The Trump Administration is increasing pressure on Iran since withdrawing from the JCPOA in May.  Last month, the U.S. began pressuring other countries to halt imports of  Iranian oil.  The Cipher Brief revisits the complicated relationship between Iran and Russia, on the heels of the Helsinki summit. Bottom Line: Russia ...

The OPEC conference in Vienna ended on June 22 with a Saudi-engineered defeat of Iran’s efforts to oppose any production hike.  Masked in vague language, the new OPEC agreement will put at least an additional 600,000 barrels per day (bpd), and possibly as much as one million bpd, on the ...

In the second part of a Cipher Brief two-part series on the significant implications of the battle for Hodeida, Cipher Brief Expert Norm Roule, who is also the ODNI’s former National Intelligence Manager for Iran, shares his secrets for understanding how today’s actions are influenced by the past and how ...

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned Monday that military action in Yemen will fail.  The warning comes as a Saudi-led coalition targeted Houthi rebels aligned with Iran, according to Reuters.  Still don’t understand the strategic significance of what’s happening in Hodeida?  Consider that the city has long served as a hotbed ...

Update: June 18, 2018 - Despite an incredibly rare ceasefire between the Afghan Government and the Taliban in observance of Eid al-Fitr, two deadly suicide bombings rocked Jalalabad over the weekend.   Officials said the latest attack in eastern Nangarhar Province killed at least 18 people and wounded as many as ...

Pro-government forces backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have launched an assault on rebels holding Yemen's port city of Hodeidah.  Potential humanitarian casualties are high, since the port serves as one of the only avenues for foreign aid to move into the country, where Yemenis are already facing dire ...

While the media is dominated by events in North Korea, it would be wise to devote some space to the decision this week by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait to provide Jordan with more than 2 billion dollars in aid over five years to sustain Amman during ...

The Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization is putting the IAEA on notice that Tehran is likely to begin producing centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium.    According to the Fars news agency, Ali Akbar Salehi says the move does not violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ...

Weeks after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear accord, the Trump Administration ratcheted up pressure on Iran by imposing harsh sanctions on key Iranian figures who have helped facilitate the Islamic Republic’s continuous array of malign activity in the Middle East. But questions linger around whether this financial-based approach will actually ...

Since the United States declared the opening of its new embassy in Jerusalem, violence has broken out along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, where thousands of protesters have gathered for months for what they have dubbed “The Great March of Return” [to Israel]. Earlier this week, Israeli ...

The White House is correct in pointing out the weaknesses of the JCPOA, some of which have even been candidly acknowledged by former U.S. officials who worked on the agreement.  Yet, the question is not whether the agreement is perfect - but whether the alternatives would better serve the interests ...

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday afternoon that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA, and re-impose harsh sanctions on Iran—including both JCPOA-related sanctions as well as additional economic sanctions.  In response, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced his country would abide by the tenants of the ...

Violence once again grips Afghanistan, with the Taliban, the Islamic State and other terror groups carrying out deadly attacks and kidnappings across the country. Last month, the Taliban announced the beginning of its annual “spring offensive,” and this past weekend bombed a mosque that was being used as a voter ...

With increasingly confusing statements and actions from the White House and the Pentagon on U.S. policy toward Syria, The Cipher Brief presented a live briefing from Amman, Jordan with Cipher Brief Expert and former CIA Chief of Middle East operations, Robert Richer during the 2018 Threat Conference.  Richer talked about ...

As Iran and Israel trade accusations over Iran’s nuclear program, and the U.S. sends indicators that it may pull out of the JCPOA agreement, The Cipher Brief talked with Norm Roule—the former National Intelligence Manager for Iran at ODNI and a Cipher Brief Expert —at The Cipher Brief’s Annual Threat ...

President Donald Trump has repeatedly voiced his belief that the Iran nuclear deal is flawed and if it is not amended to cure those flaws, the United States should abandon it. On January 12th of this year, he informed the American public that his administration is working with “key European ...

Bottom Line: Syria’s chemical weapons program not only contributes to a tragic humanitarian situation, but its uninhibited use and maintenance creates strategic implications for the West and Israel. Limited military response seeking to degrade Syria’s stockpiles and logistical facilities sends a message, but Assad has shown his intent to continue ...

The American strikes last week on Syrian chemical production, storage and delivery facilities amounted to no more than another pinprick and a slap on Syrian leader Bashar Assad’s wrist and were devoid of any long-term strategy. It was a “one-shot” strike to punish the "Butcher of Damascus" for a one-time heinous act, which the regime ...

Bottom Line: The U.S. teamed with Kurdish forces to oust ISIS from its self-declared caliphate in Syria in Iraq, but now Washington’s continued support for Kurdish militias in Syria has strained relations between the U.S. and Turkey, which remains immersed in a longstanding feud with its sizable, domestic Kurdish minority. ...

After days threatening to take action, President Donald Trump announced Friday evening that he'd ordered "precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities," of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Trump said U.S. forces acted together with France and the U.K.,  retaliating for a suspected poison gas attack that killed ...

Bottom Line: U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to rain missiles on forces loyal to Syrian Bashar al-Assad, one week after they allegedly conducted a chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria's rebel-held town of Douma, near the capital Damascus. While a potential strike may signal to Assad that the ...

The commander-in-chief and his national security team are sending mixed signals on U.S. policy in Syria. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said: “The primary mission in terms of that was getting rid of ISIS. We’ve almost completed that mission, and we’ll be making a decision very quickly, in coordination with others ...

BRUSSELS – Director of Israel’s Ministry of Intelligence Chagai Tzuriel came to this European city to get the word out that if Iran tries to build a long-term presence in Syria, Israel would have to act – a conflict that could possibly be avoided if U.S. troops stay there. “Right ...

Just last month, the long-simmering Israeli-Iranian conflict came out of the shadows when Iran sent a drone across the Jordanian border into Israel, and Israel retaliated with air strikes on several targets including the Iranian drone operators at a Syrian base in Palmyra, northeast of Damascus. The two sides appear ...

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed indictments for nine Iranian hackers and the U.S. Treasury sanctioned these same individuals as well as one entity, the Mabna Institute, for engaging in state-sponsored theft of intellectual property from 144 U.S. universities – estimated to value $3.4 billion. The campaign also targeted ...

ALKHOBAR, Saudi Arabia — It has been 80 years since oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia – a discovery that changed the face of Saudi Arabia and the area forever. What's more, this oil discovery came at a very critical time when the Kingdom was in need of continuous and ...

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has won over the American president. He now has a simple message for the American people: we’re the modern Gulf ally you’ve been looking for, to offset the threat of Iran, keep you safe from al Qaeda in Yemen and invest our oil wealth ...

Monday marks 15 years since President George W. Bush announced the start of the Iraq war, followed by a 'decapitation' air strike on Baghdad meant to target Saddam Hussein. After a 48-hour deadline for Saddam to leave Iraq expired, ground troops from the U.S., UK, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq ...

When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visits President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday, they might commiserate over the domestic investigations each are facing as well as take great satisfaction over Trump’s affirmation of the opening of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s existence this ...

Bottom Line: Relations between Egypt and Israel have often been referred to as a “cold peace,” but the emergence of mutual security threats over the past few years has facilitated a growing partnership between the former enemies. Specifically, Egypt and Israel have expanded their cooperation on the security front to combat ...

Bottom Line: As the Syrian regime consolidates power, with the help of Russia, Iran, and Iranian proxy Hezbollah, its combined forces are growing bolder, presenting an increasing strategic threat to Israel. In response, Israel has begun adjusting its policy of selective intervention, recently targeting Assad air defense systems in response ...

Bottom Line: Current U.S.-Pakistan relations remain strained as the U.S. maintains that Pakistan’s security and intelligence services are doing the minimum to hunt America’s militant enemies within its borders. Pakistani officials have told The Cipher Brief that they have been searching for a way to restart relations despite public humiliation ...

The Trump administration has given Pakistan a new “hit list” of nearly a dozen top militants to detain, to show its willingness to fight terrorism, but the U.S. won’t share intelligence that would help lead to their capture, and has snubbed Pakistani requests to meet CIA chief Mike Pompeo in ...

The annual accounting to Congress of global threats to the United States made it sound like al-Qaida’s separate branches were managing to thrive independently of one another, said Bruce Hoffman, Cipher Brief expert and Council on Foreign Relations visiting senior fellow, in comments to The Cipher Brief. But Hoffman believes ...

It was no surprise when two strategic vectors clashed this weekend on Israel’s northern front: The Iranian determination to build an advanced military force in Syria collided with Israeli determination to prevent that from happening. On a broader strategic level a conflict of this sort was expected, though the timing ...

Bottom Line: Tehran’s military doctrine seeks to deter a conventionally superior foe, the United States, from entering its territorial waters or borders through the threat of asymmetric retaliation. But with the expansion of Iran’s maritime reach – alongside their success in various proxy conflicts – Tehran’s efforts could have lasting ...

The U.S. coalition says in defending its own troops, it killed an estimated 100 pro-Assad regime fighters on Wednesday. This clash, which took place in Khusham near the Euphrates River, is the largest reported to date between U.S.-backed forces and pro-regime forces in Syria. Here’s what happened, according to public ...

Bottom Line: As the ongoing dispute between Qatar and Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates enters its eighth month, the U.S. has been forced to strike a delicate balance in its dealings with critical allies in the Middle East. At the same time, the ...

Bottom Line: For terrorists, moving money covertly through hawala networks to circumvent institutionalized banking systems remains one of their leading methods of avoiding detection. The U.S. has managed to unearth and even sanction certain illicit hawala networks, but terrorists continue to exploit this centuries old, nearly untraceable practice to finance ...

Bottom Line: While ISIS’s territory has dwindled, al Qaida has managed to build a strong following in Syria, and may use the civil-war-torn country as a base from which to target the West. The group has evolved into the network’s largest global affiliate by strategically positioning itself as a key ...

From selling drugs to profiting from a pig farm, Lebanese Hezbollah’s hypocrisy knows no bounds – a political party with a military army that does the bidding of the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. That was the description of the group by Trump administration officials who announced new sanctions Friday ...

WASHINGTON — The Palestinian representative says peace talks with Israel can only start as long as other countries – not just the U.S. and Israel – are at the table. “There is no way but an international table to implement international resolutions,” Palestine Liberation Organization Ambassador Husam Zomlot said Thursday, ...

Sometimes reporters get called to a briefing so an administration can defend what it has done. And sometimes, it’s a warning of what it may be about to do. On Thursday, two senior administration officials warned that the Trump administration could take military action – again – against the Syrian ...

Bottom Line: Maturing under Tehran’s tutelage, Hezbollah’s hackers are quickly learning the art of cyber warfare. The formidable militant organization is increasingly turning its attention to the digital realm to engage in espionage, psychological operations, disruption of critical services and criminal activity to fund its activities on the ground. Background: ...

Cipher Brief experts General (ret) Michael Hayden and former CIA senior officer Norman Roule have had many conversations on the subject of Iran and the broader Middle East—but not usually in front of a public audience. The two served together in the U.S. intelligence community, with Hayden as former CIA ...

Bottom Line: ISIS maintains a strong presence in Libya and remains a potent regional threat, despite domestic and international efforts to oust the group from its stronghold. After losing their former base of operations along the Libyan coast, ISIS fighters have regrouped and established training centers and operational headquarters in ...

Bottom Line: Multiple rounds of peace talks aimed at ending Syria’s seven-year civil war have failed to yield results or relieve a catastrophic humanitarian crisis throughout the country. While the Trump administration throws its support behind a United Nations-led process that aims to deliver a roadmap for peace, Russia has ...

Bottom Line: Although the U.S. and Turkey engage in robust cooperation on the political, military, and economic fronts, Ankara has experienced significant changes under the leadership of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which threaten the foundations of this relationship. Ties between the U.S. and Turkey have become increasingly strained in ...

Two recent events illustrate the futility of the Palestinian leadership’s current course in its decades-long quest for a genuinely independent Palestinian state, and highlight the urgent need for dramatic action if they are ever to achieve it. The first is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current six-day visit to India ...

Bottom Line: On paper, Iraq’s democratic electoral system promises rare, fair representation in a region where politics is dominated by monarchies and authoritarian regimes. But in reality, the country’s political system has been hamstrung by inefficiencies and gridlocks that have often segregated, rather than united, the Iraqi populace. As Iraqis ...