Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

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

This Week: Iran Negotiations, Jordan-Israel Crisis Talks, and New Syria Truce Proposal

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, November 13, 2014
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L), EU envoy Catherine Ashton (C) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet in Muscat November 10, 2014 (Kamm/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Iran. Negotiators from Iran and the P5+1 countries hinted at a possible extension of the November 24 deadline for a nuclear deal, after three days of talks in Oman failed to provide a breakthrough in the negotiations. However, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes stressed publicly that the United States was “not focused in discussions with Iran on extending [the deadline], [in order] to keep the focus on closing gaps.” Read more »

This Week: Violence in Jerusalem, Nusra gains in Syria, and U.S. Policy Shift on Isis

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, November 6, 2014
Israeli border police officers walks in front of the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City November 5, 2014 (Awad/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Jordan-Israel-Palestine. The Jordanian Minister of Islamic Affairs, Hayel Dawood, accused Israel yesterday of attacking the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and of causing fire damage “tantamount to state terrorism” and “a violation of Jordan’s peace treaty.” Israeli special forces had stormed the mosque compound firing tear gas, and sparking fires that damaged the building. The accusations follow an earlier decision by Jordan to withdraw its ambassador to Israel for “consultations.”  Read more »

This Week: Islamist Defeat in Tunisia, Increased Violence in Jerusalem, and Counter-Offensive in Kobani

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, October 30, 2014
Supporters of the Nida Tounes (Call of Tunisia) secular party movement wave flags and shout slogans outside Nidaa Tounes headquarters in Tunis October 28, 2014 (Souissi/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Tunisia. The Tunisian election commission confirmed the victory of the secular party Nidaa Tunis in the country’s parliamentary elections held Sunday. It was Tunisia’s second parliamentary vote since the region wide Arab uprisings first erupted in the country in 2011. Nidaa Tunis, which is composed of liberals and politicians from earlier Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali regime, won 85 of the 217 parliamentary seats. Ennahda, the ruling Islamist party, finished second, winning 69 seats in parliament. The head of the EU observer mission, Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, deemed the Tunisia’s parliamentary election “ transparent and credible.” Read more »

This Week: Turkey’s Acquiescence and Iran Sanctions

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, October 23, 2014
A Kurdish peshmerga fighter launches mortar shells (Jadallah/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

ISIS-Turkey. Turkey announced on Monday that it would allow Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces to cross its border to come to Kobani’s defense, five weeks after the start of ISIS’s assault on the town. U.S. military planes airdropped ammunition, small arms, and medical supplies over Kobani on Sunday to resupply depleted Kurdish fighters. However, the Daily Beast reported on Tuesday that ISIS had posted a video online in which it claimed to have intercepted some of the munitions dropped by the United States. Read more »

This Week: Defeating ISIS, Iran Negotiations, and Rebuilding Gaza

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, October 16, 2014
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey speaks in a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, September 26, 2014 (Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

ISIS. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey told CNN yesterday that the United States has a “winning strategy” to defeat ISIS. Dempsey’s comments came one day after President Barack Obama told reporters that the campaign will see “days of progress” and “periods of setback.” Obama’s remarks followed a meeting with the military chiefs of twenty-one coalition countries at Andrews Air Force Base on Tuesday. Read more »

This Week: Turkey’s Dilemma and Egypt’s Beheadings

by Robert M. Danin Wednesday, October 8, 2014
A Turkish Kurdish protester throws a tear gas canister back at Turkish soldiers near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the Turkish town of Suruc in southeastern Sanliurfa province October 4, 2014 (Sezer/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Turkey-Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called on the U.S.-led coalition to supply arms and training to opposition ground troops in Syria, arguing that “Kobani [was] about to fall” to ISIS. Erdogan nonetheless refused to commit Turkish ground forces. The Turkish leader’s decision to withhold ground troops, stemming primarily from a refusal to engage with affiliates of the PKK, sparked clashes between Kurdish protesters and security forces throughout Turkey. Read more »

Voices From the UN General Assembly

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, October 2, 2014
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2014 (Segar/Courtesy Reuters).

International efforts to combat ISIS dominated the recent debate in New York when world leaders converged for the UN General Assembly’s sixty-ninth session. Middle East Matters has excerpted passages from regional leaders, all of whom spoke about the ISIS challenge, though in markedly different ways. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and this summer’s fighting also featured heavily, with most speeches specifically calling for the Gaza strip to be rebuilt. Read more »

This Week: ISIS struck in Syria and Iraq as the Middle East takes center stage at the UN

by Robert M. Danin Friday, September 26, 2014
A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria, in this U.S. Air Force handout photo taken early in the morning of September 23, 2014 (Matthew Bruch/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. The United States conducted its first ever military strikes against ISIS in Syria this week, targeting primarily oil refineries and infrastructure used for command and control in Raqqa. U. S. military and intelligence officials said on Tuesday that the airstrikes had also targeted an al-Qaeda affiliate called Khorasan. The group had reportedly been organizing an “imminent” attack from Syria against the United States or Europe. According to press reports, U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power informed her Syrian counterpart in advance of the airstrikes in Syria. Read more »

This Week: Mobilizing to Counter ISIS

by Robert M. Danin Thursday, September 18, 2014
Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, the Kingdom's grand mufti, prays during the funeral of the Saudi woman and her daughter who were killed in Chad, at the Grand Mosque in Riyadh February 6, 2008 (Jarekji/Courtesy Reuters).

Significant Developments

Syria. French President Francois Hollande announced today that France would provide military support, including airstrikes, against ISIS in Iraq. On Monday, Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom pledged support for the fight against ISIS following the conclusion of the Paris conference. Wrapping up his tour of the Middle East to recruit Arab support, Secretary of State John Kerry received assurances of good intentions from Egypt and Iraq, while Saudi Arabia pledged to provide the training of Syrian rebel forces at its bases. Less clear was what, if any, would be their military contributions. Germany is set to host a conference for Iraq and Syria in Berlin on October 28 to discuss security concerns in the region. Read more »