For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look back on key topics for this year, and predict what they see for the year ahead. Cipher Brief expert, CIA veteran and Russia hand Steve Hall looks ahead to U.S. relations with Moscow, as Russia gears up for ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look back on key topics for this year, and predict what they see for the year ahead. CIA veteran and Middle East hand Rob Richer offered his take. On the fate of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, now that the ...

The United States Navy has achieved unmatched supremacy on the world’s seas, but Russia and China are diligently growing their naval capabilities, trying to close the gap. Should U.S. naval enterprises fail to match their rivals’ pace, then Moscow and Beijing’s maritime advancements could challenge U.S. geostrategic interests, including its ...

TAIPEI, Taiwan – The recent public threat by a senior Chinese diplomat to invade Taiwan, should U.S. naval vessels dock on the island, illustrates the increasingly precarious position of one of the region’s few democracies. Mixed signals from President Donald Trump, his administration and the U.S. Congress have only escalated ...

China’s burgeoning economic and political interests in the developing world – particularly in the Middle East and Africa – will compel Beijing to undertake a more activist approach to foreign policy. This new reality contrasts with China’s longstanding position of non-interference and will inevitably force China to become more engaged ...

Signs are increasing that jihadist groups are looking to capitalize on the rising value of bitcoin, as massive price increases for the cryptocurrency in recent months garner growing public attention. Cold, hard, untraceable cash remains their preferred medium for transmitting funds, but new online activity shows that some jihadist groups ...

A missile fired by Yemen’s Iranian-supported Houthi rebels and targeting the Saudi capital Riyadh for the second time in seven weeks suggests such an attack won’t be a one-off. While the Saudis again say they were able to intercept the rocket, this might mark the beginnings of a pattern that ...

A crisscrossing patchwork of African joint security forces have marshalled in North Africa to stamp out terrorism on the continent, with particular focus on the long and remote borders of the Sahel. But their small size, lack of funds, unclear authorities and competing lines of leadership are more likely to ...

The military withdrawal from Syria that President Vladimir Putin touts is less than it seems. The stakes are high because leaders in Moscow see the intervention as crucial to their nation’s status as a global power. Moscow faces a dilemma, but there is a way out, if it will only see ...

Leaving the courtroom after a long day of closing arguments in the recent trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala, I felt something all too rare these days—immense pride in our government. The accused ringleader of the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks against the U.S. mission and the CIA annex in Benghazi ...

President Donald Trump’s new national security strategy foreshadows a more muscular projection of U.S. interests abroad and defense of its people, businesses and borders at home, through a strengthened U.S. military and more aggressive trade negotiations, diplomatic outreach and military maneuvering. Its hawkish approach signals a switch to “gray zone” ...

Tehran poses an increasing cyber threat to the U.S., in light of the Trump administration’s allegations that Iran is violating United Nations Security Council resolutions tied to the nuclear agreement. Iran-sponsored hackers—dismissively referred to as “kittens” for their original lack of sophistication—are bolstering their cyber warfare capabilities as part of ...

The failure of the recent Gulf Cooperation Council 2017 summit to resolve the six-month long crisis that pits Qatar against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain obscured a little-known outcome of the meeting—that the council at least agreed on several mechanisms to move forward. In the end, the ...

This Sunday marks seven years since a wave of protests erupted across the Middle East and North Africa in what came to be known as the Arab Spring. Tunisia, the country where the uprisings began, has been saluted as the revolution’s success story for managing a relatively peaceful transition from ...

Marrakech, MOROCCO — Most African migration is taking place inside the continent, despite the headlines that give the impression that Africans trying to flee their struggling home countries in waves are on their way to Europe, according to a report by the Rabat-based OCP Policy Center. But the growing use of ...

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley yesterday displayed an array of singed missile remnants and other parts that she said constituted “concrete” evidence that Iran had illegally supplied weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen in direct violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231. In addition to codifying ...

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 on Thursday to dismantle their authorities to enforce net neutrality rules that prohibit internet service providers, such as Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast, from interfering in the traffic streams that take place over their infrastructure. The reversal of the FCC’s 2015 decision means the ...

Tensions that mounted during a deadly, Islamist protest in Pakistan last month were resolved not by the country’s civilian government, but by leaders of its military and intelligence agency. The incident was another reminder of who really holds the reins in a tumultuous nation that the U.S. has leaned on ...

Conflicting signals about whether the U.S. is prepared to resume talks with North Korea raise questions about what conditions, if any, might be imposed and even how unified the administration of President Donald Trump really is on undertaking this kind of initiative. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested during remarks ...

The introduction of armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) permanently altered the modern battlefield. New technological advances in drone technology could do it again: from advanced materials that allow drones to fly, roll, run or swim in less forgiving environments, to thinking software than makes them more independent, to stealth technology ...

America’s plan of attack in Afghanistan has evolved significantly, since President Donald Trump announced his new strategy for confronting the Taliban-led insurgency and the Islamic State’s inroads in Afghanistan – but the poor state of the Afghan troops, and the inability of the Afghan government to care for all its ...

As the U.S. public-health system struggles to alleviate the scourge of opioid addiction that killed more than 50,000 Americans in 2016, a variation on the theme is the ramifications of this class of drugs as chemical weapons. Among the drugs at the forefront of the health crisis are the highly ...

The blowback over forcing Russian news outlets “Russia Today” (RT) and “Sputnik” to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) has raised questions about whether the law does enough to track foreign influence in the modern media age – or whether it’s the wrong tool to use in the ...

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has left Palestinian leaders questioning the United States’ ability to effectively spearhead any future peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Trump’s announcement has also sparked protests in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which could ...

The role of wildlife trafficking in funding militancy and terrorism has received intense attention from conservationists globally as well as from members of the U.S. Congress. Yet the fact that some terrorist and militant groups have been involved in poaching of iconic species such as elephants for the illegal global ...

The decision by President Donald Trump to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could give the U.S. added leverage to demand difficult concessions from the Israelis, possibly breathing new life into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. However, it could also render the U.S. an untrusted broker, unable to wrangle necessary concessions ...

President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel Wednesday, prompting approval from Israel, and a building rumble of protest across the Arab world. The following is adapted from a conversation with Cipher Brief network expert Farah Pandith, who warns Americans to stand by for blowback. I think ...

The Cipher Brief reached out to network experts retired Amb. James Jeffrey and CIA veterans John Bennett and Emile Nakhleh for their thoughts on the Trump administration’s imminent announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite Palestinian objections that such a move ignores Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem. Among ...

The Trump administration wants you to know that Syrian strongman Bashar Assad isn’t doing as well as he, or his Russian and Iranian allies want you to think, and that’s why they’re going to have to agree to some concessions at U.N.-sponsored talks in Geneva, rather than retaking the country ...

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance act is set to expire in five weeks, and to hear current and former intelligence officials tell it, changing a single word in this statute will result in no less than the loss of American lives. This hyperbole is obscuring the nature of ...

Cipher Brief experts and CIA veterans Norman Roule, Emile Nakhleh and Rob Richer, together with former U.S. Amb. to Yemen Steven Seche, weighed in Monday after Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was reported killed by his former allies. Saleh had switched sides over the weekend, in hopes of negotiating an ...

Terrorist groups are expanding their use of the internet beyond mere messaging and disseminating operational know-how, slowly adding a cyber-hacking toolset that could one day rival that of criminal or state-sponsored hacking. To date attacks have included website defacement, doxing of personally identifiable information, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) ...

The Trump administration is outsourcing the Qatar crisis to Kuwait, banking on the Kuwaiti monarch to bring the months-long crisis to a close. But ahead of a key Gulf Cooperation Council meeting this week, it’s not clear who is going to show up. Last June, several GCC countries and Egypt ...

Europe has been on the forefront of defending the Iran Deal, better known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), from unraveling under the Trump administration. For months, European diplomats have made dozens of visits to Capitol Hill and this week is no exception. Europeans are organizing a joint ...

The U.S. and its Gulf allies have clawed back Yemeni territory from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has exploited the Yemeni conflict to expand, Gulf military officials tell The Cipher Brief. Troops from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have paired with U.S. advisors and Yemeni forces to ...

The fallout continued Thursday over President Donald Trump’s retweeting of anti-Islam videos originally posted by a British far-right fringe group. British Prime Minister Theresa May, on a foreign trip to Jordan, told reporters that “retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do,” Reuters reported. Cipher Brief experts weighed ...

The Friday prayer massacre of more than 300 worshipers at a Sinai was a departure for the local Islamic State affiliate in scale, but not in targets – they’ve hit Sufi Muslims before. The group’s continued growth in the Sinai points to decades of neglect by the Egyptian government, combined ...

North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday, another step towards its goal of becoming a nuclear power in the world - prompting an ominous warning from the U.S. commander in chief. “We will take care of it,” President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday, after being briefed by the ...

Friday’s deadly terrorist attack at the Al-Rawda mosque in the north of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula demonstrates that the so-called Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate remains a potent force and raises questions about the effectiveness of Egypt’s harsh four-year anti-ISIS campaign. Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi has pledged to stay the course ...

Are Bangladesh and Myanmar poised to make progress to address the refugee crisis involving hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya? Maybe. The two countries signed an agreement to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who have fled their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine State after the latest wave of violence that ...

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany succeeded in her reelection bid in September of this year, but her party’s ability to govern at all now stands in question, which could spell the weakening of Germany’s regional influence. Merkel’s party did not win enough seats to form a government, so is negotiating ...

Moscow may increasingly look toward private military companies (PMCs), known in Russia as Chastnye Voennie Companiy (ChVK), to exert plausibly deniable and economically and politically sustainable military influence abroad, according to experts speaking to The Cipher Brief. Unlike relying on proxies such as ragtag local militias or organized criminal groups ...

On Friday, militants carried out a devastating attack at a mosque in the city of Bir al-Abed located in Egypt’s northern Sinai province, leaving at least 230 dead and more than 100 others injured. According to local police, gunmen arrived in four vehicles and bombed the mosque, which was packed ...

The car ramming attack that occurred in New York City on Oct. 31 killed eight people and reignited debate over what constitutes domestic and international terrorism. Terrorism has remained at the forefront of American national security concerns ever since the September 11 attacks. And as globalization continues to extend its ...

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Myanmar is guilty of “ethnic cleansing” in its crackdown on minority Muslim Rohingya, driving more than half a million refugees to neighboring Bangladesh. Although previously restrained in his description of the exodus, Tillerson said he’d concluded the violence warranted further investigation and possibly targeted ...

The sudden resignation of Saad Hariri as Lebanon’s prime minister during his trip to Riyadh earlier this month raised suspicions about whether Saudi Arabia facilitated Hariri’s departure as part of its broader strategy to counter Iran’s expanding influence across the Middle East. This event could foment instability inside Lebanon and ...

U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Monday that the U.S. government has designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism in a move that will trigger additional economic sanctions against the rogue nation. This is the second time that North Korea has been listed as a state sponsor of ...

The revelation that Donald Trump Jr. was in contact with WikiLeaks throughout the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign is just the latest in a long catalog of leaks and discoveries about previously hidden contacts between surrogates of both the Trump campaign and Russia. A media frenzy naturally follows each new disclosure, ...

The multinational peacekeeping force known as AMISOM has been losing the momentum in its battle against al Shabaab in Somalia, as evidenced by the massive Oct. 14th truck bomb that killed more than 350 people in the capital Mogadishu. While AMISOM – the African Union Mission in Somalia – was ...

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) took the unprecedented step of ordering the arrest of 11 princes, dozens of former ministers and business officials, and four current ministers, earlier this month. Despite the clucks of disapproval from some in D.C., President Donald Trump tweeted: “I have great confidence in ...