Over the past two decades, jihadi groups, including al Qaeda and ISIS, have fully grasped the opportunities provided by the internet. They have developed their own media bodies to promote their work, first via password-protected jihadi websites, forums, and discussion groups, and today via social media platforms open to all. The ...

Is targeting the leadership of terrorist organizations an effective counterterrorism strategy? States can employ a number of different tactics in order to weaken and defeat militant organizations – they can use brute force, repression, regime change, negotiations, undermining support, ideological change, cutting off finances, and leadership targeting. While states have ...

Multiple challenges face Iran-Afghanistan relations, chief among them are security and resource issues.  Tehran seeks a stable government in Kabul, but one that does not rely on the U.S. for its security and stability.  Ironically, this has led Iran to, in the short-term, make common cause with the Taliban so ...

As Afghanistan’s neighbor to the west, Iran has significant security and economic interests vis-à-vis Afghanistan. Relations between the two countries have been complicated for centuries, but the complex nature reached new heights in the latter half of the 20th century after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 saw a Shiite regime ...

As Afghanistan’s western neighbor, Iran maintains a vested interest in prodding war-torn Afghanistan towards achieving political and economic stability. Burdened by Afghan refugees and a stream of narcotics that have traversed the Iranian-Afghan border and strained the Iranian economy, Iran’s leadership has prioritized resolving these issues and pursuing its own ...

Until 2003, Iraq and Saddam Hussein posed perhaps the most direct military threat to Iran in the region. Haunted by the memory of bitter trench and chemical warfare during the eight year Iran-Iraq war in the ‘80s, both countries eyed each other warily for decades. The 2003 U.S. invasion, which ...

Iran’s principal regional nemesis was removed when Saddam Hussein’s regime was overthrown by the United States in 2003. The new Iraq quickly fell under the leadership of powerful Shia Islamist parties, most of whom had sheltered in Iran to avoid Saddam’s persecution. One example is Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s ...

Since the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq in 2011, Iran has been able to exert powerful influence over its majority-Shia Arab neighbor. This became especially apparent in the years following ISIS' rapid territorial gains in Iraq in 2014. Today, Tehran funds and trains Shia militia in Iraq, enjoys ...

Syria's Kurds – led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military arm the YPG – have received much attention for their role as the cornerstone of U.S.-allied local forces fighting ISIS. However, as their battlefield successes continue, the PYD is building a miniature independent state in northern Syria ...

  Syria’s Kurds are best known for the role that their military arm, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), currently play as the military backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – allies of the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition in Syria who provide the majority of ground troops in the campaign. These ...

As the ISIS “Caliphate” in Syria and Iraq faces annihilation in coming weeks, the U.S.  must rethink relations with its highly problematic but effective ally in the ISIS fight – the Syrian Kurdish PYD – which controls the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) –a joint Kurdish-Sunni Arab militia that has ...

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani exchanged blows at the UN General Assembly in New York this week – taking aim at both the Iran nuclear deal, and each other’s leadership styles. Rouhani on Wednesday called the Trump Administration “rogue newcomers” to the world of politics ...

The dispute between Qatar and its four regional counterparts – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – has entered into its fourth month with no end in sight. After severing ties with Qatar, the four Arab countries imposed a blockade on the small Gulf nation and provided ...

The ongoing dispute between Qatar and its neighbors – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates – has thrown the U.S. into a difficult situation. U.S. President Donald Trump has reaffirmed his support for Saudi Arabia’s policies, but at the same time has continued to work with Qatar, ...

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 ...