Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

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

Middle East Matters This Week: A Syrian Peace Plan, An Arab Summit in Baghdad, and Iran Prepares for Nuclear Talks

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, March 29, 2012
Iraq's foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari meets with his Kuwaiti counterpart sheikh Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah upon his arrival for the Arab foreign ministers meeting as part of the Arab League Summit in Baghdad on March 28, 2012 (Mohammed Ameen/Courtesy Reuters). Iraq's foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari meets with his Kuwaiti counterpart sheikh Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah upon his arrival for the Arab foreign ministers meeting as part of the Arab League Summit in Baghdad on March 28, 2012 (Mohammed Ameen/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Middle East Developments

Syria. A spokesman for UN special envoy Kofi Annan announced on Tuesday that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad accepted Annan’s six-point peace plan. Iran also announced its support for the plan. Western diplomats expressed doubts over Assad’s intention to implement it. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “We will judge Assad’s sincerity and seriousness by what he does, not by what he says.” Read more »

Egypt’s Dangerous Finger Pointing

by Robert M. Danin Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Egypt's army-appointed prime minister Kamal al-Ganzouri speaks during a parliament session in Cairo on February 26, 2012 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). Egypt's army-appointed prime minister Kamal al-Ganzouri speaks during a parliament session in Cairo on February 26, 2012 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the ruling SCAF have been exchanging public recriminations this week. The Brotherhood has charged that the military is stalling the revolution, seeking to rig the upcoming May presidential elections, and will delay the handover of power to civilian rule by July 1, despite SCAF statements to the contrary. The SCAF has responded with an unprecedented statement, accusing the now legal Muslim Brotherhood of “false allegations” that challenge the integrity of the military. Read more »

Middle East Matters This Week: Modest Security Council Steps on Syria While Copts Mourn in Egypt

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, March 22, 2012
Egyptian Coptic priests and Christians carry the coffin of Pope Shenouda III, the head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, upon its arrival for burial at St. Bishoy Monastery in Wadi al-Natrun, on March 20, 2012 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). Egyptian Coptic priests and Christians carry the coffin of Pope Shenouda III, the head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, upon its arrival for burial at St. Bishoy Monastery in Wadi al-Natrun, on March 20, 2012 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Middle East Developments

Egypt. Pope Shenouda III, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt for over forty years, died last Saturday. Thousands of mourners attended his Cairo funeral on Tuesday. Shenouda’s death comes at a time of deepening insecurity among Egypt’s ten million Copts and fears of increasing sectarian strife following a deadly Coptic church bombing in January 2011 that killed twenty-three people, the massacre of twenty-seven mostly Coptic protesters last October, and heightened anti-Christian rhetoric employed by newly empowered Salafists. Read more »

Surprising Arab Views of the “Turkish Model”

by Robert M. Danin Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Turkey's prime minister Tayyip Erdogan, with a portrait of modern Turkey's founder Ataturk in the background, speaks during a news conference in Ankara on October 20, 2011 (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters). Turkey's prime minister Tayyip Erdogan, with a portrait of modern Turkey's founder Ataturk in the background, speaks during a news conference in Ankara on October 20, 2011 (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters).

A recent poll conducted by YouGov asked respondents across the Arab world what type of political system would be best suited for Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya—countries where the governments had been overthrown during the Arab uprisings. The results are startling. Read more »

Middle East Matters This Week: Syria’s Regime Advances, Israel and Gaza Clash

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, March 15, 2012
Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov talks during the Arab League foreign ministers meeting, next to Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, at the organization's headquarters in Cairo, on March 10, 2012 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters). Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov talks during the Arab League foreign ministers meeting, next to Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, at the organization's headquarters in Cairo, on March 10, 2012 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Middle East Developments

Syria. As Syrians marked the one-year anniversary of the outbreak of protests in their country, Bashar al-Assad’s forces appeared to be gaining momentum. Over the course of the week, regime forces went on the offensive into Idlib and Dara’a. On Thursday, nearly one thousand Syrian refugees poured into Turkey. Ankara has announced plans to build a new refugee camp to house up to twenty thousand people. In addition to the estimated eight thousand Syrians who have died since the unrest began, around 1.4 million more are at risk of going hungry according to the UN World Food Program. Read more »

Remembering Halabja

by Robert M. Danin Wednesday, March 14, 2012
A resident holds a picture of his son at a cemetery for Kurdish poison gas victims in the town of Halabja on March 16, 2010 (Jamal Penjweny/Courtesy Reuters). A resident holds a picture of his son at a cemetery for Kurdish poison gas victims in the town of Halabja on March 16, 2010 (Jamal Penjweny/Courtesy Reuters).

Friday marks the twenty-fourth anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s brutal chemical gassing of Halabja, a northern Iraqi Kurdish town. The Halabja attack is the only documented major use of chemical weapons against a civilian population since these weapons were outlawed after World War II. Chemical weapons had been employed during the eight year-long war between Iraq and Iran, with villages hit and civilians killed. However, what was new in Halabja was their massive use to target civilians explicitly. The result was some three to five thousand Kurdish Iraqis killed and ten thousand wounded, maimed, and disfigured. Read more »

Middle East Matters This Week: Israel and the U.S. Talk Iran

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, March 8, 2012
U.S. president Barack Obama meets with Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on March 5, 2012 (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. president Barack Obama meets with Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on March 5, 2012 (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Middle East Developments

Israel. President Obama held three hours of talks with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House Monday. The two focused almost entirely on the challenge posed by Iran’s nuclear development efforts. President Obama also met with visiting Israeli president Shimon Peres on the margins of the annual AIPAC convention. Read more »

To Resolve Syria, Send Annan to Moscow

by Robert M. Danin Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Russian president Vladimir Putin invites UN secretary general Kofi Annan for talks in Moscow on April 5, 2004 (Sergei Karpukhin/Courtesy Reuters). Russian president Vladimir Putin invites UN secretary general Kofi Annan for talks in Moscow on April 5, 2004 (Sergei Karpukhin/Courtesy Reuters).

Kofi Annan, the newly appointed United Nations and Arab League envoy to Syria, travels to the Middle East today to kick off his diplomatic efforts. He will stop first in Cairo, where he will meet Arab League representatives. On Saturday, Annan visits Damascus to see President Bashar al-Assad as part of a mission “to seek an urgent end to all violence and human rights violations, and to initiate the effort to promote a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis.” Traveling to Egypt and Syria are surely necessary, but will soon prove to be insufficient.   Read more »

Middle East Matters This Week: Syria Besieges, Egypt Relents, and Iran War-Talk

by Robert M. Danin Friday, March 2, 2012
Some of the fourteen Egyptian activists who were accused of working for unlicensed non-governmental organizations and receiving illegal foreign funds, stand in a cage during the opening of their trial in Cairo on February 26, 2012 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). Some of the fourteen Egyptian activists who were accused of working for unlicensed non-governmental organizations and receiving illegal foreign funds, stand in a cage during the opening of their trial in Cairo on February 26, 2012 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Middle East Developments

Syria. Developments shifted back this week to the intense fighting in Syria, especially the siege of Homs. On Thursday, Syrian rebels announced their retreat from their Bab Amr stronghold in Homs, a day after Assad’s troops escalated their 26-day siege of the city and deployed elite troops of the Fourth Armored Division under the command of Bashar’s brother Maher to the city. Read more »