Brian M Downing

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New war cabinet: Hagel and Kerry will give Obama clout with the generals

New war cabinet: Hagel and Kerry will give Obama clout with the generals

By Brian M Downing President Obama has nominated a pair of new cabinet secretaries in his foreign policy team, John Kerry for the State Department and Chuck Hagel for the Defense Department. They are both reasonably well respected in congress, where both served, and they are both decorated veterans of the Vietnam War. They have […]

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Peace talks again in Afghanistan and this time the Taliban may deal

Peace talks again in Afghanistan and this time the Taliban may deal

By Brian M Downing There are new reports of impending talks with the Afghan Taliban. Previous reports have either been baseless or talks took place but led nowhere. The outcome of today’s reports is of course uncertain but there are reasons why the Taliban may now be more willing to seek a negotiated settlement than […]

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After Assad, armed groups seen migrating to Iraq or back home with no incentives to stop fighting

After Assad, armed groups seen migrating to Iraq or back home with no incentives to stop fighting

By Brian M Downing The Syrian civil war has raged for over a year now, ever since peaceful protest turned into armed rebellion. In recent months, rebel groups have become more effective and various armed units have emerged. They have little in common beside opposition to the Assad regime, and their allegiance to any command […]

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Saudi Arabia’s dangerous alliance with Salafi forces against the Arab Spring

Saudi Arabia’s dangerous alliance with Salafi forces against the Arab Spring

By Brian M Downing The uprisings of the Arab Spring have been supported in the West and many other countries as well.  The tide is seen as welcome, inevitable, and essential to placing the region on a proper political and economic track. That view, however, is not shared in Saudi Arabia. The view from Riyadh […]

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Assessing the near-term prospects as Syria enters post-Assad era

Assessing the near-term prospects as Syria enters post-Assad era

By Brian M Downing In recent weeks the Assad government has lost control of more cities and border checkpoints. Its army is unable or unwilling to retake them. The Kurdish people to the east, though divided on their political future, are slipping out of Damascus’s authority – and with them, much of the country’s limited […]

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Securing the Persian Gulf: With fiscal limits and 'pivot' to Asia, U.S. strategy could change

Securing the Persian Gulf: With fiscal limits and 'pivot' to Asia, U.S. strategy could change

By Brian M Downing The Persian Gulf has been critical in U.S. strategic thinking since the rise of oil production there in the 1930s. Three things, however, are calling its importance into question. First, U.S. oil and gas production, owing to the exploitation of shale formations inside the U.S., has risen markedly, making self-sufficiency a […]

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Israel’s options in a changing Mideast: Don't overlook rapprochement with Iran

Israel’s options in a changing Mideast: Don't overlook rapprochement with Iran

By Brian M Downing The national security of Israel rests on its own formidable military and the support of the U.S., but it also rests on arrangements with regional powers. These arrangements have shifted over the last few decades, and the dynamics of the Arab Spring make another shift possible – perhaps a momentous and […]

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Same old Gaza crisis but a new Middle East context

Same old Gaza crisis but a new Middle East context

By Brian M Downing The Palestinian issue has once again resurfaced. Hamas and possibly Islamic Jihad have sent volleys of rockets into Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded vigorously with a targeted killing and repeated airstrikes inside Gaza. Israel is preparing ground troops for a possible incursion into the Palestinian enclave.  In some […]

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China's intensifying showdown with Japan is distracting from its growing internal crisis

China's intensifying showdown with Japan is distracting from its growing internal crisis

By Brian M Downing The dispute between China and Japan over the Senkakus group of uninhabited islands and barren rocks jutting up from the East China Sea has intensified in recent days. China has sent armed vessels to the island and anti-Japanese demonstrations have broken out in Chinese cities. Japan has retaliated economically by curtailing […]

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Moscow plays on fears of China in global quest for naval bases

Moscow plays on fears of China in global quest for naval bases

By Brian M Downing Russia recently announced its intention to obtain naval facilities in various parts of the world, including Vietnam, the Seychelles, and Cuba. Acquiring naval bases has historically been a means of signaling rising power. Theodore Roosevelt knew this when he sent the Great White Fleet on a global tour. China knows this […]