The potential for escalation in eastern Syria

Brian M Downing The war in Syria seemed to settle after Damascus’s troops retook Aleppo early this year. Backed by Russian air power, government forces overwhelmed the determined but overmatched rebels and fighting declined. Meaningful negotiations did not follow. The war is now shifting to the east where the American-backed Read More …

What comes after Idlib?

Brian M Downing  The Syrian war took another turn this week as several dozen Idlib civilians were killed by noxious clouds. The victims’ symptoms point to nerve gas, possibly sarin. Subsequent autopsies support this. World opinion, generally weary of the endless conflict and the numerous atrocities, is angry. For years people Read More …

Donald Trump goes deeper into the Middle East

Brian M Downing  Candidate Trump promised a more aggressive fight with ISIL and a return to military victories. He has not thus far disappointed supporters of tougher stances in world affairs. In the last month, a few hundred marines took up positions around ISIL’s Syrian capital of Reqqa, an unspecified Read More …

Can Assad retake Syria?

Brian M Downing Once Aleppo is completely taken and reasonably secure, Assad and Putin will turn their attention to the last rebel city in the west, Idlib. Their tactics of intensive airstrikes followed by ground assaults are effective, if inhumane. The rebels have no protection from Russian aircraft. Their foreign Read More …

Negotiation and escalation in the Syrian civil war after Aleppo

Negotiation and escalation in the Syrian civil war after Aleppo  Brian M Downing  The war in Syria is entering its sixth year. Various rebel groups, backed by Sunni powers, had the upper hand until Hisbollah, Iran, and Russia intervened on the government side. Over the last year government forces developed a tactic Read More …

Pragmatism and ideology in President Trump’s foreign policy

Pragmatism and ideology in President Trump’s foreign policy  Brian M Downing  Americans are wondering just what the Trump presidency will bring. So are people around the world – the poor of Central America, leaders of ISIL and al Qaeda, European publics and leaders, and the elites of China and Russia. Read More …

The coming ISIL dispersal – Iraq and Syria

The coming ISIL dispersal – Iraq and Syria Brian M Downing  In coming weeks, or months, ISIL’s prestigious holdings, Mosul and Raqqa, will have been retaken. ISIL will have only a handful of smaller towns and expanses of land – most of it wasteland. Several thousand ISIL fighters are in Read More …