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Israel, UAE and Bahrain sign Abraham Accords

WASHINGTON (16 September, 2020): Israel signed normalization agreements with the UAE and Bahrain commonly known as the “Abraham Accords”, at the White House. The signing of the agreements reflects a strategic realignment in the West Asian region. The UAE and Bahrain are the third and fourth Arab states to normalize ties with Israel after Egypt and Jordan. The three countries agreed that the best way to address challenges is through cooperation and dialogue and that developing friendly relations among states advances the interests of lasting peace in West Asia and around the world.

Reacting to the agreement, Ammar Hijazi, assistant minister of multilateral affairs for the Palestinian Authority, said that it was a sad day and the only path for peace is ending this brutal Israeli occupation and granting the Palestinians their inalienable rights for self-determination. He added that without that there is no path to peace in the region. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump said that he expects some more Arab countries to normalize ties with Israel and predicted the Palestinians would eventually join as well or else be “left out in the cold”.-Times of Israel, Al Jazeera

GCC urges UN to extend arms embargo on Iran

RIYADH (10 August, 2020): The GCC’s Secretary General, Nayef Al-Hajraf, urged the UN to extend the international arms embargo on Iran. In a letter to the Security Council, he mentioned that the embargo should be extended as Tehran supports terrorism. As per the embargo, the movement of conventional weaponry in and out of Iran is prevented. The embargo is set to expire on 18 October 2020 as part of the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal. Al-Hajraf, pointed out that in violation of the deal, Iran “continued to proliferate conventional weapons and armed terrorist and sectarian organizations and movements throughout the region.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi slammed the GCC for urging the UN to extend arms embargo and said that the GCC Secretariat is swayed by the wrong and destructive policies and has turned into a mouthpiece for anti-Iran elements. The US welcomed the move as Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said, “The GCC’s letter calling on the UN Security Council to extend the arms embargo on Iran is a bold statement.” US has warned that if the embargo is lifted, it could introduce “snap back” sanctions built into the original 2015 deal, unilaterally restoring all UN sanctions on Tehran.-Arab News, Middle East Monitor

US imposes sanctions on Iran

TEHRAN (20 September, 2020): The Trump administration declared that UN sanctions have once again been imposed on Iran, meaning for example that the arms embargo scheduled to expire next month has been extended indefinitely, as far as the US is concerned. “…as far as the US is concerned” is the key part of that sentence, because for the most part, the rest of the world disagrees. The remaining participants in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have rejected the US argument that it’s still entitled to invoke that deal’s dispute resolution mechanism to re-impose the sanctions, despite having quit the deal in 2018. The UN Security Council has simply ignored the US invocation, since apart from the Dominican Republic all the other council members similarly reject the claim that the US is entitled to take this step. UN Secretary-General António Guterres says the UN cannot act on the US declaration because there’s too much “uncertainty” over the process.

Even Iran is trying to dunk on the US over this, with President Hassan Rouhani saying  that Washington “is approaching a certain defeat in its sanctions move.” It’s of course one thing for everybody to chuckle and roll their eyes at this most recent rogue action by the Trump administration in abstract. – Ynets. News, Aawsat, Jerusalem Post, Iran International

Jordan’s King Abdullah hosts summit with Egyptian President and Iraqi Prime Minister

AMMAN (26 August, 2020): Jordan’s  King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi met for the third trilateral summit between the three countries on 26 August 2020 at Amman. During the summit, the leaders discussed various ways to expand economic, trade and investment cooperation. The discussion also “covered regional developments and means to bolster coordination and consultation between Jordan, Egypt and Iraq on issues of mutual concern”.  - Al Arabiya

Houthi-Saudi escalation continues amidst prisoners swap

SANAA (02 July, 2020): The Houthis and Saudi Arabia continue to engage in missile and drone attacks. Regardless of the scope, this resumption of heavy fighting obviously means that the implementation of 2018 Stockholm peace process will be further delayed. On 29 September , The government and Houthi rebels agreed  on a major exchange of 1081 prisoners, their largest since Yemen’s civil war began and the first real movement towards implementing a 2018 de-escalation agreement in months. That agreement first established a ceasefire in the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah, which has more or less held, but it mapped out further steps towards peace talks, starting with a prisoner swap, that had hitherto gone nowhere. The swap was the outcome of United Nations-brokered negotiations between the parties in early September. If all goes according to plan, this will be the largest prisoner release in the Yemeni war so far, and ideally would help build some confidence for further negotiations. -Al Jazeera, Anadolu Agency, Ahram

Yemen southern separatists pull out of Riyadh agreement talks

ADEN (26 August, 2020):  The separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) has pulled out of negotiations in Riyadh aimed at repairing its relationship with the Yemeni government. They cited deterioration in “public services” in southern Yemen and escalations by the Yemeni military in Abyan province as reasons for their withdrawal. This could lead to renewed violence between government forces and UAE-backed STC fighters, though it is too soon to say. This could also just be a negotiating ploy. –Middle East Monitor

Turkey, France row over Mediterranean claims

ISTANBUL (24 July, 2020): Turkey and France are still feuding over the eastern Mediterranean. The Greek government put its navy on alert over Turkish plans to drill for undersea energy deposits near a Greek island, an area that Turkey nevertheless claims under a “continental shelf” standard of maritime law. This prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to call for European Union sanctions against Turkey for violating the sovereignty of an EU member state, which led to an angry rebuke from Ankara. –

Iraqi Prime Minister Kadhimi visits Iran

BAGHDAD (21 July, 2020): Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi visited Iran on his first overseas trip since becoming Prime Minister in May. Kadhimi met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the latter promising not to interfere in Iraq’s relationship with the US. In return, Kadhimi promised not to allow Iraqi soil to be used to stage “any aggression or challenge to Iran.” – Al Jazeera

Series of explosions in Lebanon lead to public outcry

BEIRUT (10 September, 2020): Beirut’s seaport is on fire. The same facility that was largely destroyed last month when an ignored stockpile of ammonium nitrate exploded is now experiencing a large blaze at a tire warehouse. While the fire had been mostly extinguished, it apparently destroyed a large cache of food shipments and its smoke may be toxic.  According to the Lebanese government, the death toll from the explosion at Beirut port earlier this month now stands at 190, with 6500 injured and three people still missing. Rescue workers who believed several days ago that they had found signs of a survivor in the wreckage of Beirut’s massive seaport explosion last month have now concluded that those “signs” were actually caused by recovery workers on site. They have been unable to detect any signs of life in the wreckage.

Lebanon will begin its formal investigation into the explosion at Beirut’s port earlier this month. The investigation is being handled by the Lebanese military and is led by a military judge. He will be looking at the conduct of some 25 officials involved in running the port, all of whom are bureaucrats and therefore not really culpable in having created the political morass that caused the explosion and is Lebanon’s true problem. The investigation promises to be have significant political ramifications.

The Lebanese parliament voted on 13 August  to ratify the state of emergency that has been in place since  the explosion at Beirut’s port that led to violent protests. Demonstrators broke into the offices of the Lebanese economy, energy, and foreign ministries. The protesters demanded political change, and their protests explicitly targeted prominent political figures like President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, as well as prominent political figures like Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. The entire cabinet and members of parliament had resigned. –Maritime Insight, Daily Sabha, Arab News, Middle East Monitor, Al Jazeera, TRT World, The Guardian,, Haaretz

EU wants a credible government in Lebanon

BEIRUT (13 September, 2020): The European Union is apparently waiting until Lebanon has a “credible” government in place before it sends any more disaster relief assistance to help the recovery from the explosion at Beirut’s seaport. Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib reportedly withdrew himself from consideration for the job. Adib ran into a brick wall in the form of Lebanon’s two major Shiʿa parties, Amal and Hezbollah, and their insistence on retaining control over certain offices, most particularly over the finance ministry. Adib sought to divest the cabinet nomination process from the various political factions that have traditionally controlled it, ostensibly to create a “government of experts” but more to respond to Western concerns over the extent of Hezbollah influence in Beirut.

The fallout from Adib’s withdrawal is still playing out and has been superseded by other events, but it may signal the death knell of a European initiative, spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron, to reform Lebanese politics using the carrot and stick policy of potential European aid as leverage. Macron has already blamed Amal and Hezbollah for Adib’s failure and said he was “ashamed” of Lebanese leaders. –Daily Star, Al Jazeera, Jerusalem Post

Iran and China discussing 25 years strategic partnership

TEHRAN (11 July 2020): Iran and China are discussing their 25 year strategic deal. The partnership, detailed in an 18-page proposed agreement, vastly expands Chinese presence in banking, telecommunications, ports, railways and other projects. In exchange, China would receive a regular and heavily discounted supply of Iranian oil over the next 25 years. The document also describes deepening military cooperation, potentially giving China a foothold in a region that has been a strategic preoccupation of the United States for decades. It calls for joint training and exercises, joint research and weapons development and intelligence-sharing — all to fight “the lopsided battle with terrorism, drug and human trafficking and cross-border crimes.” There’s nothing in this description about China basing soldiers in Iran or gaining control of any Iranian islands as part of the agreement, but those aspects are still heavily rumoured and have been the source of substantial disagreement over the partnership, within Iran. The Chinese investments could total as much as $400 billion over the life of the deal. –New Yorker

UN approves aid to Syria’s rebel-held area through one border crossing

DAMASCUS (13 July 2020): In the face of Russian resistance, the United Nations Security Council  voted to reauthorize humanitarian aid shipments from Turkey into northwestern Syria by only one border crossing rather than the two that had previously been in operation. The authorization for all UN aid operations in Syria had expired and the Council has struggled to come to some agreement about reauthorization. Russia and China vetoed two Resolutions that would have kept both crossings open, while the Council voted down two Russian Resolutions limiting shipments to one crossing. The Resolution that was finally passed – authored by Germany and Belgium – only keeps one crossing open but does so for 12 months (Russia had sought six) and does not contain language blaming Syria’s humanitarian crisis on Western sanctions, as the Russian Resolutions had.  –Arab News

Turkey-Russia fragile ceasefire


DAMASCUS (06 August 2020):  There are signs the Turkish-Russian ceasefire in southern Idlib province is breaking down, as Turkey has been unable to control rebel factions there and consequently the ceasefire has failed to achieve its main objective— the reopening of Syria’s M4 highway. Russian and Syrian air and artillery attacks are starting to resume, which could be the precursor to a renewed full-scale offensive. Local sources seem to think the Turks might be willing to trade territory in southern Idlib for Russian concessions in Libya, and maybe to avoid a new military operation that would push more displaced Syrians towards the border. –Al Monitor


Talks on Syria constitution resumed

DAMASCUS (2 August 2020): United Nations-brokered talks on writing a new Syrian constitution have resumed in Geneva. The negotiations, which are aimed at reaching a political settlement to the Syrian war via the constitution, are probably a long shot to succeed and were suspended  earlier this week after several attendees tested positive for the coronavirus. “Swiss authorities” have apparently decided that it’s safe to start again. –Ahram, Al Monitor

UAE launches its nuclear energy programme

DUBAI (3 August): With the successful startup of its Barakah nuclear energy plant, the UAE became the first Arab country to launch its own nuclear energy programme. It is a significant step towards  its goal of emissions-free electricity. The UAE is the newest member of an exclusive club of 31 countries running nuclear power operations. It is also the first to launch a nuclear power plant in three decades after China (1990).The Barakah plant’s Unit 1 is the first of the UAE’s planned four reactors, which, when complete, are expected to meet 25 per cent of the country’s electricity needs with zero carbon emissions. Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi, CEO of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. said, “We are now another step closer to achieving our goal of supplying up to a quarter of our Nation’s electricity needs and powering its future growth with safe, reliable and emissions-free electricity.” Israel and Iran already have nuclear capabilities in the region. –CNBC

Saudi Arabia allowed use of its airspace for UAE-Israel flights

RIYADH (2 September 2020): Saudi Arabia allowed the use of its airspace for UAE-Israel flights and the move has been appreciated by the Israeli PM Netanyahu. The Saudi Press Agency said that the country's civil aviation authority had granted Abu Dhabi's request to allow airliners “coming from and departing to all countries” and bound for or leaving one of the UAE's airports, to fly over Saudi Arabia. In 2018, the Kingdom had permitted Tel Aviv bound Air India to use its airspace. Netanyahu welcomed the move and called it the benefits of a genuine peace. In a video statement, he added that flying over Saudi airspace will help develop tourism, lower the costs of flights and cut travel time to East Asia. However, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud said that the Kingdom's decision to allow flights doesn't change its position on the Palestinian issue. – Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post

Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Sabah passes away

KUWAIT CITY (29 September): Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah AlSabah passed away at the age of 91 after undergoing treatment in the US since July. His office announced, “With the utmost sadness and grief for the Kuwaiti people, the Islamic and Arab world and people of friendly nations, the Emiri Diwan mourns the death of Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah.” The Emir had ruled the oil-rich Gulf Arab state since 2006 and had overseen its foreign policy for more than 50 years. The Kuwaiti Dinar fell against the US Dollar in the forward market and Kuwaiti stocks plunged, before the official announcement of the Emir's death. Kuwait has sworn-in 83-year old Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad AlSabah as the new leader. Condolences poured in from around the region as Kuwait declared an official mourning for a period of 40 days and the closure of official departments for a period of 3 days. India is to observe one-day state mourning on the demise of the Emir, as Prime Minister Modi described him as a beloved leader of the Arab world and a close friend of India and said that the late leader played a leading role in strengthening bilateral relations and always took special care of the Indian community in Kuwait. –Khaleej Times, Al Jazeera, Gulf News, Hindustan Times


Saudi ARAMCO income falls by 50 per cent

RIYADH (9 August): Saudi oil giant ARAMCO’s net income plunged by 50 per cent and amounted to US$23.2 billion in the first six months of 2020. In the same period in 2019 the net income was US$ 46.9 billion. The financial results for the second quarter reflect the biggest shock to global energy markets in decades. Total free cash flow at the ARAMCO came in at US$21.1 billion for the first half, down from US$38 billion the year before. ARAMCO President and CEO Amin Nasser said that strong headwinds from reduced demand and lower oil prices are reflected in ARAMCO’s second quarter results. In December 2019, ARAMCO went public and has taken measures to build transparency. Earlier, ARAMCO ceded its title as the world’s largest listed company by market capitalization to Apple.

ARAMCO’s CEO also said that the company is moving ahead with plans to boost crude output capacity despite cuts in capex this year and the next. ARAMCO discovered two new oil and gas fields in the northern region. Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al-Saud mentioned that the oil giant will carry on with its efforts to estimate the total amount of oil and gas in the Abraq Al Toloul oil field and the Hadabat Al Hajara gas field, and is drilling more wells to determine their areas and capacities. -CNBC, Hart Energy, Reuters

Lebanese Pound is the most under-valued currency in the world

BEIRUT (12 September 2020): Amid political and economic chaos, the Lebanese Pound further dropped against the US Dollar on the black market, becoming the world’s most under-valued currency. The new rate of between LBP/$8,600-LBP/$8,750 means the currency has lost 81 per cent of its value in the past year since banks began restricting withdrawals of Dollars. The government still officially maintains the level even as the Pound collapses and banks halt all Dollar withdrawals, except for what are called “fresh” transfers of Dollars from overseas.–Saudi Gazette

US sanctions cost Iran’s economy US$ 150 billion

TEHRAN (26 September 2020):  Iran lost US$150 billion of revenue since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions on its economy. The US measures are also hampering imports of medical and food supplies. Iran’s economy has shrunk over the past two years, inflation and unemployment are rising. Crude exports that the nation depends on for most of its foreign exchange, are less than 10 per cent of their level before the US withdrew from the multilateral agreement in May 2018. –Gulf News

Syrian economy continues to struggle as sanctions bite, shortages hit

DAMASCUS (08 September, 2020): As the Syrian Pound dropped to a  new low (-2,250 pounds for purchase and 2,280 pounds for sale), a decrease of 1.3 per cent from the prices, while the price of basic goods continued to skyrocket, pro-regime circles scurried to attribute blame for the country's recent economic woes. It is reported that the bakeries across the country are running out of flour for bread and fuel stations are running out of petrol. As bakeries in Syria struggle to continue to produce bread to feed a hungry population, the government of President Bashar al-Assad is reportedly scrambling to keep supply chains going in the face of a major wheat shortage.

The Syrian President has appointed Prime Minister Hussein Arnous and asked him to form a new government as the country continues to suffer from a severe economic crisis and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. -Al Khaleej Today, Al Araby, VOA News, Middle East Monitor


US to upgrade Qatar to a non-NATO ally

WASHINGTON (17 September 2020): US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Arabian Gulf Affairs Timothy Lenderking said that the Trump administration is hoping to upgrade its partnership with Qatar to the status of a major non-NATO ally. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met in Washington a week earlier. Currently, 17 countries including Gulf Arab states Kuwait and Bahrain enjoy the major non-NATO ally status with the US. The status gives a country preferential access to US military equipment and technology, including free surplus material, expedited export processing and prioritized cooperation on training. The move aims to achieve a strong front against Iran as it intends to mend the rift between Qatar and the quartet of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. Secondly, it also intends to test waters for a probable Israel-Qatar deal. –Al Jazeera

Series of explosions in Iran

TEHRAN (23 June 2020): There was another minor catastrophe at an Iranian facility. This is the third incident in a week. This time it appears there was a mysterious fire at Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, which follows a mysterious explosion at a missile production facility outside of Tehran and another mysterious explosion at what’s been described as a medical clinic in northern Iran. Unlike the previous two incidents (26 and 30 June), after this one, Iranian state media seemed to leave open the possibility that the fire was the result of sabotage perpetrated by Israel and/or the United States. Natanz has also been the target of sabotage in the past. Iran said that it was building a new underground facility to research advanced centrifuge technologies near its current centrifuge facility at Natanz. Iranian officials claim that the fire only struck a storage area, but there are reportedly indications from satellite imagery that it may have hit a more sensitive area, possibly one involved in the production of advanced centrifuges. –Iran Primer, Asharq Al Awsat

Lebanese security forces arrest Islamic State-linked ‘terror cell’

BEIRUT (5 September, 2020): Lebanon’s army had arrested a “terror cell” linked to Islamic State (IS) on 5 September, 2020. By giving reference to a military statement, Anadolu Agency reported that the cell was preparing to launch a terror strike inside Lebanon. The leader of the cell is said to be Khaled Al Talawy. According to security forces, his car was used in a shootout that took the lives of three people on August 21, 2020. According to the statement, the cell members were arrested in security operations in northern and central Lebanon. – Anadolu Agency

Massive blast in Beirut kill more than 190; sparks nation-wide protest in Lebanon

BEIRUT (4 August, 2020): A massive blast shocked the Beirut port in Lebanon killing at least 190 people and injuring 6,500. According to Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud, the blast temporarily displaced 300,000 people and caused an estimated loss of US$ 10-15 billion. After the blast the government declared a two-week state of emergency. The blast sparked a nationwide protest against the government for its failure in averting the disaster which resulted in the resignation by the Prime Minister Hassan Diab on 10 August, 2020. Later, in a rushed process prior to French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit, the Lebanese president invited Mustafa Adib to form a new government on 31 August, 2020. –Al Jazeera and Ha’aretz

Israel Sends reinforcement to Northern Borders amid Hezbollah threat

TEL AVIV (23 July, 2020): The Israel Defence Forces decided to send reinforcements to the borders with Lebanon amid the threat of retaliation from Hezbollah over the death of one of its fighters (Ali Kamel Mohsen Jawad) in Syria earlier this month. “In light of a situational assessment that was held in the IDF, it was decided to send a pinpoint reinforcement of infantry troops to the Northern Command,” the military said. The reinforcement comprised the 13th battalion of the Golani Brigade and a small number of additional troops. In the last few months, significant increase in tension has been registered between Israel and Lebanon which has created a possibility of escalation especially after Israel’s strikes on Hezbollah outposts which were facilitating border crossings of terrorists in Israel. – The Times of Israel

US military to test Israeli drone system for intercepting drones

TEL AVIV (8 September, 2020): According to Israel's Ministry of Defence, the U.S. military has initiated a new pilot project to test an Israeli-made drone system for intercepting drones. The Skylord drone system, produced by the Israeli company Xtend, is designed to protect troops from "various inbound aerial threats, particularly drones," the ministry said in a statement. The system allows drones to be controlled remotely using virtual and augmented reality. Currently, IDF has been using the system to intercept balloons attached with incendiary materials flown by the militants in the Gaza Strip. –Ha’aretz

Hamas targets Southern Israel after Abraham Accord signing ceremony

GAZA (15 September, 2020): Multiple rockets were launched in Southern Israel from the Gaza Strip immediately after Israel-Bahrain-UAE-US inked a peace deal at Washington DC. According to the IDF, “13 rocket launches were identified, of which 8 were successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system”. In retaliation, the Israeli army targeted Hamas’ military positions in northern and central Gaza. The tensions between Hamas and Israel have significantly increased since Israel has signed the peace agreements with the UAE and Bahrain. – Haaretz

OPCW condemns use of chemical weapons by Syrian government

DAMASCUS (9 July, 2020): The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) executive council voted overwhelmingly  to “condemn” the Syrian government for using sarin and chlorine gas in an attack on the town of Ltamenah in March 2017. The OPCW gave Syria 90 days to fully declare its remaining chemical weapons stockpiles, something Damascus, which denies using chemical munitions in Ltamenah, says it did years ago. If the Syrian government fails to respond, the OPCW will probably refer the case to the United Nations Security Council. –Arms Control Today

Bagdad and Erbil agree on security matters

BAGHDAD (18 August, 2020): Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government officials have apparently come to an accord creating several joint operations commands in provinces across central Iraq where the Islamic State has been active recently. Ever since the Iraqi army moved against the KRG around Kirkuk in 2017, there have been major gaps both physically and in terms of coordination between their security forces, and IS has been the beneficiary. This agreement may help to tighten things up. Musings on Iraq

US announces withdrawal of troops from Iraq, eyes prospects of oil deal

WASHINGTON (20 August, 2020):US President Donald Trump hosted Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi at the White House and reiterated his goal of fully withdrawing US military forces from Iraq. Earlier this year, the Iraqi parliament urged the US to withdraw its forces from Iraq.  Though it was a non-binding vote and the Iraqi government has never taken steps to implement it, partly because at the time Trump threatened sanctions if they did.  –Arab News

US warns Iraq of Baghdad embassy closure if attacks continue

BAGHDAD (29 September 2020):  The Trump administration has conveyed the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi that it will close the US embassy in Baghdad unless his government puts an end to rocket attacks targeting that and other US-related facilities, likely perpetrated by Iranian-aligned militias. The warning came before word of another rocket attack near Baghdad’s airport on 29 September, which killed at least six civilians. It is unusual for these (alleged) militia attacks to target or even risk targeting civilians. The administration said it was “outraged” by the attack. Kadhimi seems to believe it, or at least he’s acting like he believes it. He is talking about creating a special security force for Baghdad’s Green Zone, where the embassy is located, and appears to be threatening the militias with economic and military retaliation in an attempt to bring them under tighter state control, but whether he can succeed is anybody’s guess. –TRT World, Mohave Daily, Iraqi Files, Al Arabiya, Musing on Iraq


India sends emergency aid to Lebanon

NEW DELHI (14 August, 2020): India sent 58 tonnes of emergency humanitarian aid to Lebanon in order to help the people of Lebanon in overcoming the damage caused by the explosions in Beirut on 4 August.  During briefings about humanitarian aid, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Anurag Srivastava, said “we had offered our assistance to Lebanon and sought from them an assessment of their requirement. Based on this, an Indian Air Force C-17 aircraft was deployed to deliver 58 MT of emergency humanitarian aid on behalf of the Government of India to Lebanon”. The Indian aid comprised emergency medical supplies, wheat flour, sugar, pulses, and relief materials such as blankets, dignity kits and sleeping mats, which Lebanon desperately needed in light of the large number of people left homeless by the explosion. – The Hindustan Times

Israel AI-based technologies to help tackle COVID-19

NEW DELHI (12 August, 2020): As a part of Israel-India cooperation to fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the All India Institute for Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has received AI- based state-of-the-art technologies and high-end equipment from Israel. The high-end equipment and technology solutions were formally handed over to AIIMS by the Ambassador of Israel to India, Ron Malka. The technologies included a 12-hour disinfection product called CPD, non-invasive remote patient monitoring system, an AI-based software which is for Ultrasound use and an app that can be installed on any mobile phone by hospital staff and makes the work of the hospital staff effective and easier. While handing over the equipment and technologies to AIIMS, Malka said “We are pleased to share the best medical technology solutions from Israel with the most premier medical institute of India. We are confident that these technologies will further bolster their capabilities to tackle Covid-19”. Indeed, the COVID-19 crisis has deepened the ties between the two nations. – The Hindustan Times, Jagran Josh and Government of Israel

India and Israel sign cultural agreement

NEW DELHI (20 August, 2020): India inked a cultural agreement with Israel which covers a three-year programme of cooperation to further strengthen their strategic bilateral relations by promoting greater people-to-people exchange. The Agreement was signed at the Israeli Foreign Ministry between Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and India’s Ambassador to Israel, Sanjeev Singla. The agreement states that “Both sides are convinced that this cooperation shall contribute to the development of their relations and to raising awareness, particularly among youth, of the history and culture of the people of both countries. They also agreed to promote cooperation in order to improve and strengthen mutual understanding and friendship between the two countries.” - PTI and Financial Express 

India and UAE held 13th Joint Commission Meeting

NEW DELHI (17 August 2020): India and the UAE held the 13th  session  of the Joint Commission Meeting on trade, economic and technical cooperation and the meeting was co-chaired by Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The two sides held wide-ranging discussions on a number of issues and expressed satisfaction over the sustenance of momentum in the bilateral relations in various areas for mutual benefit under the aegis of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The two countries welcomed the close cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 and discussed a joint strategy to offset the economic and social impact of the pandemic. India invited further investments from the UAE in key sectors of the Indian economy while the UAE appreciated the significant contributions made by the Indian expatriate community and expressed its willingness to further strengthen links in energy and food security.– MEA

Indian Defence and External Affairs ministers visit Iran

TEHRAN (9 September 2020):  India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh met with his Iranian counterpart Brigadier General Amir Hatami in Iran. They discussed ways to bolster bilateral cooperation and exchanged views on regional security issues, including the situation in Afghanistan. Two days later, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar met Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and discussed the Chabahar Port project and the situation in Afghanistan. The visit comes in the backdrop of strained ties between the US and Iran, and China trying to grab the strategic space in sanctions-hit Iran. India is committed to the Chabahar project; India has allocated Rs 100 crores for the project in this year’s Budget. The allocation of the funding signals India’s desire and commitment to be part of the project. –Indian Express, The Print

India-Turkey spat over Kashmir issue

NEW DELHI (22 September 2020): The Indian government claims that Turkey is recruiting Kashmiri journalists as part of its well-planned conspiracy to malign India’s image internationally on the Kashmir issue. In the last few years a large number of Pakistani journalists have been hired by Turkish media on Erdogan’s instructions, to capitalize on extremism in domestic politics and to advance the propagation of political Islam to the world. Prior to that, India slammed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his remarks on Kashmir during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session, saying the latter's speech constitutes "gross interference" in India's internal affairs and is "completely unacceptable”. –Zee News, NDTV

Note:  This article was originally published in Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, West Asia Watch Vol 3, Issue 3, July-September 2020 and has been reproduced under arrangement. Web Link

As part of its editorial policy, the MEI@ND standardizes spelling and date formats to make the text uniformly accessible and stylistically consistent. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views/positions of the MEI@ND. Editor, MEI@ND: P R Kumaraswamy