Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

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

This Week: Islamist Defeat in Tunisia, Increased Violence in Jerusalem, and Counter-Offensive in Kobani

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, October 30, 2014
Supporters of the Nida Tounes (Call of Tunisia) secular party movement wave flags and shout slogans outside Nidaa Tounes headquarters in Tunis October 28, 2014 (Souissi/Courtesy Reuters). Supporters of the Nida Tounes (Call of Tunisia) secular party movement wave flags and shout slogans outside Nidaa Tounes headquarters in Tunis October 28, 2014 (Souissi/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Tunisia. The Tunisian election commission confirmed the victory of the secular party Nidaa Tunis in the country’s parliamentary elections held Sunday. It was Tunisia’s second parliamentary vote since the region wide Arab uprisings first erupted in the country in 2011. Nidaa Tunis, which is composed of liberals and politicians from earlier Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali regime, won 85 of the 217 parliamentary seats. Ennahda, the ruling Islamist party, finished second, winning 69 seats in parliament. The head of the EU observer mission, Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, deemed the Tunisia’s parliamentary election “ transparent and credible.” Read more »

This Week: Turkey’s Acquiescence and Iran Sanctions

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, October 23, 2014
A Kurdish peshmerga fighter launches mortar shells (Jadallah/Courtesy Reuters). A Kurdish peshmerga fighter launches mortar shells (Jadallah/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

ISIS-Turkey. Turkey announced on Monday that it would allow Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces to cross its border to come to Kobani’s defense, five weeks after the start of ISIS’s assault on the town. U.S. military planes airdropped ammunition, small arms, and medical supplies over Kobani on Sunday to resupply depleted Kurdish fighters. However, the Daily Beast reported on Tuesday that ISIS had posted a video online in which it claimed to have intercepted some of the munitions dropped by the United States. Read more »

This Week: Defeating ISIS, Iran Negotiations, and Rebuilding Gaza

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, October 16, 2014
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey speaks in a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, September 26, 2014 (Downing/Courtesy Reuters). Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey speaks in a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, September 26, 2014 (Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

ISIS. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey told CNN yesterday that the United States has a “winning strategy” to defeat ISIS. Dempsey’s comments came one day after President Barack Obama told reporters that the campaign will see “days of progress” and “periods of setback.” Obama’s remarks followed a meeting with the military chiefs of twenty-one coalition countries at Andrews Air Force Base on Tuesday. Read more »

This Week: Turkey’s Dilemma and Egypt’s Beheadings

by Robert M. Danin Wednesday, October 8, 2014
A Turkish Kurdish protester throws a tear gas canister back at Turkish soldiers near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the Turkish town of Suruc in southeastern Sanliurfa province October 4, 2014 (Sezer/Courtesy Reuters). A Turkish Kurdish protester throws a tear gas canister back at Turkish soldiers near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the Turkish town of Suruc in southeastern Sanliurfa province October 4, 2014 (Sezer/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Turkey-Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called on the U.S.-led coalition to supply arms and training to opposition ground troops in Syria, arguing that “Kobani [was] about to fall” to ISIS. Erdogan nonetheless refused to commit Turkish ground forces. The Turkish leader’s decision to withhold ground troops, stemming primarily from a refusal to engage with affiliates of the PKK, sparked clashes between Kurdish protesters and security forces throughout Turkey. Read more »

Voices From the UN General Assembly

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, October 2, 2014
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2014 (Segar/Courtesy Reuters). Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2014 (Segar/Courtesy Reuters).

International efforts to combat ISIS dominated the recent debate in New York when world leaders converged for the UN General Assembly’s sixty-ninth session. Middle East Matters has excerpted passages from regional leaders, all of whom spoke about the ISIS challenge, though in markedly different ways. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and this summer’s fighting also featured heavily, with most speeches specifically calling for the Gaza strip to be rebuilt. Read more »

This Week: ISIS struck in Syria and Iraq as the Middle East takes center stage at the UN

by Robert M. Danin Friday, September 26, 2014
A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria, in this U.S. Air Force handout photo taken early in the morning of September 23, 2014 (Matthew Bruch/Courtesy Reuters). A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria, in this U.S. Air Force handout photo taken early in the morning of September 23, 2014 (Matthew Bruch/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. The United States conducted its first ever military strikes against ISIS in Syria this week, targeting primarily oil refineries and infrastructure used for command and control in Raqqa. U. S. military and intelligence officials said on Tuesday that the airstrikes had also targeted an al-Qaeda affiliate called Khorasan. The group had reportedly been organizing an “imminent” attack from Syria against the United States or Europe. According to press reports, U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power informed her Syrian counterpart in advance of the airstrikes in Syria. Read more »

This Week: Mobilizing to Counter ISIS

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, September 18, 2014
Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, the Kingdom's grand mufti, prays during the funeral of the Saudi woman and her daughter who were killed in Chad, at the Grand Mosque in Riyadh February 6, 2008 (Jarekji/Courtesy Reuters). Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, the Kingdom's grand mufti, prays during the funeral of the Saudi woman and her daughter who were killed in Chad, at the Grand Mosque in Riyadh February 6, 2008 (Jarekji/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. French President Francois Hollande announced today that France would provide military support, including airstrikes, against ISIS in Iraq. On Monday, Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom pledged support for the fight against ISIS following the conclusion of the Paris conference. Wrapping up his tour of the Middle East to recruit Arab support, Secretary of State John Kerry received assurances of good intentions from Egypt and Iraq, while Saudi Arabia pledged to provide the training of Syrian rebel forces at its bases. Less clear was what, if any, would be their military contributions. Germany is set to host a conference for Iraq and Syria in Berlin on October 28 to discuss security concerns in the region. Read more »

Understanding ISIS’s Apocalyptic Appeal

by Guest Blogger for Robert M. Danin Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Militant Islamist fighters associated with ISIS  take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters). Militant Islamist fighters associated with ISIS take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters).

By Ella Lipin

President Barack Obama’s expected announcement today of a long-term military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) follows an unusually grizzly few months of territorial conquest and seemingly barbaric behavior. To the outside world, this period of atrocities perpetrated by ISIS, such as the beheading of two American journalists, may be another defining moment in shaping the Middle East. But for many people in the region, ISIS’s message resounds and its arrival marks the end of days and the fulfillment of divine prophecy. To understand ISIS’s appeal and ultimately how to defeat it, the United States must recognize how the organization situates itself within Islamic apocalyptic tradition. Read more »

This Week: Israel-Hamas Fighting Intensifies and Islamists capture Benghazi

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, July 31, 2014
Palestinians collect the remains of bodies at a United Nation-run school sheltering Palestinians displaced by an Israeli ground offensive, that witnesses said was hit by Israeli shelling, in Jebalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip July 30, 2014 (Salem/Courtesy Reuters). Palestinians collect the remains of bodies at a United Nation-run school sheltering Palestinians displaced by an Israeli ground offensive, that witnesses said was hit by Israeli shelling, in Jebalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip July 30, 2014 (Salem/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Israel-Hamas. The Israeli government ordered the call up of 16,000 additional reserve soldiers today in the fourth week of Hamas-Israeli fighting in Gaza. A joint Fatah-Hamas delegation reportedly arrived in Cairo this morning to discuss possible cease-fire agreements with Egyptian officials. A small Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo yesterday for similar discussions. So far, some 1,360 Palestinians and 59 Israelis have died as a result of Hamas-Israel fighting which shows no sign of abating. For more on the Obama administration and the Gaza crisis, see the U.S. Foreign Policy section below. Read more »

This Week: Hamas-Israel Fighting Escalates and Iraq’s New President

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, July 24, 2014
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo July 22, 2014 (Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo July 22, 2014 (Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Gaza-Israel. Secretary of State John Kerry has drafted a new cease-fire proposal which has been presented to Israel and Hamas. Kerry, due to leave Cairo on Friday for Washington, is reportedly waiting to hear Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal’s response to the proposal from the Qatari and Turkish foreign ministers. While Kerry and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon have been shuttling around the Middle East in search of a cease-fire, the prospects for an immediate halt to the fighting in Gaza do not appear imminent. Read more »