Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

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

This Week: Mosul Offensive, Netanyahu’s Address, and Turkey’s Incursion

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, February 26, 2015
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter delivers remarks to troops at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait February 23, 2015 (Ernst/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter delivers remarks to troops at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait February 23, 2015 (Ernst/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

ISIS. Ashton Carter, wrapping up his first overseas trip as secretary of defense, met with top U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Kuwait on Monday to review the U.S.-led international coalition’s strategy against ISIS. Carter announced that the Obama administration had “the ingredients of the strategy” to defeat ISIS militarily in Iraq and Syria, but that further efforts were required to combat ISIS’ use of social media. Read more »

This Week: Egypt Seeks Nukes, ISIS Gets Escalation, and U.S.-Iran Shun Extensions

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, February 12, 2015
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a meeting in Cairo February 10, 2015 (Klimentyev/Courtesy Reuters). Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a meeting in Cairo February 10, 2015 (Klimentyev/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Egypt. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced an agreement to jointly build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant on Tuesday during Putin’s first visit to Egypt in over ten years. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki stated that, “[the United States] support[s] peaceful nuclear power programs as long as obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to which Egypt is a signatory… are fully met.” Read more »

This Week: Jordan’s ISIS Battle and Egypt’s Crackdown

by Robert M. Danin Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Al Jazeera journalists (L-R) Mohammed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed stand behind bars at a court in Cairo May 15, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters). Al Jazeera journalists (L-R) Mohammed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed stand behind bars at a court in Cairo May 15, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Jordan-ISIS. King Abdullah returned to a warm welcome in Jordan today after cutting short his visit to Washington yesterday. Abdullah’s move followed the release by ISIS of a video yesterday depicting captured Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh being burned to death in a cage. Crowds gathered to express support for the Jordanian king’s decision to swiftly execute Sajida al-Rishawi, a failed suicide bomber on death row, and Ziad al-Karbouli, a former top lieutenant of Al Qaeda in Iraq, in retaliation for al-Kasasbeh’s death. Read more »

Jordan’s ISIS Challenge

by Robert M. Danin Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Relatives of Islamic State captive Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh hold pictures of him as they join students during a rally calling for his release, at Jordan University in Amman February 3, 2015 (Hamed/Courtesy Reuters). Relatives of Islamic State captive Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh hold pictures of him as they join students during a rally calling for his release, at Jordan University in Amman February 3, 2015 (Hamed/Courtesy Reuters).

Today’s news and images of ISIS burning Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh to death in a cage comes just days after the group decapitated a second Japanese hostage. Such horrific murders provoke, shock, and dismay, which is their goal. By combining medieval brutality with twenty-first century social media, ISIS seeks the largest possible amount of attention for itself and its distorted variant of religio-messianism. Read more »

This Week: Hezbollah Attack, ISIS Rollback, and Jordan Hostage Standoff

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, January 29, 2015
Safi Yousef (2nd R), father of Islamic State captive Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh, speaks at a news conference where he asked for Islamic State to pardon and release his son, in Amman January 29, 2015 (Hamed/Courtesy Reuters). Safi Yousef (2nd R), father of Islamic State captive Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh, speaks at a news conference where he asked for Islamic State to pardon and release his son, in Amman January 29, 2015 (Hamed/Courtesy Reuters).

Israel-Lebanon. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said today that Israel had received reports via the UN indicating Hezbollah does not plan further military strikes following its attack yesterday that killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded seven others. The IDF struck Hezbollah operational positions in Lebanon in retaliation. Spain’s ambassador to the UN blamed Israel for the death of a Spanish soldier, on detail to UNIFIL, who was killed in the crossfire. Read more »

Hostile Middle East Reactions to Today’s Charlie Hebdo Cover

by Robert M. Danin Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo columnist Patrick Pelloux (R) and cartoonist Luz (L) show a copy of their next issue titled "Tout est pardonne" ("All is forgiven") showing a caricature of Prophet Mohammad during a news conference at the French newspaper Liberation offices in Paris, January 13, 2015 (Wojazer/Courtesy Reuters). Satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo columnist Patrick Pelloux (R) and cartoonist Luz (L) show a copy of their next issue titled "Tout est pardonne" ("All is forgiven") showing a caricature of Prophet Mohammad during a news conference at the French newspaper Liberation offices in Paris, January 13, 2015 (Wojazer/Courtesy Reuters).

The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published its first issue today since gunmen stormed the magazine’s headquarters in Paris last Monday, killing twelve people. The new cover depicts the Prophet Muhammad cryingand holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign under the words: “Tout est pardonné” (“All is forgiven”). The surviving editors of the magazine held a press conference today claiming that the cartoon is an act of forgiveness. The cartoonist of today’s provocative cover, Renald Luzier, stated, “we have confidence in people’s intelligence and we have confidence in humor.” Immediately, the Charlie Hebdo cover precipitated widespread condemnation across the Middle East invoking accusations of blasphemy, though reactions varied. Read more »

This Week: Torture Report Reactions, Failed Yemen Rescue, and a Deadly Palestinian Protest

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, December 11, 2014
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (L) discusses a newly released Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's anti-terrorism tactics, in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, in this still image taken from video, on Capitol Hill in Washington December 9, 2014. (Senate TV/Courtesy Reuters) Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (L) discusses a newly released Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's anti-terrorism tactics, in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, in this still image taken from video, on Capitol Hill in Washington December 9, 2014. (Senate TV/Courtesy Reuters)

Significant Developments

CIA Torture Report. Official reaction in the Middle East to the release yesterday of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on torture has been muted so far, with protests concentrated primarily on social media. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei yesterday said that the report revealed the United States to be a “symbol of tyranny against humanity.” ISIS and al-Qaeda eagerly decreed that the report showed the United States’ hypocrisy, with Dutch jihadist Israfil Yilmaz writing: “They call us monsters? Slap yourself, read some of the @CIA torture reports and wake up.” Yemen’s legal advisor Nazeeh Alemad said the publication of the report “makes no difference” as “people here [in Yemen] are not looking for more proof of torture [...] they deal with it as a fact.” Read more »

This Week: Mubarak’s Acquittal Challenged and Israel’s Government Dissolves

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, December 4, 2014
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves to his supporters as he returns to Maadi military hospital in Cairo November 29, 2014 (Waguih/Courtesy Reuters). Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves to his supporters as he returns to Maadi military hospital in Cairo November 29, 2014 (Waguih/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Egypt. Egypt’s top prosecutor announced Tuesday that he plans to appeal an Egyptian court’s dismissal of all remaining charges against former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak, his security chief, and six high level police commanders were acquitted last week of killing protestors in the 2011 uprisings after the court ruled the case “inadmissible” on a technicality. Read more »

This Week: ISIS Beheading, Jerusalem Carnage, and Gulf Reconciliation

by Robert M. Danin Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Paula (L) and Ed Kassig, parents of U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig who was beheaded by Islamic State militants, read from a prepared statement while speaking to the press in Indianapolis, Indiana, November 17, 2014  (Smith/Courtesy Reuters). Paula (L) and Ed Kassig, parents of U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig who was beheaded by Islamic State militants, read from a prepared statement while speaking to the press in Indianapolis, Indiana, November 17, 2014 (Smith/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

ISIS. ISIS released video footage on Sunday claiming responsibility for the beheading of American aid worker Peter Kassig. President Barack Obama confirmed the death of the American hostage and called the beheading “an act of pure evil.” A National Security Council spokesperson announced on Monday that Obama had ordered a comprehensive review over the summer of how the United States government addresses the issue of releasing hostages. Read more »

This Week: Iran Negotiations, Jordan-Israel Crisis Talks, and New Syria Truce Proposal

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, November 13, 2014
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L), EU envoy Catherine Ashton (C) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet in Muscat November 10, 2014 (Kamm/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L), EU envoy Catherine Ashton (C) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet in Muscat November 10, 2014 (Kamm/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Iran. Negotiators from Iran and the P5+1 countries hinted at a possible extension of the November 24 deadline for a nuclear deal, after three days of talks in Oman failed to provide a breakthrough in the negotiations. However, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes stressed publicly that the United States was “not focused in discussions with Iran on extending [the deadline], [in order] to keep the focus on closing gaps.” Read more »