Can Trump and Putin ease the Syrian civil war? (Will they be condemned for doing so?)

Brian M Downing Presidents Trump and Putin met privately last week at the G20 conference in Hamburg. Talks lasted well over two hours, far longer than expected. Details are unknown but there is hope that the two leaders see little good coming from sharper confrontation in the Levant and prefer to reduce the fighting. Read More …

The rise of West Kurdistan

Brian M Downing  History has not been kind to the Kurds. Living in what is now (or was) Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran, they have fought to retain their language and customs while subjugated by Safavid, Ottoman, British, French, and other empires. The breakup of Syria and Iraq brings opportunity Read More …

The rivalry for influence in the Persian Gulf

Brian M Downing Moscow and Washington vied for influence around the world in the first Cold War. They are doing the same in the second. In the first, the Soviet Union’s reach into the Gulf was limited. The USSR was atheistic, opposed to monarchy, and aligned with secular republics such 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 …

The battle for Raqqa – and what comes after 

Brian M Downing  The long expected battle for Raqqa, the ISIL capital in north-central Syria, is underway. The Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of several militias, has begun encircling Raqqa. Soon the SDF will take surrounding villages, then prepare to assault the city itself. The battle will be long and 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 …

From Syria with vengeance

Brian M Downing This week’s assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey has highlighted the international complexities and domestic consequences of the Syrian civil war. The assassin, a young policeman, denounced Russia’s role in the battle of Aleppo and added praise for jihad, presumably against Russia and its regional partners. Read More …

President Trump faces the war in Afghanistan

President Trump faces the war in Afghanistan Brian M Downing  Throughout the presidential campaign Donald Trump proclaimed that he would see that America won again. Early in his presidency he will have to deal with the resurgent Taliban which as winter ends, will be beginning a new offensive. His national security Read More …

President Trump takes on the Middle East – Iran

President Trump takes on the Middle East – Iran Brian M Downing No newly-elected president has caused more anxiety and speculation than Donald Trump. His hastily proposed polices and mercurial temperament worry foreign leaders and fellow Republicans alike. Many US foreign policy experts have publicly declared him unfit for the presidency. Read More …

Russia looks for opportunities in Iraq

  Russia looks for opportunities in Iraq Brian M Downing  Russia and the United States are engaged in Cold War Two – a global contest for influence, trade, military bases, and power. Russia, in conjunction with China, want to establish hegemony in the Eurasian land mass, including the Middle East. Read More …