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 "Syria"

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 »

Voices From the Region: Iraq, Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia

by Robert M. Danin
An explosion is seen during a car bomb attack at a Shi'ite political organization's rally in Baghdad, April 25, 2014 (al-Sudani/Courtesy Reuters). An explosion is seen during a car bomb attack at a Shi'ite political organization's rally in Baghdad, April 25, 2014 (al-Sudani/Courtesy Reuters).

“My life? I don’t have one. Explosions, blast walls blocking the ways, no services. And because of all this my business has stopped.” –Firas Younis, an Iraqi retail store owner in Mosul, Iraq

“They’re the same —Sissi and Sabbahi…[both men are] egoists who are obsessed with Nasser’s image.” –Reda Saad, a businessman in the Egyptian city of Fayoum 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 »

Voices From the Region: Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Algeria, and Lebanon

by Robert M. Danin
People wave banners in a demonstration in Cairo April 10, 2014 (El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). People wave banners in a demonstration in Cairo April 10, 2014 (El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

“They call it aid, but I don’t consider it aid…I consider it buying time and giving people the illusion that there is aid when really there is not.” –Brigadier General Asaad al-Zoabi, a Syrian fighter pilot who defected and joined the opposition 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 »

Syria By the Numbers VI

by Robert M. Danin
A man reacts at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad in Masaken Hanano in Aleppo February 6, 2014 (Katan/Courtesy Reuters). A man reacts at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad in Masaken Hanano in Aleppo February 6, 2014 (Katan/Courtesy Reuters).

Last month, the United Nations announced that it had stopped updating its official death toll from Syria’s conflict due to an inability to verify sources. The UN’s last estimate of over 100,000 people killed was released in late July 2013.

Here at Middle East Matters, I have continued to compile data from Syria’s brutal conflict. Our sources include the Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDC), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), and the Syrian Revolution Martyr Database, as well as refugee numbers from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. 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 »

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 »