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 "Middle East Matters This Week"

This Week: Israeli-Palestinian Escalation, Egyptian and Syrian Elections

by Robert M. Danin
Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah (6th L) and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (5th L) pose for a group photo with Palestinian ministers during a swearing-in ceremony of the technocratic government, in the West Bank city of Ramallah June 2, 2014 (Torokman/Courtesy Reuters). Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah (6th L) and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (5th L) pose for a group photo with Palestinian ministers during a swearing-in ceremony of the technocratic government, in the West Bank city of Ramallah June 2, 2014 (Torokman/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Israel-Palestine.  Palestinian officials responded strongly to Israel’s announcement last night of plans for nearly 1,500 new housing units. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for president Mahmoud Abbas, warned that Palestine will “respond in an unprecedented way,” while PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi released a statement today threatening to go the UN. Read more »

This Week: Egyptians Vote, Libyans Demonstrate, and the Pope Visits the Holy Land

by Robert M. Danin
Pope Francis touches the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank, on his way to celebrate a mass in Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem May 25, 2014 (Amareen/Courtesy Reuters). Pope Francis touches the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank, on his way to celebrate a mass in Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem May 25, 2014 (Amareen/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Egypt. Security forces on Friday dispersed demonstrations across the country of Morsi supporters protesting General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s victory in this week’s presidential election. Sisi reportedly won nearly 95 percent of the vote. Presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, who came in third in 2012, conceded defeat yesterday, calling the official voter turnout figures an “insult to Egyptians’ intelligence.” Read more »

This Week: Syria’s Friends, Libya’s Military, and Iran’s Negotiations

by Robert M. Danin
UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi pauses during a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva January 27, 2014 (Balibouse/Courtesy Reuters). UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi pauses during a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva January 27, 2014 (Balibouse/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. The Friends of Syria group met in London yesterday and issued a communique that denounced Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s plan to hold elections on June 3 and agreed to increase support to the moderate opposition. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed frustration about the Syrian regime’s control over access to international humanitarian aid and said he had seen data indicating the Syrian government recent use of chlorine as a chemical weapon. Read more »

This Week: Syria’s Latest Agreement and a New U.S. Ambassador for Egypt

by Robert M. Danin
Residents arrive on foot to inspect their homes in the al-Hamdeya neighborhood, after the cessation of fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, in Homs May 9, 2014 (al-Hariri/Courtesy Reuters). Residents arrive on foot to inspect their homes in the al-Hamdeya neighborhood, after the cessation of fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, in Homs May 9, 2014 (al-Hariri/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. Regime forces took complete control of Homs today as part of a deal struck with armed rebels allowing for nearly 1,700 opposition fighters to evacuate the city with light weapons. Hundreds of Homs residents began to filter back into the battered city this morning to discover what remained of their homes. The regime-rebel pact, brokered by the Iranian and Russian ambassadors to Syria, exchanged safe passage for the release of forty Alawite women and children, an Iranian woman, and thirty-one Syrian soldiers, as well as the distribution of aid to two pro-regime villages in Aleppo province. Read more »

This Week: Palestinian Unity, GCC-Qatar Comity, and Syrian Duplicity

by Robert M. Danin
Foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council's countries attend a meeting in the Saudi port city of Jeddah September 10, 2013 (Al Qarni/Courtesy Reuters). Foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council's countries attend a meeting in the Saudi port city of Jeddah September 10, 2013 (Al Qarni/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Palestinian Unity. The Israeli cabinet voted unanimously to suspend peace talks with the Palestinian Authority today because of the unity agreement announced yesterday between Fatah and Hamas. Rejecting the notion of negotiating with a government “backed by Hamas,” prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Whoever chooses the terrorism of Hamas does not want peace.” The deadline for the completion of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations set nine months ago by Secretary of State Kerry expires on April 29. See my analysis of the Palestinian reconciliation agreement in my blog post from yesterday. Read more »

This Week: Syria’s Fighting and Spillover Into Lebanon and Jordan

by Robert M. Danin
Saudi Intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who stepped down this week (Bourg/Courtesy Reuters). Saudi Intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who stepped down this week (Bourg/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. Regime fighters reportedly made significant progress against opposition forces in Homs this week, as Syrian military forces began entering rebel districts on Monday, stepping up one of the strongest bombardments in months. Homs is considered the last main opposition stronghold in central Syria. Meanwhile, the Syrian regime and opposition representatives traded new accusations of using chemical weapons in an attack on the village of Kfar Zeita last Friday. Read more »

This Week: Egypt’s Likely New President, Arab League Paralysis, and Turkish-Syrian Fighting

by Robert M. Danin
Egypt's defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is seen during a news conference in Cairo (Courtesy Reuters). Egypt's defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is seen during a news conference in Cairo (Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Egypt. Field Marshal and Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi yesterday resigned from the military and announced his candidacy for president. Ibrahim Munir, a member of the political bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood, declared in response to the announcement that al-Sisi is “a man who has killed daily since the coup” and that “there can be no stability or security under the shadow of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the presidency.” The move comes just days before nominations are scheduled to begin on Sunday. Thus far only one other candidate, Hamdeen Sabbahi who came in third in the 2012 presidential election, has declared his intention to enter the race. Read more »

This Week: U.S.-Palestinian Summit, Piracy in Libya, Negotiations with Iran

by Robert M. Danin
U.S. president Barack Obama meets with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas at the White House in Washington March 17, 2014 (Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. president Barack Obama meets with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas at the White House in Washington March 17, 2014 (Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Israeli-Palestinian Peace.  President Barack Obama met with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Monday. The two leaders discussed the April 29 deadline set by the United States for a framework agreement. Obama told reporters at the top of the meeting that risks would have to be taken if progress is to be made. In the meeting, Abbas reportedly requested the release of Marwan Barghouti, one of the most senior prisoners held by Israel, as one way to possibly extend the talks. Read more »

This Week: Syria’s Machinations, Egypt’s Presidency, and Iran’s Bravado

by Robert M. Danin
Syria's UN ambassador Bashar Ja'afari (R) talks with Russian ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin before members of the United Nations Security Council take part in a vote on a resolution eradicating Syria's chemical arsenal during a Security Council meeting during the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York September 27, 2013 (Bedford/Courtesy Reuters). Syria's UN ambassador Bashar Ja'afari (R) talks with Russian ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin before members of the United Nations Security Council take part in a vote on a resolution eradicating Syria's chemical arsenal during a Security Council meeting during the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York September 27, 2013 (Bedford/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. Russia today presented a draft resolution on Syrian humanitarian aid access that includes a condemnation of “terrorism” to the UN Security Council. Yesterday, Russian deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov rejected a proposed resolution on humanitarian aid access drafted by Australia, Jordan, and Luxembourg that demanded “all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, immediately end the sieges of the Old City of Homs.” 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 »