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 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 …

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 …

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 rivalry for influence in the Persian Gulf

Brian M Downing Moscow and Washington vied for influence around the world in the first Cold War. They are doing the same in the second. In the first, the Soviet Union’s reach into the Gulf was limited. The USSR was atheistic, opposed to monarchy, and aligned with secular republics such Read More …

Russia and China look at Afghanistan

Brian M Downing  The war in Afghanistan has dragged on for fifteen years now. The conflict has been complicated by the rise of ISIL in the region. Its Afghan franchise, ISIL-Khorasan Province, has established itself in eastern Afghanistan, where it has coalesced with and recruited from other jihadi groups, including Read More …

Can Assad retake Syria?

Brian M Downing Once Aleppo is completely taken and reasonably secure, Assad and Putin will turn their attention to the last rebel city in the west, Idlib. Their tactics of intensive airstrikes followed by ground assaults are effective, if inhumane. The rebels have no protection from Russian aircraft. Their foreign 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 …

Is conflict with Iran coming, again?

Is conflict with Iran coming, again? Brian M Downing Throughout the campaign Donald Trump criticized his chief adversary for supporting the Iranian nuclear deal of 2015. The president-elect has backtracked on several matters, including prosecuting Hillary Clinton and building a physical wall along the Mexican border. Trump has not stepped Read More …

President Trump takes on the Middle East – Iran

President Trump takes on the Middle East – Iran Brian M Downing No newly-elected president has caused more anxiety and speculation than Donald Trump. His hastily proposed polices and mercurial temperament worry foreign leaders and fellow Republicans alike. Many US foreign policy experts have publicly declared him unfit for the presidency. Read More …