Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

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

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

by Robert M. Danin Friday, November 15, 2013
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 Thursday, November 7, 2013
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 »

This Week: Syria Destroys CW Facilities, Egypt Continues Crackdown, and Washington Hosts Maliki

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, October 31, 2013
Workers dressed in protective clothes during a chemical weapons demonstration (Bimmer/Courtesy Reuters). Workers dressed in protective clothes during a chemical weapons demonstration (Bimmer/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced today that Syria had “completed rendering inoperable its chemical weapons production and assembly installations,” ahead of schedule. Late last night, a Syrian government airbase in Latakia was destroyed in a missile attack of unknown national origin launched from the Mediterranean. The airbase housed Russian surface to air missiles and a radar center. Read more »

This Week: Saudi Pique, Syrian Politics, and Egyptian Paralysis

by Robert M. Danin Friday, October 25, 2013
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah (C), joins with his brother Prince Salman (R) (Shadeed/Courtesy Reuters). Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah (C), joins with his brother Prince Salman (R) (Shadeed/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, Bandar Bin Sultan, said on Tuesday that the kingdom will be making a “major shift” away from its close relationship with the United States. Bandar reportedly accused the United States of failing to act effectively on Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, of growing closer to Tehran, and of failing to back the crushing of Bahrain’s an anti-government revolt in 2011. Read more »

This Week: Iran Negotiations, Syria Pre-Negotiations, and Egypt Moots Legislation

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, October 17, 2013
Delegations from Iran, the United States, and other world powers sit before the start of two days of closed-door nuclear talks at the United Nations offices in Geneva October 15, 2013 (Coffrini/Courtesy Reuters). Delegations from Iran, the United States, and other world powers sit before the start of two days of closed-door nuclear talks at the United Nations offices in Geneva October 15, 2013 (Coffrini/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Iran. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU negotiator Catherine Ashton issued a joint statement yesterday, following talks between the P5+1 countries and Iran, announcing that further talks would continue on November 7 in Geneva. Read more »

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

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, October 10, 2013
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 »

Principle, Pragmatism, and Egypt

by Robert M. Danin Wednesday, October 9, 2013
U.S. president Barack Obama delivers a speech in the Grand Hall of Cairo University June 4, 2009 (Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. president Barack Obama delivers a speech in the Grand Hall of Cairo University June 4, 2009 (Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters).

President Obama increasingly appears to believe that Egypt’s July 3 military coup was, well, a coup. Until now, he has not wanted to say so lest it trigger an immediate across-the-board cutoff of military assistance to Egypt, as called for by the Leahy Amendment. Today’s media is filled with reports that the president will withhold almost all forms of military assistance already promised to Egypt—tanks, helicopters, fighter jets—while allowing some non-military assistance to continue to flow to Egypt. Read more »

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

by Robert M. Danin Friday, October 4, 2013
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 »

Middle East Voices from the UN General Assembly

by Robert M. Danin Friday, September 27, 2013
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 26, 2013 (Segar/Courtesy Reuters). Iranian president Hassan Rouhani addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 26, 2013 (Segar/Courtesy Reuters).

World leaders converged at the United Nations this week for the sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly. The Middle East was well represented, with numerous heads of states and governments attending from across the region. Middle East Matters has excerpted remarks from Middle Eastern leaders who spoke from the General Assembly’s rostrum this week. The debate concludes next Tuesday. Read more »

This Week: Syria, Iran, and Israeli-Palestinian Diplomacy; Violence in Egypt

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, September 19, 2013
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks next to U.N. Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi (C) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after a meeting discussing the ongoing problems in Syria at the United Nations offices in Geneva September 13, 2013 (Downing/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks next to U.N. Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi (C) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after a meeting discussing the ongoing problems in Syria at the United Nations offices in Geneva September 13, 2013 (Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

Syria. Diplomats in New York appeared stymied in their efforts to craft a new United Nations Security resolution calling for the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. The Security Council began discussing a resolution on Tuesday to support last weekend’s U.S.-Russia deal that called for Syria to account for its chemical weapons within one week and for the destruction of its entire arsenal by mid-2014; members are divided over whether or not to include the threat of sanctions or force. Read more »