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 Boils, Palestine Upgrades, and Syria’s Opposition Gains

by Robert M. Danin Friday, November 30, 2012
Anti-Morsi protester chains his hands during a protest in Tahrir Square in Cairo on November 30, 2012 (Waguih/Courtesy Reuters). Anti-Morsi protester chains his hands during a protest in Tahrir Square in Cairo on November 30, 2012 (Waguih/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Middle East Developments

Egypt. Tens of thousands of protesters poured into Cairo’s Tahrir Square today to demonstrate against Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and the draft constitution that was approved late last night by the Islamist-dominated constituent assembly. The proposed document is slated to go to Morsi tomorrow for his approval and an announcement of a date for a popular referendum. Read more »

Palestine’s Muddled Statehood Strategy

by Robert M. Danin Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas holds up a copy of the letter seeking statehood he had just delivered to United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon (Segar/Courtesy Reuters). Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas holds up a copy of the letter seeking statehood he had just delivered to United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon (Segar/Courtesy Reuters).

If all goes according to plan, the UN General Assembly will vote on Thursday or soon after to accord Palestine “non-member observer state status” in the United Nations. According to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization who initiated the effort, it is intended to enhance the Palestinians’ leverage in future negotiations with Israel. Writing in the New York Times on May 16, 2011, Abbas explained his rationale: Read more »

Voices From the Region: Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Gaza

by Robert M. Danin Tuesday, November 27, 2012
A protester cheers as items ransacked from an office of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party burn in Alexandria on November 23, 2012 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). A protester cheers as items ransacked from an office of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party burn in Alexandria on November 23, 2012 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

“God’s will and elections made me the captain of this ship.” – Mohamed Morsi

“Every single political group in the country is now divided over this — is this decree revolutionary justice or building a new dictatorship? Should we align ourselves with folool or should we be revolutionary purists? Is it a conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and the pro-Mubarak judiciary, or is this the beginning of a fascist regime in the making?” – Rabab el-Mahdi, an activist and professor at the American University in Cairo Read more »

Israel’s Ehud Barak: Not Finished Yet

by Robert M. Danin Monday, November 26, 2012
Israel's defence minister Barak shakes hands with a soldier during a news conference near Tel Aviv on November 18, 2012 (Bar-On/Courtesy Reuters). Israel's defence minister Barak shakes hands with a soldier during a news conference near Tel Aviv on November 18, 2012 (Bar-On/Courtesy Reuters).

A prominent Israeli general, who subsequently became a politician, once told me: “In our politics there is ‘dead,’ ‘dead and buried,’ and ‘dead and buried and never coming back.’” It is important to keep these distinctions in mind when considering Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s announcement today that he will retire from Israeli political life and not run in the country’s upcoming parliamentary election next January 22. Read more »

Critical Tests for Egypt and the United States

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, November 22, 2012
U.S. secretary of state Clinton meets with Egyptian president Morsi on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York on September 24, 2012 (Kelly/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. secretary of state Clinton meets with Egyptian president Morsi on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York on September 24, 2012 (Kelly/Courtesy Reuters).

The scenario is all too familiar: Violence erupts between Israel and Hamas. The U.S. President calls his Egyptian counterpart and asks for help in managing the crisis. The voice from Cairo assures the American president that Egypt will do everything to help calm the situation and immediately steps in to mediate between the parties. Read more »

The Israel-Hamas Conflict’s Unintended Consequences

by Robert M. Danin Monday, November 19, 2012
Palestinians carry the body of Ahmed Al-Jaabari, Hamas's military mastermind, during his funeral in Gaza City on November 15, 2012 (Salem/Courtesy Reuters). Palestinians carry the body of Ahmed Al-Jaabari, Hamas's military mastermind, during his funeral in Gaza City on November 15, 2012 (Salem/Courtesy Reuters).

By Israel’s accounting, Operation Pillar of Defense has achieved many if not most of its major objectives: assassinating Hamas’ long-sought after military mastermind Ahmed Jaabari and other top officials, destroying much of Hamas’ long-range arsenal of imported Iranian-produced Fajr-5 missiles, and eliminating other significant high-value military targets. Despite this, however, a number of unintended consequences have already emerged, ranging from boosting Hamas’ prominence, undermining its isolation, further weakening the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas, and diverting regional attention from Syria. Read more »

Voices From the Region: Israel, Hamas, Syria, Saudi Arabia

by Robert M. Danin Sunday, November 18, 2012
Ahmed Al-Jaabari, chief of the armed wing of Hamas, escorting Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing on October 18, 2011 (Farid/Courtesy Reuters). Ahmed Al-Jaabari, chief of the armed wing of Hamas, escorting Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing on October 18, 2011 (Farid/Courtesy Reuters).

“This is a real declaration of war. The enemy will pay a heavy price for its crime and will regret the moment it thought of perpetrating it.” – Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, in response to the Israeli strike that killed Ahmed al-Jaabari, head of the military wing of the organization Read more »

Postcard From Amman

by Robert M. Danin Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Jordanian policemen stand guard to separate protesters during a demonstration following an announcement that Jordan would raise fuel prices, in Amman on November 13, 2012 (Hamed/Courtesy Reuters). Jordanian policemen stand guard to separate protesters during a demonstration following an announcement that Jordan would raise fuel prices, in Amman on November 13, 2012 (Hamed/Courtesy Reuters).

AMMAN – Demonstrations broke out in many parts of Jordan last night after the government announced the reduction of energy subsidies. Demonstrations are not new–there have been regular demonstrations in Jordan since the advent of the Arab uprisings.  What was new was the fusion of economic discontent, anger at perceived government corruption, and the calls in some quarters for regime change. Read more »

Middle Eastern Reactions to President Obama’s Reelection

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, November 8, 2012
U.S. ambassador to Iraq Robert Stephen Beecroft speaks during a news conference in Baghdad after the announcement of Obama's victory on November 7, 2012 (Mohammed/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. ambassador to Iraq Robert Stephen Beecroft speaks during a news conference in Baghdad after the announcement of Obama's victory on November 7, 2012 (Mohammed/Courtesy Reuters).

“It made my day… I and my friends expected war if Romney won.” – Sima, a businesswoman in Tehran

“President Obama will press for human rights and democracy to leave his marks in history…Also, the re-election reinforces the drive for peace rather than wars in the region especially with regards to Iran.” – Jasim Husain, a former MP and economist in Bahrain Read more »

Middle East Matters: Voices From the Region

by Robert M. Danin Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Yousif Muhafdah from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights at an anti-government rally in Bilad al-Qadeem on 19 October, 2012 (Mohammed/Courtesy Reuters). Yousif Muhafdah from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights at an anti-government rally in Bilad al-Qadeem on 19 October, 2012 (Mohammed/Courtesy Reuters).

“In the United States, you have a new elected president every four years. But here we are living with a king and the same prime minster for forty-two years.” – Yousif al-Muhafdah, a Bahraini human rights activist on Friday

“The behavior of the Syrian popular forces  is very similar to that of the Iranian Basij, therefore it is assumed that Iranian forces are present…If we are talking about the transfer and sharing of experience [between Iran and Syria] then it is only natural that such a thing should exist, but we are focusing on the fact that there are no Iranian forces present in Syria.” – Muhammad Reza Naghdi, commander of Iran’s Basij volunteer paramilitary force, said Wednesday according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency Read more »