Costs and benefits of the Iran stance

Brian M Downing Candidate Trump made plain his opposition to the 2015 JCPOA, better known as the Iran nuclear deal. In recent weeks President Trump was on the path toward decertification, stiffer sanctions, and bolder confrontation. However, he faced opposition from his own cabinet and even from retired Israeli generals Read More …

The khan visits the tsar 

Brian  M Downing  King Salman of Saudi Arabia visited his counterpart in Russia last week – a further sign that events and alignments move quickly in the world. Such a visit was improbable two years ago when Putin sent his military to Syria against Saudi-backed rebels, and unthinkable thirty years Read More …

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 …

Netanyahu sets sights on Hisbollah and Iran 

Brian M Downing Israeli spokesmen are pointing out unacceptable actions by Hisbollah and IRGC. Iran is building underground missile plants in Lebanon, digging tunnels from southern Lebanon into Galilee, and assembling troops near the Syrian-Israeli border, thereby threatening Israel with a “two-front war”. How Shia troops propping up Assad pose Read More …

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 …

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 …