Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

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

Middle East Matters This Week: Egypt’s Vote and Syria’s Massacre

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, May 31, 2012
A man cleans the scene of the burnt campaign headquarters of presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq in Cairo on May 29, 2012 (Mohammed Salem/Courtesy Reuters). A man cleans the scene of the burnt campaign headquarters of presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq in Cairo on May 29, 2012 (Mohammed Salem/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Middle East Developments

Egypt. The Presidential Elections Commission officially announced Monday that there will be a run-off between Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq for the presidency. The announcement has been greeted with dismay by many revolution supporters, with thousands taking to the streets, setting Shafiq’s Cairo headquarters on fire just hours later. The low turnout rate of 46 percent for the first round is expected to decrease for the run-offs scheduled on June 16-17 as many parties are threatening to boycott. Read more »

Egypt’s Historic Elections, Violent Eruptions in Lebanon and Yemen

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, May 24, 2012
A man holds his ballot sheet as he prepares to vote during Egypt's presidential elections in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria on May 23, 2012 (Mohamed Abd El-Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). A man holds his ballot sheet as he prepares to vote during Egypt's presidential elections in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria on May 23, 2012 (Mohamed Abd El-Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Middle East Developments

Egypt. Egyptians went to the polls for a second consecutive day today for the first free presidential elections in Egypt’s history. The turnout was particularly strong on Wednesday, and election monitors hailed the day as mostly free of fraud and violence. Vote tallying will be completed on Saturday, May 26, with the results announced next Tuesday, May 29. After yesteday’s vote, the Muslim Brotherhood claimed their candidate, Mohammed Morsi, was ahead of the twelve others; Amr Moussa’s staff concurred. Read more »

Why Are Egypt’s Presidential Elections Significant?

by Robert M. Danin Tuesday, May 22, 2012
An Egyptian expatriate living in Lebanon casts his ballot at a polling station at the Egyptian embassy in Beirut on May 11, 2012, during an early voting ahead of Egypt's presidential election (Sharif Karim/Courtesy Reuters). An Egyptian expatriate living in Lebanon casts his ballot at a polling station at the Egyptian embassy in Beirut on May 11, 2012, during an early voting ahead of Egypt's presidential election (Sharif Karim/Courtesy Reuters).

In an historic development, Egyptians head to the polls on Wednesday and Thursday to vote for a new president. To better understand the importance of this week’s elections, I asked a number of Egyptian and U.S. experts a single question: “Why are Egypt’s May 23 presidential elections significant?” Below, I post their responses: Read more »

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Deconstructors

by Robert M. Danin Monday, May 21, 2012
Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on May 7, 2012 (Gali Tibbon/Courtesy Reuters). Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on May 7, 2012 (Gali Tibbon/Courtesy Reuters).

This week’s Time magazine cover story features Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and attempts to divine the Israeli leader’s true ambitions. Time asks: Now that he has formed Israel’s strongest coalition in the country’s history, what does he plan to do with it? Analyzing Netanyahu’s “true intentions” has become a virtual cottage industry, both in Israel and abroad. Over the years, many commentators have scoured the Israeli leader’s personal history, speculating on the respective influences of his father, his wife, his fallen brother, and his childhood in the United States. Read more »

Middle East Matters This Week: Syrian Opposition Woes as Concerns Over Iran Increase

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, May 17, 2012
Burhan Ghalioun, head of the opposition Syrian National Council, speaks during a news conference with Italy's foreign minister Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata at the end of their meeting in Rome on May 13, 2012 (Alessandro Bianchi/Courtesy Reuters). Burhan Ghalioun, head of the opposition Syrian National Council, speaks during a news conference with Italy's foreign minister Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata at the end of their meeting in Rome on May 13, 2012 (Alessandro Bianchi/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Middle East Developments

Syria. Earlier today, Burhan Ghalioun offered to resign as head of the Syrian National Council, the country’s primary opposition group. In making the announcement, Ghalioun called on the Syrian opposition “to break the cycle of conflicts and preserve unity.” Ghalioun’s resignation, just two days after he was reelected to head the SNC, was nonetheless reportedly due to the mounting criticism of Ghalioun’s leadership within the opposition. Some constituents threatened to leave if their concerns were not properly addressed. Read more »

Implications of Israel’s New National Unity Government

by Robert M. Danin Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and newly appointed vice premier Shaul Mofaz attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on May 13, 2012 (Oded Balilty/Courtesy Reuters). Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and newly appointed vice premier Shaul Mofaz attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on May 13, 2012 (Oded Balilty/Courtesy Reuters).

Israel’s political landscape was just redrawn last week with the surprise agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima party head Shaul Mofaz to form a new government rather than hold national elections in September. I discussed the implications of this development with former New York Times diplomatic correspondent Bernard Gwertzman in an interview featured on CFR.org and published below. Read more »

Middle East Matters This Week: Israel’s Surprise Unity Agreement, Further Disunity in Syria

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, May 10, 2012
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and new Kadima head Shaul Mofaz give a joint press conferece on May 8, 2012 (Ammar Awad/Courtesy Reuters). Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and new Kadima head Shaul Mofaz give a joint press conferece on May 8, 2012 (Ammar Awad/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Middle East Developments

Israel. In a move that caught virtually all Israelis by surprise, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced early Tuesday morning that he was forming a new unity government with the Kadima party and its new leader Shaul Mofaz (my Tuesday morning analysis available here). Israelis had been bracing for new national elections. As Netanyahu and Mofaz met secretly to hammer out the deal on Monday night, Knesset members were working to dissolve the government in preparation for a likely September 4 vote. Read more »

Israel’s Midnight Surprise

by Robert M. Danin Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and the new Kadima party head, Shaul Mofaz, shake hands (Ammar Awad/Courtesy Reuters). Israeli prime mnister Netanyahu and the new Kadima party head, Shaul Mofaz, shake hands (Ammar Awad/Courtesy Reuters).

I just returned from Israel and the West Bank where I accompanied the Quartet Representative, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Israelis and Palestinians already were already absorbed by the impending election campaign, having rapidly internalized an apparent decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to dissolve his government and hold elections on September 4. Read more »

Middle East Matters This Week: Syria’s Cease-fire Tatters, Former Israeli Security Officials Speak out on Iran

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, May 3, 2012
Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak sits across from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on April 29, 2012 (Ronen Zvulun/Courtesy Reuters). Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak sits across from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on April 29, 2012 (Ronen Zvulun/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Middle East Developments

Syria. The United Nations announced today that the three-week old truce in Syria “is not holding.” Major General Robert Mood, chief of the UN Supervision Mission to Syria, told Britain’s Sky News that “This is not easy and we are seeing–by the action, by explosions, by firing–that the cease-fire is really a shaky one.” He went on to say that “what we are also seeing on the ground is that where we have observers present, they have a calming effect and we’re also seeing that those operating on the ground, they take advice from our observers.” Read more »