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 …

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 …

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 …