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 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 …

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 and Putin compete for Syria’s Kurds

Brian M Downing The Middle East has few effective militaries. Army after army has shown little fighting spirit when it comes to foreign enemies or ISIL, preferring instead their primary and usually easy mission of internal repression. The Kurds, on the other hand, have demonstrated formidable military effectiveness. They have blunted ISIL Read More …

More US troops to Syria?

Brian M Downing  President Trump ordered the Pentagon to present him with a more aggressive strategy for fighting ISIL, and the chiefs are about to offer options. One option calls for deploying more troops to Syria. The units would not be ground combat units, rather they would be primarily support troops to help 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 …