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 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 …

The Sunni-Shia conflict: correlation of power

Brian M Downing  Hostility between the Sunni and Shia sects began in the seventh century as a fight over succession to leadership of the Islamic world. Was it to be descendants of the Prophet or his generals? The issue was settled, more or less, when the generals defeated Ali’s forces Read More …

The call of ISIL after Mosul and Raqqa

Brian M Downing Mosul and Raqqa will soon fall, leaving ISIL with no major cities, only a few towns in the thinly-populated expanses of eastern Syria and western Iraq. Its bold claim to be an ever-victorious army conquering vast lands across the Middle East for the new caliphate is becoming Read More …

Making sense of Netanyahu’s Iran policy  

Brian M Downing  Prime Minister Netanyahu repeatedly warns of Iranian dangers to his country and the region. He tried more than once to persuade the United States to destroy Iranian nuclear sites and mobilized his considerable resources to press the White House into action. Neither of the previous two presidents obliged. Read More …

The Uighur movement and world politics in coming years 

Brian M Downing  Few people had heard of the Tuareg before the wars in Libya and Mali. The Kurds were better known but the fighting in Iraq and Syria brought them to prominence. The Uighurs, a Muslim Turkic people, will make themselves better known in coming decades. Chinese policies and Read More …

Are American troops going to stay in Iraq?

Brian M Downing  In 2008, late in the Bush administration, the Iraqi government ordered the US to withdraw its troops by the end of 2011. The Obama administration was not eager to argue. Nor could it have succeeded had it tried as US troops were fiercely disliked then. Facing a resurgent al Qaeda not Read More …

Can the US and China cooperate in Afghanistan?

Brian M Downing  Concern that North Korea is endangering regional security and prosperity is bringing unexpected cooperation between the US and China. An outcome isn’t at hand, nor is an era of Sino-American partnership in world affairs. However, the two powers, though at odds on matters of trade and territoriality, share 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 …