Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

Danin analyzes critical developments and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

This Week: ISIS struck in Syria and Iraq as the Middle East takes center stage at the UN

by Robert M. Danin Friday, September 26, 2014
A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria, in this U.S. Air Force handout photo taken early in the morning of September 23, 2014 (Matthew Bruch/Courtesy Reuters). A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria, in this U.S. Air Force handout photo taken early in the morning of September 23, 2014 (Matthew Bruch/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. The United States conducted its first ever military strikes against ISIS in Syria this week, targeting primarily oil refineries and infrastructure used for command and control in Raqqa. U. S. military and intelligence officials said on Tuesday that the airstrikes had also targeted an al-Qaeda affiliate called Khorasan. The group had reportedly been organizing an “imminent” attack from Syria against the United States or Europe. According to press reports, U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power informed her Syrian counterpart in advance of the airstrikes in Syria. Read more »

This Week: Mobilizing to Counter ISIS

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, September 18, 2014
Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, the Kingdom's grand mufti, prays during the funeral of the Saudi woman and her daughter who were killed in Chad, at the Grand Mosque in Riyadh February 6, 2008 (Jarekji/Courtesy Reuters). Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, the Kingdom's grand mufti, prays during the funeral of the Saudi woman and her daughter who were killed in Chad, at the Grand Mosque in Riyadh February 6, 2008 (Jarekji/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. French President Francois Hollande announced today that France would provide military support, including airstrikes, against ISIS in Iraq. On Monday, Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom pledged support for the fight against ISIS following the conclusion of the Paris conference. Wrapping up his tour of the Middle East to recruit Arab support, Secretary of State John Kerry received assurances of good intentions from Egypt and Iraq, while Saudi Arabia pledged to provide the training of Syrian rebel forces at its bases. Less clear was what, if any, would be their military contributions. Germany is set to host a conference for Iraq and Syria in Berlin on October 28 to discuss security concerns in the region. Read more »

Understanding ISIS’s Apocalyptic Appeal

by Guest Blogger for Robert M. Danin Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Militant Islamist fighters associated with ISIS  take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters). Militant Islamist fighters associated with ISIS take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters).

By Ella Lipin

President Barack Obama’s expected announcement today of a long-term military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) follows an unusually grizzly few months of territorial conquest and seemingly barbaric behavior. To the outside world, this period of atrocities perpetrated by ISIS, such as the beheading of two American journalists, may be another defining moment in shaping the Middle East. But for many people in the region, ISIS’s message resounds and its arrival marks the end of days and the fulfillment of divine prophecy. To understand ISIS’s appeal and ultimately how to defeat it, the United States must recognize how the organization situates itself within Islamic apocalyptic tradition. Read more »

This Week: Israel-Hamas Fighting Intensifies and Islamists capture Benghazi

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, July 31, 2014
Palestinians collect the remains of bodies at a United Nation-run school sheltering Palestinians displaced by an Israeli ground offensive, that witnesses said was hit by Israeli shelling, in Jebalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip July 30, 2014 (Salem/Courtesy Reuters). Palestinians collect the remains of bodies at a United Nation-run school sheltering Palestinians displaced by an Israeli ground offensive, that witnesses said was hit by Israeli shelling, in Jebalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip July 30, 2014 (Salem/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Israel-Hamas. The Israeli government ordered the call up of 16,000 additional reserve soldiers today in the fourth week of Hamas-Israeli fighting in Gaza. A joint Fatah-Hamas delegation reportedly arrived in Cairo this morning to discuss possible cease-fire agreements with Egyptian officials. A small Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo yesterday for similar discussions. So far, some 1,360 Palestinians and 59 Israelis have died as a result of Hamas-Israel fighting which shows no sign of abating. For more on the Obama administration and the Gaza crisis, see the U.S. Foreign Policy section below. Read more »

This Week: Hamas-Israel Fighting Escalates and Iraq’s New President

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, July 24, 2014
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo July 22, 2014 (Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo July 22, 2014 (Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Gaza-Israel. Secretary of State John Kerry has drafted a new cease-fire proposal which has been presented to Israel and Hamas. Kerry, due to leave Cairo on Friday for Washington, is reportedly waiting to hear Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal’s response to the proposal from the Qatari and Turkish foreign ministers. While Kerry and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon have been shuttling around the Middle East in search of a cease-fire, the prospects for an immediate halt to the fighting in Gaza do not appear imminent. Read more »

This Week: Israeli-Hamas Brinkmanship and Iraqi Political Progress

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, July 17, 2014
A car, which police said was damaged in an Israeli air strike that targeted the house of top Hamas political leader Mahmoud Zahar, is seen in Gaza City July 16, 2014 (Salem/Courtesy Reuters). A car, which police said was damaged in an Israeli air strike that targeted the house of top Hamas political leader Mahmoud Zahar, is seen in Gaza City July 16, 2014 (Salem/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments.

Israel-Gaza. Late on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered IDF troops to begin ground operations in Gaza. Israel and Hamas had intensified both their fighting and indirect negotiations earlier in the day following a temporary five-hour humanitarian cease-fire requested by the United Nations. Israeli officials, Hamas representatives, and PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas were all in Cairo for meetings with Egyptian mediators. Read more »

This Week: Israel and Hamas Fight while Baghdad and Kurdistan Argue

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, July 10, 2014
An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod July 8, 2014 (Ratner/Courtesy Reuters). An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod July 8, 2014 (Ratner/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Israel-Palestine. Israel entered its third day of Operation Protective Edge today as rockets rained down on many parts of Israel. More than fifteen rockets were fired into Tel Aviv today in what is believed to be the largest bombardment there since the 1948 Israeli war of independence. However, the Iron Dome system has successfully intercepted most rockets fired at population centers to date. Read more »

This Week: Iraq and Syria’s Caliphate, Israel and Palestine’s Violence

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, July 3, 2014
A militant Islamist fighter in Ra’qqa province celebrates the declaration of an Islamic "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria on June 30, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). A militant Islamist fighter in Ra’qqa province celebrates the declaration of an Islamic "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria on June 30, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Iraq. Saudi state news agency SPA announced today the deployment of 30,000 Saudi Arabian troops to the country’s border with Iraq. The move followed the reported removal of Iraqi troops from their shared border; officials in Baghdad denied their troops had withdrawn. On Sunday, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) announced the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in their newly conquered territory.  Read more »

Shaping Israel’s Response to the Killing of the Yeshiva Students

by Robert M. Danin Monday, June 30, 2014
Israeli soldiers patrol on the West Bank village of Arura near Ramallah June 20, 2014 (Torokman/Courtesy Reuters). Israeli soldiers patrol on the West Bank village of Arura near Ramallah June 20, 2014 (Torokman/Courtesy Reuters).

The terrible news today confirming the death of three Israeli Yeshiva students abducted eighteen days ago in the West Bank forces Israeli and Palestinian leaders to confront some very difficult decisions. The discovery of the students’ bodies and the confirmation of their killing will doubtless lead to a strong Israeli military response. Even dovish President Shimon Peres declared that Israel’s retribution would be harsh. Read more »

This Week: Iraq Flails, Egypt Punishes, and Israel Searches

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, June 26, 2014
Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani greets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the presidential palace in Irbil, the capital of northern Iraq's Kurdistan autonomous region, June 24, 2014. This is the first visit to the Kurdish region by a U.S. Secretary of State since 2006. (Smialowski/Courtesy Reuters). Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani greets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the presidential palace in Irbil, the capital of northern Iraq's Kurdistan autonomous region, June 24, 2014. This is the first visit to the Kurdish region by a U.S. Secretary of State since 2006. (Smialowski/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Iraq. State television network Iraqiya announced today that the Iraqi parliament will convene Monday to form a new government. Meanwhile, prominent Shia religious leader Moqtada al-Sadr called for an inclusive emergency unity government that would appeal to the demands of marginalized moderate Sunni citizens. Yesterday, prime minister Nouri al-Maliki rejected international calls to form a unity government, which he called a “coup” against the constitution. Read more »