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 ...

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 ...

The mid-December deadline for Congress to determine whether to re-impose nuclear-related sanctions on Iran is rapidly approaching – with uncertain progress. Enacting these additional sanctions on Iran would effectively mean that the U.S. is unilaterally withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ...

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday announced their commitment to defeating the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, in Syria and agreed “there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria,” they said in a joint statement. "The Presidents affirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, unity, ...

The Sept. 25 Kurdish referendum has risked permanent damage to the relationship between the Kurdish Regional Government and the Iraqi government (GOI), but the blame may lie as much with inequities built into the structure of the Iraqi constitution as with the independent-minded Kurds. The Iraqi constitution of 2005 and ...

The U.S. and Russia could soon come to an agreement on next steps in Syria, as the Islamic State, or ISIS, nears defeat in the country. The agreement would focus on “deconfliction” between the U.S. and Russian militaries, reducing violence in the Syrian civil war and reinvigorating UN-led peace talks, ...

The Swiss Foreign Ministry announced on Oct. 25 that it had reached an agreement with Riyadh and Tehran to represent Iranian consular interests in Saudi Arabia and Saudi consular interests in Iran. The landmark agreement, which was personally negotiated by Swiss Foreign Minister and Federal Councilor Didier Burkhalter, was first ...

There is little doubt that Putin’s foreign policy centers on reviving Russia as a major international power, which seeks to undermine the global American alliance that has underwritten international security since the end of the Cold War. Stretching across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, this alliance has continually thwarted ...

On Saturday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the arrests of dozens of ministers and other members of Riyadh’s elite, as part of a broader effort to ostensibly crackdown on corruption. Veteran Saudi/Mideast intelligence officer and Cipher Brief expert Norman Roule offered a more positive take than other network ...

Another shakeup atop the Saudi royal family, coupled with an escalation in the war in Yemen, has paved the way for the Saudi heir to the throne to consolidate power but has also stirred nationwide turmoil that could plant the seeds of a future backlash. On Saturday, Saudi Crown Prince ...

Limited visa services will resume between the United States and Turkey after they were halted last month following the arrest of a U.S. consulate employee in Istanbul. The U.S. Embassy in Ankara issued a statement on Monday saying it has received “high-level assurances" from Turkey that no other employees are ...

Nearly five months on, the “crisis” between Qatar and a coalition of nine countries led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has reached a relatively stable equilibrium. The countries’ resultant blockade of Qatar - over its alleged support for terrorist groups and ties to Iran – has not ...

As ISIS loses territory across Syria and Iraq, its capacity to generate revenue has declined drastically. Nonetheless, ISIS continues to profit from its oil industry, black market antiquities trading, and taxing and extorting local populations under its control. The U.S. government has worked with allies in the region to try ...

ISIS is rapidly losing territory across Syria and Iraq and, as a result, is suffering significant financial setbacks. Yet ISIS remains driven by its goal of establishing a physical caliphate. To acquire the necessary funds to maintain its bloody campaign, ISIS may turn to more traditional methods of terrorist financing, ...

Once billed the richest terrorist group in history, ISIS’ revenue streams are drying up, which may force it to rely more heavily on criminal enterprises and donations from like-minded extremists to survive. The group has ceded nearly 90 percent of the territory it once controlled in Syria and Iraq, according ...

In an important display of unity, the two distinct Palestinian governments, the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which oversees the Gaza Strip, agreed on October 12 to a number of important principles including the formation of a unity government. Although previous attempts at negotiations between the ...

Despite the recent agreement reached on October 12 between the two rival Palestinian governments, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, much work remains to be done before a united Palestinian government will come to fruition. The agreement represented an important first step in bringing the two Palestinian governments closer together, ...

After years of failed mediation efforts, the elusiveness of Palestinian unity may have finally come to an end. Throughout the last decade, Palestinian politics have been dominated by two separate governments: the Palestinian Authority (PA) based in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But under Egypt’s guidance, ...

The Kurdistan Regional Government is already suffering international blowback from its independence referendum, and now some Kurds are calling for the ouster of those who backed the vote, sending local politics into freefall. Parliamentary elections scheduled for Nov. 1 were delayed on Monday, after the region’s political parties failed to ...

KABUL, Afghanistan - On an otherwise ordinary Friday evening, a stranger entered the Imam Zaman mosque in West Kabul, just as worshippers were completing the evening prayer. Unnoticed in the crowd, he detonated the explosives hidden in his vest, killing at least 50 people – including a 14-year-old boy in the eighth ...

Iraq’s top diplomat in Washington, D.C., cried foul Friday over Kurdish government charges that Iran backed Iraq’s campaign to retake Kirkuk. “The KRG has been mounting what I call a campaign of quasi-disinformation, trying to paint this as an Iranian-led affair,” Iraq's ambassador to the U.S. Fareed Yasseen said of the ...

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi published an op-ed in the New York Times on Wednesday, denouncing the “illegal” referendum held by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq last month, but more importantly, making an impassioned case for Iraqi unity in the aftermath of ISIS’ defeat. The potential break-up ...

The end is near for the battle for Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS’s self-declared caliphate, but the terrorist group still has ways of raising funds and plenty of cash on hand — and still remains a threat near and far. Although U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Tuesday ...