Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

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

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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 II Launched, Iran Sanctions Eased, and Turkey’s Judiciary Purged

by Robert M. Danin
Senior Syrian opposition member Haitham al-Maleh sits alone during the second session of the Geneva-2 peace conference in Montreux January 22, 2014 (Saidi/Courtesy Reuters). Senior Syrian opposition member Haitham al-Maleh sits alone during the second session of the Geneva-2 peace conference in Montreux January 22, 2014 (Saidi/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met separately today with delegations from Syria’s government and opposition today to prepare for face-to-face talks slated for tomorrow. The Geneva II peace conference got off to a rocky start yesterday when Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Muallem and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon clashed during their opening remarks. Read more »

Middle East Matters This Week: Libyan Abductions, Egyptian Aid Suspension, and Syrian Culpability

by Robert M. Danin
Libya's prime minister Ali Zeidan places his hand on his forehead as he addresses a news conference after his release and arrival at the headquarters of the prime minister's Office in Tripoli October 10, 2013 (Zitouny/Courtesy Reuters). Libya's prime minister Ali Zeidan places his hand on his forehead as he addresses a news conference after his release and arrival at the headquarters of the prime minister's Office in Tripoli October 10, 2013 (Zitouny/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Libya. Prime minister Ali Zeidan was abducted today and held for at least six hours by the Revolutionary Operations Chamber, a militia assigned to protect Libya’s parliament. The group, which subsequently released Zeidan, claimed it arrested the prime minister for his role in a U.S. raid on Saturday in which Abu Anas al-Libi, a suspect in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, was captured. Read more »

Middle East Matters This Week: Syria’s Negotiations, Egypt’s Violence, and Turkey’s Politics

by Robert M. Danin
UN vehicles transporting a team of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are pictured as they return to their hotel in Damascus October 3, 2013 (al-Hariri/Courtesy Reuters). UN vehicles transporting a team of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are pictured as they return to their hotel in Damascus October 3, 2013 (al-Hariri/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. The Assad regime provided documents yesterday about its chemical weapons stockpile in the first day of Damascus meetings with the nineteen member advance team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The team called the Syrian government’s move “promising,” and said it hopes to begin onsite inspections and dismantling efforts next week. Initial timetables aim to destroy production equipment by November and eliminate stock piles in mid-2014. Read more »

Three Major Challenges for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations

by Robert M. Danin
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat at a 2008 press conference (Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). Israeli and Palestinian negotiators Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat at a 2008 press conference (Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Israeli and Palestinian peace talks are poised to resume after a prolonged hiatus. Six Middle East trips, and tireless efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry made this resumption possible. The talks face three major challenges as a new chapter begins in the twenty year-long saga of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Read more »

Middle East Matters This Week: Syria at the UN, Egypt’s Demonstrations, and Israeli-Palestinian Talks

by Robert M. Danin
A member of the Free Syrian Army plays darts on a picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Bab al-Nasr neighborhood of Aleppo June 28, 2013 (Khatib/Courtesy Reuters). A member of the Free Syrian Army plays darts on a picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Bab al-Nasr neighborhood of Aleppo June 28, 2013 (Khatib/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry met Ahmed al-Jarba, the Syrian National Coalition’s (SNC) newly elected leader, late this afternoon at the United Nations to discuss “political solutions” to the Syrian conflict. Al-Jarba met with French president Francois Hollande in Paris yesterday in an effort to push for military and humanitarian aid. United Nations disarmament chief Angela Kane and Swedish chemical weapons expert Ake Sellstrom left Damascus today after a two-day visit to discuss with Syrian officials the scope of the UN’s upcoming inquiry into the alleged use of chemical weapons in the war. Syrian officials seek to limit the panel’s investigation to the suspected March 19 use of sarin gas in Aleppo, while the UN and U.S. are seeking unrestricted access for the investigators. UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry told the Security Council on Tuesday that the international organization has received thirteen reports of alleged chemical weapons use in Syria. Read more »

Secretary Kerry’s Creative Ambiguity and Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

by Robert M. Danin
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference at Queen Alia International Airport in the Jordanian capital of Amman July 19, 2013 (Ngan/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference at Queen Alia International Airport in the Jordanian capital of Amman July 19, 2013 (Ngan/Courtesy Reuters).

At the conclusion of his sixth arduous Middle East shuttle Friday night, Secretary of State John Kerry announced the imminent resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Washington. Kerry’s circuitous announcement, that the parties had “reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations,” was short on details and ambiguous, even by diplomatic standards. Such imprecision at first blush suggests that the parties still have a ways to go before the United States’ chief diplomat can declare negotiations fully back on track. But it also reflects a highly creative use of diplomatic ambiguity as a means towards allowing each side to find a way back to the negotiating table. Read more »

Middle East Matters This Week: Upheaval in Egypt and Syria

by Robert M. Danin
Egypt's Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (Courtesy Reuters). Egypt's Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood vowed today to continue resisting the army’s July 3 ouster of President Mohammad Morsi. The Brotherhood issued its call one day after the military-appointed government ordered the arrest of several members of the Brotherhood’s senior leadership–including its spiritual guide Mohammed Badie–for allegedly inciting violent clashes with the military outside the Republican Guard headquarters on Monday. At least fifty-one protestors were killed and hundreds more wounded when Egyptian soldiers opened fire on Morsi supporters on Monday. Read more »

Voices From the Region: Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, and Israel

by Robert M. Danin
A Free Syrian Army fighter smokes a cigarette during his break near the frontline in the Al-Sakhour neighborhood of Aleppo, June 21, 2013 (Salman/Courtesy Reuters). A Free Syrian Army fighter smokes a cigarette during his break near the frontline in the Al-Sakhour neighborhood of Aleppo, June 21, 2013 (Salman/Courtesy Reuters).

“What we’ve asked for is not weapons but U.S. leadership.” –a senior Arab official whose government helps fund the Syrian rebels

“When George W. Bush had a 22 percent approval rating, Americans didn’t talk about early presidential elections.” –an aide to Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi Read more »

Middle East Matters This Week: Palestine’s Political Shake-up, Syria’s Opposition Gains, and Mubarak’s Re-Trial

by Robert M. Danin
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas stands beside Salam Fayyad (L) during a swearing-in ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 19,2009 (Arouri/Courtesy Reuters). Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas stands beside Salam Fayyad (L) during a swearing-in ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 19,2009 (Arouri/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Palestine. Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad’s resignation was accepted over the weekend by President Mahmoud Abbas. Fayyad will reportedly remain in the post until Abbas names a replacement. Political tensions rose between the two Palestinian leaders in early March when Finance Minister Nabil Qassis announced he was quitting. Fayyad accepted the resignation, but was overruled by Abbas, in contravention of the Palestinian Basic Law–in effect challenging the prime minister’s authority to hire and fire cabinet ministers and sparking a constitutional crisis. Read more »