Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

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

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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). 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). 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: Egypt Revisited

by Robert M. Danin
The sun sets over the river Nile in Cairo on February 8, 2011 (Dylan Martinez/Courtesy Reuters). The sun sets over the river Nile in Cairo on February 8, 2011 (Dylan Martinez/Courtesy Reuters).

Today’s post features a guest blog by Nervana Mahmoud, a British-Egyptian anesthesiologist and blogger known to many through her commentary on Twitter as @Nervana_1. She recently returned to Egypt and reports on what she found.

The Egypt I knew and grew up in was a laid-back country, almost resigned to its fate. Earlier this month, I came back to visit after some years abroad only to see a nation on the edge, anxious and confused. Egypt today is trying to come to terms with its past and present, and struggling to define its vision for the future. Rather than drawing a single unified conclusion about what Egypt is today, I left with a mélange of disparate impressions. Here are four: 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 »