The United States and Israel take aim at detente in the Gulf

Brian M Downing  The march toward war in the Gulf has slowed in recent weeks. The Saudis, dispirited by stalemate in Yemen, and Iran, concerned by greater Sunni wealth and allies, may soon enter into talks. Both sides see the potential for mutual ruin with little to gain, except for Read More …

Obstacles to Saudi-Iranian detente  

Brian M Downing  Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran began to deteriorate with the Khomeini revolution (1979) and worsened in recent years as Tehran’s nuclear program advanced. A proxy war has been underway in Yemen for several years and two more loom in Syria and Iraq. Armies trained more diligently, Read More …

The United States confronts Pakistan, at last

Brian M Downing  Last week President Trump outlined his Afghanistan policy. There was little new in it. More GIs, more money. That’s been going on since the Obama administration. What was new in the speech was the blunt criticism of Pakistan – a supposed ally but a duplicitous one that Read More …

Jihadism in Afghanistan and Central Asia

Brian M Downing  The Afghan conflict has burdened the United States since 2001, at least. Troops and money poured in though with little success in building stability. President Trump was inclined to pull out of what seemed a failed business venture but key advisors, mostly generals, dissuaded him. The US Read More …

President Trump’s war in Afghanistan 

Brian M Downing The US intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 expelled the Taliban in short order. Since then, efforts to modernize government and economy have failed and, predictably, a Taliban insurgency grew rapidly. The war stretched through the George W Bush years and those of Barack Obama. It’s now President Read More …

Are things cooling off in the Persian Gulf?

Brian M Downing  After months of denunciations, maneuvers, and boycotts, the Saudis are expressing doubts about its march to war with Iran. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, once a hawk, is said to favor ending the proxy war in Yemen. He is also thought to be seeking the good offices Read More …

The Sunni-Shia conflict: the aims of belligerents

Brian M Downing  The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran did not begin by the happenstance of a border dispute or the sinking of a passenger liner. It came about by international diplomacy as surely as a multinational trade agreement. As murderous and chaotic as wars are, they have a Read More …

The Sunni-Shia conflict: cohesion and disintegration at home 

Brian M Downing  See also my “The Sunni-Shia conflict: correlation of power.” Total war sets into motion certain forces tending to unify the nation under the stress of external threat to its existence, although their total net effect is probably less important than those forces making for the interruption of Read More …

The Trump administration’s options for Afghanistan

Brian M Downing Armies have come and gone from Afghanistan over the centuries. Alexander came through, saw no reason to stay, then wheeled south into the Indus valley, which he mistook for the Nile. A British army under WGK Elphinstone was annihilated in 1842 as it retreated from Kabul toward Read More …