Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

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

This Week: Syria’s Negotiations, Egypt’s Entrenchment, and Iran’s Inspections

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, January 30, 2014
U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi addresses a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva January 27, 2014 (Balibouse/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. The first ever talks between the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime continue in Switzerland, with the Syrian government hinting yesterday it may be willing to accede to the 2012 Geneva I communique as a road map for the future. However, the Damascus government and the Syrian opposition fundamentally disagree over how to implement the document and its call for a political transition in Syria. Read more »

This Week: Syria II Launched, Iran Sanctions Eased, and Turkey’s Judiciary Purged

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, January 23, 2014
Senior Syrian opposition member Haitham al-Maleh sits alone during the second session of the Geneva-2 peace conference in Montreux January 22, 2014 (Saidi/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met separately today with delegations from Syria’s government and opposition today to prepare for face-to-face talks slated for tomorrow. The Geneva II peace conference got off to a rocky start yesterday when Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Muallem and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon clashed during their opening remarks. Read more »

This Week: Egypt’s Constitutional Referendum, Syria’s Peace Conference, and Iraq’s Unity Setback

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, January 16, 2014
Officials count ballots after polls closed in Cairo, January 15, 2014 (El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Egypt. Egyptian state media reported today that over 95 percent of those who participated in the two-day constitutional referendum voted in favor of the new charter. Estimated turnout rates fluctuate wildly, ranging from an Interior Ministry official’s report of more than 55 percent to state media reports of just over 36 percent. Read more »

Israel’s Ariel Sharon: Always Seizing the Offensive

by Robert M. Danin Saturday, January 11, 2014
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon speaks to the media during a news conference in Tel Aviv December 1, 2005 (Magen/Courtesy Reuters).

Former prime minister Ariel Sharon began every meeting I ever attended with U.S. officials with a greeting that always made me chuckle: “You are mostly welcome.” That welcome revealed his flawed English and perfectly reflected his ambivalence and apprehension about American efforts: He recognized that the United States was the best friend Israel had ever known. But he was ever suspicious that Washington might pressure him into something he did not want to do. Read more »

This Week: Syrian Pre-Negotiations, Egyptian Convictions, and more U.S. Shuttle Diplomacy

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, January 9, 2014
Members of Syrian opposition groups stand after visiting the former mosque of Cordoba during a consultative meeting in Cordoba, southern Spain January 9, 2014 (del Pozo/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. Representatives from various Syrian opposition groups– including some Islamist factions– met in Cordoba, Spain today to try to forge common ground before the scheduled peace talks with the Assad regime on January 22 in Switzerland. Secretary of State John Kerry floated the idea earlier this week that Iran could play a role from the sidelines, saying that, “Can their mission that is already in Geneva…be there in order to help the process? It may be that there are ways that could happen.” Read more »