territory | Israel-Palestine conflict News (25 September 2021) In his speech at the UN General Assembly Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated that if Israel did not retreat from their illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank within a year, that they would not recognize the pre-1967 borders that have been the linchpin of peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Negotiations for a two-state solution are at a standstill and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is opposed to Palestinian statehood. Mahmoud Abbas is facing internal pressure as well for his cooperation on security issues with Israel, and his continual postponement of elections that have allowed him to remain the president of the Palestinian Authority for more than 15 years.