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 ...

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 ...

The Trump administration is watching the Iranian protests closely – in order to name, shame and eventually sanction those cracking down on protesters and limiting access to social media, senior administration officials told a small group of reporters Wednesday. They wouldn’t say if President Donald Trump might pull out of ...

Cipher Brief expert Norman Roule – a former CIA Mideast hand and DNI Iran Mission Manager – calls the demonstrations in Iran possibly the most significant since the 1979 revolution. He offers a look at how the protests are playing out and what might be ahead, in an interview with Executive ...

The Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has exacerbated existing tensions between Turkey and Israel, only 18 months after the two countries reconciled. Bucking years of precedent by the international community, President Donald Trump’s announcement provoked wide criticism and prompted an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders in Istanbul. Turkish ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with former DNI Iran Mission Manager and Cipher Brief expert Norman Roule about the worst demonstrations in Iran since 2009. The interview is adapted for print below. This time, the rising prices and allegations of corruption seem to be driving the chaos. With little warning, crowds ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look ahead at key national security issues. Intelligence veteran and Iran hand Norman Roule sketches out where we are now in the Mideast and Gulf region, and what he sees ahead for Tehran. On the state of the Middle ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 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 ...

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 ...

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 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 ...

Cyber-enabled information operations in the Gulf, such as the one that seemingly spurred the ongoing feud between Qatar and its neighbors, represent the gray line between open conflict and backchannel disagreements that have proven difficult to respond to, according to experts who spoke at an event Wednesday co-hosted 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 ...

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 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 ...