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 coming struggle for Iraq

Brian M Downing  The Entente of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States is determined to weaken Iranian-Shia influence. The effort has theaters in Syria, Yemen, Qatar, and Iraq. At times it will entail diplomacy and sanctions, other times military operations will be the rule. Both will be used in 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 potential for escalation in eastern Syria

Brian M Downing The war in Syria seemed to settle after Damascus’s troops retook Aleppo early this year. Backed by Russian air power, government forces overwhelmed the determined but overmatched rebels and fighting declined. Meaningful negotiations did not follow. The war is now shifting to the east where the American-backed 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 …

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 …

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 …