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 …

Where is the tough talk on Iran leading? (Yemen and the Levant)

Brian M Downing  The Trump administration is addressing world trouble spots. The most apparent ones are of course Syria, where the US retaliated for the government’s use of chemical weapons, and Korea, where a carrier strike group and missile shield have deployed. Only somewhat less apparent has been the renewed Read More …

The US and China take aim at North Korea

Brian M Downing  Presidents Trump and Xi met last week at the former’s estate in Florida and discussed bilateral trade and world conflicts. Conversation was interrupted briefly as word came of the missile strikes on Syria. It was an opportune moment as the two powers discussed North Korea during the meeting. Shortly Read More …

What comes after Idlib?

Brian M Downing  The Syrian war took another turn this week as several dozen Idlib civilians were killed by noxious clouds. The victims’ symptoms point to nerve gas, possibly sarin. Subsequent autopsies support this. World opinion, generally weary of the endless conflict and the numerous atrocities, is angry. For years people 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 …

President Trump wants a bigger military 

Brian M Downing  The Trump administration is looking for a steep increase in military spending. It also wants significant cuts in social spending and the State Department budget to help pay for it. More guns, less butter. Less diplomacy too. The budget will be contested in Congress; the cuts and boosts might well be Read More …