Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

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

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Showing posts for "Arab Uprisings"

The Obama Administration’s Upcoming Arab Outreach

by Robert M. Danin
U.S. president Barack Obama (R) meets with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington June 29, 2010 (Downing/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. president Barack Obama (R) meets with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington June 29, 2010 (Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

President Obama meets King Abdullah of Jordan on Friday in California. The president will also travel to Saudi Arabia in March, just after Secretary of State John Kerry makes a special stop in the United Arab Emirates.

All three of these events are part of a larger whole: an attempt by the Obama administration to reassure key American Arab allies that the United States is not retreating from the Middle East or going soft on its leadership role in the world. This effort was exemplified by the extraordinary joint plea by Secretaries Hagel and Kerry recently at the Munich Security Conference to skeptical European partners. Read more »

This Week: Syria’s Fighting, Iran’s Windfall, and Iraq’s Violence

by Robert M. Danin
A member of Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra mans a checkpoint on the border crossing between Syria and Jordan, which they claim to have taken control of, in Daraa December 26, 2013 (Khassawneh/Courtesy Reuters). A member of Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra mans a checkpoint on the border crossing between Syria and Jordan, which they claim to have taken control of, in Daraa December 26, 2013 (Khassawneh/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. The United Nations and Syria agreed today to allow humanitarian aid into the besieged old city of Homs, and to allow women and children safe passage out. The agreement came just hours after Syrian rebels announced a new campaign in Aleppo against government forces which escalated its air assault earlier this week. Read more »

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

by Robert M. Danin
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). 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: Egypt’s Constitutional Referendum, Syria’s Peace Conference, and Iraq’s Unity Setback

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

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

by Robert M. Danin
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). 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 »

This Week: Syrian War Crimes, Iranian Talks, and Egyptian Acquitals

by Robert M. Danin
Residents react while calling for help as they hold an injured man that survived shelling after what activists said was an air strike from forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Takeek Al-Bab area of Aleppo, December 17, 2013 (AboBrahim/Courtesy Reuters). Residents react while calling for help as they hold an injured man that survived shelling after what activists said was an air strike from forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Takeek Al-Bab area of Aleppo, December 17, 2013 (AboBrahim/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. UN investigators reported today that the Assad regime has been conducting extensive and systemic abductions that constitute a war crime and “widespread campaign of terror against the civilian population.” Amnesty International released a separate report alleging widespread torture and executions and documenting secret prisons operated by the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL) throughout rebel-held areas of Syria. Read more »

This Week: Egypt’s Constitution, Iran’s Diplomacy, and Syria’s War Crimes

by Robert M. Danin
Amr Moussa, head of the assembly writing Egypt's new constitution,speaks after they finished their vote at the Shura Council in Cairo December 1, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters). Amr Moussa, head of the assembly writing Egypt's new constitution,speaks after they finished their vote at the Shura Council in Cairo December 1, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Egypt. Egypt’s Salafist Islamist party, al-Nour, announced its support today for the just completed draft constitution, despite an amendment that bans religiously based political parties. The draft constitution would remove most opposition to the current state of military rule, and has been condemned both by supporters of deposed president Mohammed Morsi as well as human rights activitists who fear that it unduly enshrines the military’s predominant position in Egyptian politics. Read more »

This Week: Terror in Lebanon, Nuclear Talks with Iran, and Stockpile Plans for Syria

by Robert M. Danin
Civil Defence personnel extinguish a fire on cars at the site of the explosions near the Iranian embassy in Beirut November 19, 2013 (Yassine/Courtesy Reuters). Civil Defence personnel extinguish a fire on cars at the site of the explosions near the Iranian embassy in Beirut November 19, 2013 (Yassine/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Lebanon. Prime Minister Tamam Salam and speaker Nabih Berry both warned on Thursday of a return to violence in Lebanon if the country fails to resolve ongoing domestic political crises and control internal security. Their comments followed Tuesday’s suicide bombings of the Iranian embassy in Beirut that killed twenty-five people, including the Iranian cultural attaché, and wounded another one hundred and forty people. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an al-Qaeda affiliated Sunni extremist group, took credit for the attack, which it claimed was in protest of Iran’s role in the ongoing civil war in Syria. Read more »

This Week: Syrian Accord, Iranian Discord, and an End to Egyptian Emergency

by Robert M. Danin
Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour meets with Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and defense minister Sergei Shoigu  Cairo, November 14, 2013 (Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour meets with Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and defense minister Sergei Shoigu Cairo, November 14, 2013 (Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Syria. The Syrian Opposition Coalition voted to attend the upcoming peace conference in Geneva, though the decision was conditional on the Syrian government allowing aid shipments to rebel held areas and the release of prisoners by government forces. According to Russian news sources, the Syrian government will send a delegation to Moscow on Monday to prepare for the upcoming international peace conference in Geneva. Read more »

This Week: Iranian Negotiations, Syrian CW Dismantlement, and Israeli-Palestinian Squabbling

by Robert M. Danin
Iranian and international negotiators in Geneva November 7, 2013 (Balibouse/Courtesy Reuters). Iranian and international negotiators in Geneva November 7, 2013 (Balibouse/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Iran. Nuclear negotiations between the P5+1 countries and Iran began today in Geneva with participants voicing optimism that a deal could be reached within days. A senior U.S. official told journalists yesterday that the United States was looking for a “first step understanding” that stops Iran’s nuclear program from moving forward in exchange for “limited, targeted, and reversible sanctions relief.” Read more »