American risks and rewards in the anti-Iran coalition

Brian M Downing The United States has entered into a portentous strategic partnership with Israel and a host of Sunni powers led by Saudi Arabia. The new Triple Entente was nominally formed to fight terrorism but actually to weaken Iranian-Shia influence from Lebanon and Syria to Iran. An initial move was Read More …

The American-Israeli-Saudi alliance takes on Iran across the Middle East

Brian M Downing Sectarian tensions are high, probably as high as they’ve been in many centuries. This stems in part from the Iranian Revolution of 1979 when the Sunni monarchies shuddered at Khomeini’s call for uprisings. More proximately, tensions stem from the Arab Spring when the same monarchs misinterpreted broad-based Read More …

The other conflicts in Afghanistan

Brian M Downing (A piece from 2010) The ongoing insurgency in the Pashtun regions of Afghanistan rightly commands attention, but it obscures a critical second conflict in the country. Long-standing antagonism between the non-Pashtun peoples of the north and the Pashtun people of the south are heading toward fissure. Paradoxically, 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 US takes on Iran and the Shia Corridor

Brian M Downing  Candidate Trump promised a tougher stance toward Iran. He deplored the P5+1 deal that required Iran to dismantle critical parts of its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. President Trump has altered many of his positions but remains hostile toward Iran. The position advanced here recently 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 …

Where is the tough talk on Iran leading? (Yemen and the Levant)

Brian M Downing  The Trump administration is addressing world trouble spots. The most apparent ones are of course Syria, where the US retaliated for the government’s use of chemical weapons, and Korea, where a carrier strike group and missile shield have deployed. Only somewhat less apparent has been the renewed 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 …

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 …