Well into its fourth month, the tense standoff between Qatar and the four Arab nations that severed diplomatic ties with Doha – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – shows no signs of resolution, as both sides remain reluctant to earnestly negotiate or offer any concessions. ...

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man."  It was true for Heraclitus of Ephesus in ancient times, and it is equally true for Iranian leaders nowadays. When Tehran considers its strategy vis-à-vis the nuclear ...

The future of the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is likely to take center stage at this week’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) gathering in New York – and to feature prominently in U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech before the UN on Tuesday. ...

Hezbollah – an Iran-backed militia that controls southern Lebanon – boasts a medium-sized army and a whopping arsenal of up to 150,000 rockets and missiles. Since 2011, much of that army has been engaged in Syria supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. While this has thinned Hezbollah’s ...

At least 18 Egyptian policemen were killed Monday in an ISIS attack on a security convoy in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Over the last few years, ISIS’ Sinai affiliate has conducted frequent attacks against Egyptian military and security forces deployed in the Sinai and has also struck in Cairo, carrying out ...

Since the September 11 attacks, the U.S. has used leadership decapitation – the targeting and killing of terrorist leaders – as a pillar of its counterterrorism strategy. Through combat operations, special operations forces raids, and drone strikes, the U.S. has successfully removed al Qaeda and ISIS commanders from battlefields across ...

Since 9/11, eliminating terrorist leaders through a strategy known as leadership decapitation has emerged as key pillar of the United States’ counterterrorism strategy. Although the U.S. has successfully removed numerous terrorists from the battlefield, leadership decapitation does not necessarily equate to the destruction of a terrorist organization, especially groups with ...

The removal of top terrorist leaders from the battlefield continues to be a critical element of the United States’ counterterrorism strategy. In the years since 9/11, the U.S has managed to keep pressure on several key terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda and ISIS, by targeting their senior leadership and ...

President Donald Trump and the Emir of Kuwait – one of two Gulf countries that has not cut ties with Qatar – said in a joint news conference at the White House on Thursday that the boycott of Qatar by its Arab neighbors will soon be resolved. Trump even announced ...

Despite its role as a critical partner for the U.S. in the global fight against terror, Egypt has struggled to quash an extremist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, which has had devastating effects on the country’s security apparatus and economic health. Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi has pledged to continue ...

As a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, Egypt has played an integral role in helping to combat the region’s terrorist threat, particularly since Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi came to power in June 2014. However, Egypt is facing a daunting terrorist challenge of its own, primarily in the ...

Last November, Egypt’s Central Bank announced it was taking steps to allow the pound to trade freely on the currency market. The move to float was widely regarded as a necessary, but incredibly difficult one. The Central Bank had held the pound at around eight to the dollar; today it ...

As part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Islamic Republic agreed to suspend activities related to its development of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, or so it seemed. In the year and a half that has passed since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) went into ...

Earlier this summer, the Trump administration chalked up a number of supposed achievements in its ongoing efforts to contain Iran’s ballistic missile program. U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law additional sanctions, while U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley coaxed the British, French, and German UN representatives into ...

Although the U.S. has stated that Iran remains in compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran continues to expand its ballistic missile capabilities and conduct missile tests, which the U.S. and its allies have argued violate the agreement. The Iranian government has asserted that these tests are aimed at boosting ...

Iran has rejected a U.S. demand that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors be allowed to check out Iranian military sites. “Iran’s military facilities are secret (sites), and not everybody can have access to them,” Iranian government spokesman Mahammad Baqer Nobakht told reporters at a weekly press conference in Tehran ...

On August 15, Israel’s Channel 2 news revealed satellite photos of an Iranian missile production facility near the town of Baniyas in northwestern Syria, capable of producing long-range rockets. Iran’s formidable military presence in Syria is nothing new, but the revelation of this production facility underlines how deeply the war ...

In a speech on August 13, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s Secretary General, reassured his public that Israel will not attack Hezbollah and Lebanon, arguing that Israeli officials believe “any war on Lebanon, no matter its objectives, will not be worth the costs Israel will incur in such a war.” In other ...

Hezbollah - an Iran-backed militia that controls southern Lebanon - boasts a medium-sized army and a whopping arsenal of up to 150,000 rockets and missiles. Now, as certain fronts of the Syrian civil war begin to stabilize along "de-confliction zones" sponsored by Russia, Iran, and Turkey, the possibility that Hezbollah's ...

Qatar announced on Thursday it is restoring full diplomatic ties with Iran. “The state of Qatar expressed its aspirations to strengthen bilateral relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all fields,” the Qatari Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that Qatar’s ambassador will return to Iran after a ...

The U.S. is withholding millions of dollars in military and economic aid to Egypt, citing human rights concerns. “The funds that would normally go to Egypt … will be held in reserve until we can see progress on democracy,” said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert on Wednesday. The U.S. is ...

On July 23, an Israeli security guard shot and killed two Jordanians in the Israeli Embassy compound in Amman. In the aftermath of this incident, tensions between Israel and Jordan have spiked, leading to perhaps the most serious bilateral crisis since 1997, when Israel attempted to assassinate former Hamas leader ...

The recent flare-up at the Temple Mount, also known Haram Al Sharif, in Jerusalem reminds American foreign policy makers of the sensitivity of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Israel increased security on the Haram Al Sharif last month after a shooting at the holy site left two Israeli policemen dead, prompting protests ...

On September 25, Iraqi Kurdistan is set to hold a referendum on independence. There are plenty of strong voices around the globe in support of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s (KRI) right to self-determination, but questions surround both the timing of the vote as well as the KRI’s preparedness for ...

Amid rising frustration in the White House about the war in Afghanistan, reports have emerged about two major dynamics: a disagreement between National Security Advisor LTG H.R. McMaster and the president’s chief strategist, Steven Bannon, over the way forward in Afghanistan, and, as part of that disagreement, the future of ...

  Relations between Turkey and the European Union – already fraught – have deteriorated swiftly over the last few months. In June, the refusal of Turkish officials to allow German parliamentarians to visit their troops stationed at the Incirlik air base in southeastern Turkey, who are part of the fight ...

Turkey’s relations with the EU and place within NATO have come under increased scrutiny over the past year, especially during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's campaign to win a constitutional referendum this April, which many saw as a power grab. Now, a row over the access of German parliamentarians to ...

In the run up to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's campaign to win a constitutional referendum this April, rhetorical vitriol between Turkey and EU countries reached historic highs, including accusations that Dutch and German politicians were “Nazi remnants.”. Now, a row over the access of German parliamentarians to Turkey's critical ...

Before leaving Saudi Arabia last week for a long holiday in Morocco, King Salman issued a decree officially putting his young son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in charge during his absence. Under the Saudi system, that was a routine step because crown princes have often become, in effect, acting ...

Saudi Arabia underwent another dramatic shift in mid-June when Saudi ruler King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud elevated his son, Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MbS), to the position of Crown Prince in place of his elder cousin Mohammad bin Nayef (MbN). At first, it appeared that Nayef supported the move when ...

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently underwent another dynastic shake-up as Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman supplanted his elder cousin and former Minister of the Interior Mohammed Bin Nayef as Crown prince. The move paves the way for Mohammad bin Salman to further consolidate power and pursue his more ...

The new sanctions slapped on Iran (and Russia and North Korea) last week by the U.S. Congress—and the sanctions placed the previous week on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) by the U.S. Treasury, State, and Justice departments—threaten to make the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA - aka the ...

Next week, on August 2, is the 27th anniversary of the day Saddam’s forces stormed across Iraq’s southern border with the goal of annexing their small neighbor, Kuwait. It took only two days to seize the entire country. During the seven-month occupation, Iraqi soldiers tortured and killed hundreds of civilians, and ...

The ongoing diplomatic confrontation between Qatar and four Arab nations – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt – has exacerbated regional tensions and created a deep rift within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), one of the most important organizations in the Middle East. As part of the ...

With the dispute between Qatar and its neighbors nearing the two-month mark with no resolution in sight, Kuwait has stepped in as a mediator in an effort to resolve the conflict. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Richard LeBaron, former U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait, to discuss why Kuwait ...

The use of cyber capabilities to influence geopolitical confrontations has become more and more common. Even those countries who are not major global powers are turning to digital avenues to engage in information warfare and covert influence. The Cipher Brief’s Levi Maxey spoke with Rhea Siers, the former Deputy Associate Director ...

In addition to ethnic divisions and poor governance, the power projection of neighboring countries inside Afghanistan will continue to be a key factor in determining whether the U.S. and our allies will be successful in Afghanistan. The primary mission for the U.S. in Afghanistan continues to be denying ISIS and al ...

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department issued a memorandum stating that foreign countries are required to provide increased information and data about their citizens who are seeking to travel to the U.S. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Rob Richer, former Associate Deputy Director for Operations at ...

President Trump has decided to end the CIA-sponsored program to arm Syrian anti-Assad rebels, according to a Washington Post report on Wednesday. The newspaper quotes U.S. officials as saying the decision to wind down the Obama-era program was made almost one month ago after a meeting in the Oval Office ...

The Trump Administration is ending the covert program to support Syrian rebels fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, according to the Washington Post. This CIA program, in place since 2013, armed and trained the moderate rebels in the war-torn country, a dynamic disliked by Assad’s main backer – ...

President Donald Trump’s administration slapped fresh sanctions on Iran on Tuesday, shortly after certifying the country is technically complying with the nuclear deal — a move that experts say is a key part of the White House’s approach until the comprehensive review of Iran policy is completed. The Treasury Department ...

More mixed signals have emerged on the rift between Qatar and some of its Arab neighbors, as a new report citing U.S. intelligence officials says the United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of Qatari websites to post false information that spurred the region’s diplomatic crisis. Qatar has said its state ...

May was a huge success for Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. He was re-elected with a landslide majority (57 percent) in the presidential elections, defeating his hardline competitor, Ebrahim Raisi, and helping his faction win most of the municipal elections in Iran. In most presidential democracies, a popular mandate like this ...

The crisis between an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on one side, and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member Qatar on the other, shows no signs of abating. Qatar has responded to the list of 13 demands presented to Doha last month. At a meeting ...

The territorial battle against ISIS is nearing its final stages in Iraq and Syria. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has already declared that the ISIS caliphate has fallen and, in Syria, U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are pushing deep into the ISIS "capital" of Raqqa. However, as victory looms, new and ...

Nearly three years ago, the Islamic State (ISIS) catapulted to the top of the news worldwide after the group seized vast swaths of Syria and Iraq, used Mosul’s revered Great Mosque of al-Nuri to announce the creation of an Islamic caliphate, executed tens of thousands of civilians, and committed genocide ...

There are two schools of thought about the nature of the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Some experts say the group is nearly vanquished as it struggles to hold on to Mosul, Iraq, and prepares for the inevitable fight for its capital in Raqqa, ...

The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Michael W.S. Ryan, Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, to discuss ISIS’ recent battlefield losses, the group’s current level of influence, and what to expect from ISIS in coming months. The Cipher Brief: Today, ISIS controls significantly less territory than it did ...

Israel faces a vast array of terrorist threats from groups such as Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, and ISIS in Syria and the Sinai, as well as from lone-wolf attackers. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Dr. Anat Berko, counterterrorism expert and current member of the ...

The tense standoff between Qatar and a group of Middle East countries that includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates is nearing the one-month mark with no resolution in sight. Events began to unfold on June 4 when the Arab nations abruptly severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, ...