Sources of instability in the Middle East 

Brian M Downing  The Middle East has been unstable for most of the past hundred years, but it’s more so today. Some reasons are long-term, others more recent. Long-term reasons include hostilities between the Shia and Sunni sects, artificial boundaries drawn by Britain and France after the Great War, the 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 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 …

The Entente faces down the Muslim Brotherhood

Brian M Downing  The Muslim Brotherhood began in 1920s Egypt and over the years has spread throughout the Islamic world. In places it operates as an underground network, elsewhere as an open part of government. Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States have formed an Entente which opposes terrorism and 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 …

President Trump wants a bigger military 

Brian M Downing  The Trump administration is looking for a steep increase in military spending. It also wants significant cuts in social spending and the State Department budget to help pay for it. More guns, less butter. Less diplomacy too. The budget will be contested in Congress; the cuts and boosts might well be Read More …

Trump, Netanyahu, and the future of the two-state solution 

Brian M Downing Yesterday, in a decidedly informal press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Trump dropped American support for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He went on to say in passing that he would accept whatever solution the Israel government and Palestinian leadership arrived at. Meanwhile, expansion Read More …

Rethinking the Muslim Brotherhood 

Brian M Downing  The new administration has taken several bold steps regarding the Middle East. The executive order on immigration from seven Muslim countries caused an uproar, though that’s far less important than its imprecision and questionable constitutionality. The plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem Read More …

The (worrisome) Putin-Trump partnership 

Brian M Downing  The Trump administration talks of a new era of cooperation with Russia. The historical rivals, it believes, can work together in fighting ISIL and developing oil and gas fields, especially in the forbidding trans-Ural and Arctic regions. The partnership may be facilitated by the affinities between two Read More …

The House of Saud tries to modernize (at last)

The House of Saud tries to modernize (at last) Brian M Downing Saudi Arabia has announced bold economic moves. Weeks ago Riyadh floated the idea of selling shares in its oil industry to shore up cash reserves, and more recently it announced an ambitious program of building an industrial base. This, the Read More …