The Sunni-Shia conflict: cohesion and disintegration at home 

Brian M Downing  See also my “The Sunni-Shia conflict: correlation of power.” Total war sets into motion certain forces tending to unify the nation under the stress of external threat to its existence, although their total net effect is probably less important than those forces making for the interruption of 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 …

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 Entente faces down the Muslim Brotherhood

Brian M Downing  The Muslim Brotherhood began in 1920s Egypt and over the years has spread throughout the Islamic world. In places it operates as an underground network, elsewhere as an open part of government. Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States have formed an Entente which opposes terrorism and 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 …

Rethinking the Muslim Brotherhood 

Brian M Downing  The new administration has taken several bold steps regarding the Middle East. The executive order on immigration from seven Muslim countries caused an uproar, though that’s far less important than its imprecision and questionable constitutionality. The plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem 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 …

Negotiation and escalation in the Syrian civil war after Aleppo

Negotiation and escalation in the Syrian civil war after Aleppo  Brian M Downing  The war in Syria is entering its sixth year. Various rebel groups, backed by Sunni powers, had the upper hand until Hisbollah, Iran, and Russia intervened on the government side. Over the last year government forces developed a tactic Read More …