Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

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

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Understanding ISIS’s Apocalyptic Appeal

by Guest Blogger for Robert M. Danin
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 »

The Politics of Energy: What Morsi’s Fall Means for Jordan

by Guest Blogger for Robert M. Danin
Flames rise from an Egyptian pipeline distribution station after an attack in the Sinai peninsula July 12, 2011 (Courtesy Reuters).

This post is written by Sarah Craig, a Council on Foreign Relations research intern from Princeton University.

Jordan’s king Abdullah was the first foreign head of state to visit Egypt after the military’s July 3 removal of President Mohammad Morsi. Abdullah had spoken publicly against the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and clearly welcomed its fall in Egypt, congratulating both the army and interim president Adly Mansour on the leadership changes. Read more »

Guest Post: The Politics of Egypt’s Rape Epidemic

by Guest Blogger for Robert M. Danin
A woman raises a knife against Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi and members of the Brotherhood during a march against sexual harassment and violence against women in Cairo February 6, 2013 (Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters)..

This post is written by Allison Nour, a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In a powerful scene from the 2010 Egyptian film “678,” a veiled woman boards a crowded public bus on her way to work, squeezing through a mass of passengers in search of a space where she will feel least vulnerable to attack. Inevitably, though, groping hands reach her and she has no choice but to endure or try to quietly move away without drawing attention. Read more »

Guest Post: Jordan’s Reform Calculations

by Guest Blogger for Robert M. Danin
Jordanian Islamic Front Action supporters shout slogans against Syria's president Bashar al-Assad during a demonstration in Amman on March 9, 2012 (Muhammad Hamed/Courtesy Reuters).

This post is written by Kelley Calkins, a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations. Here she offers her assessment of the Jordanian leadership’s calculations concerning domestic reform amidst the Arab uprisings. 

Protests last weekend that resulted in the arrest of twelve protesters in Jordan serve as a reminder that the Hashemite Kingdom continues to face domestic challenges inspired by the Arab uprisings. Indeed, since January 2011, Jordan has seen numerous protests and calls for economic and political reform. King Abdullah has responded to these demonstrations by promising political change and sacking two of his prime ministers. However, meaningful movement toward real reform has been minimal so far. Given the regional instability surrounding the Hashemite Kingdom during this period of great upheaval, it seems the Jordanian regime has calculated that too much reform is risky, dangerous, and perhaps unnecessary. Read more »

Remembering the Hama Massacre

by Guest Blogger for Robert M. Danin
Syrian soldiers who defected to join the Free Syrian Army are seen among demonstrators during a protest against Syria's president Bashar al-Assad in Kafranbel near Idlib on January 29, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters).

Today marks thirty years since the start of President Hafez al-Assad’s brutal crackdown on the city of Hama in Syria. I asked Ella Lipin, a Fulbright grantee last year in Cairo who lived and worked in Yemen in 2007, to offer her thoughts on the Hama massacre and any parallels that may exist between President Hafez al-Assad and his son, current president Bashar al-Assad.
Read more »

Guest Post: Behind Recent GCC Calls for Unity

by Guest Blogger for Robert M. Danin

Saudi Arabia's king Abdullah welcomes Sultan Qaboos bin Saiid of Oman in Riyadh on December 19, 2011. Leaders of the Gulf Arab states arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for the Gulf Cooperation Council summit (Courtesy Reuters).

This post is written by my colleague, Kelley Calkins, a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations. Here she offers her assessment of recent GCC calls for unity following this week’s annual GCC summit.

Speaking to his Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) counterparts at the annual GCC summit in Riyadh on Monday, Saudi Arabia’s king Abdullah suggested to the group that they “move from a phase of cooperation to a phase of union within a single entity.” This call was echoed by the other GCC leaders yesterday in the final communique issued at the conclusion of the summit, which also included a directive for Syria to accept the Arab League peace plan. Such grandiose calls for unity and collective decision-making are unusual given the GCC’s lackluster history of organizational cohesiveness and action. It is the dramatically changing regional context, however, that explains this newfound call to action. Read more »