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 …

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 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 …

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 …