Bottom Line Up Front On October 19, al-Muhajiroun co-founder Anjem Choudary was released from prison in the U.K. after serving over two years for inspiring others to join the Islamic State. Choudary is infamous for his support of terrorist groups and radical ideology, and is facing two years of strict ...

It has now been 18 months since the November 2016 presidential election, during which the U.S. intelligence community believes Russia acted not only to interfere with U.S. elections, but with clear preference for one of the candidates. However, Washington and many of America’s leaders are still not on the same ...

Cipher Brief Note:  Shiite Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr assured Iraqis this past weekend that the next Iraqi government will be ‘inclusive’.  Al-Sadr, who once fought U.S. troops after the invation of Iraq, held meetings with Prime Minister Haider al-Adabi on Saturday and Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of a coalition backed by ...

In the latter part of the 18th century, not too long after an earlier annexation of Crimea by Russia, a Russian governor by the name of Grigory Potemkin hoped to impress Russian empress Catherine II by building fake villages along the banks of the Dnieper River. As Catherine’s vessel floated ...

Much has been written about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election – the theft and selective leaking of information, the attempt to tamper with state voting systems, and the weaponization of social media. Every day brings further revelations about Moscow’s still-ongoing information operations in the U.S. Yet little of this ...

Don’t be diverted by gossip and bizarre tweets. The most important record of events shows that President Donald Trump and his allies are taking the U.S. federal government down a road toward authoritarianism, starting with their early attempts to destroy the integrity of the Justice Department, FBI and the intelligence ...

During my career as an operations officer in the CIA’s Clandestine Service, I was fortunate to have served in a number of out-of-the-way places. Where I lived and worked—the Balkans, Latin America and Eurasia—the term “developing world” did not just refer to economics. It also accurately described the political circumstances ...

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 ...

Xi Jinping will make his first visit to Hong Kong as president of China this week as the territory prepares to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its handover from Britain to China. Xi, who has slowly but surely consolidated power around himself will visit as Hong Kong fears it is ...

Twenty years ago, when Britain handed Hong Kong back to China, Beijing agreed to administer the island according to the Basic Law, which would preserve the civil and political liberties of Hong Kong and create a path to universal suffrage for Hong Kong. However, in the intervening years, many believe ...

Hong Kong’s society and economy have changed under 20 years of Beijing’s influence. Chinese capital has bought out companies and real estate and job seekers from the mainland compete with Hong Kong citizens. The influx has generated social problems by exacerbating inequality, and many worry it is diminishing Hong Kong’s ...

A populist wave is washing over the United States and Europe, which have seen populist leaders take the helm – U.S. President Donald Trump – or come exceedingly close to power. Geert Wilders’ Dutch populist Party for Freedom is strong, French National Front leader Marine Le Pen went face to ...

What is the definition of populism? What are the common threads that tie together populist movements? Does populism work? The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with Carmen Medina, a former CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence, about how she defines and evaluates populism, and how, in some ways, it’s related to ...

The upsurge of populism in the United States and Europe has us asking the wrong questions. The issue that should concern us is not what populists have in common. The similarities between Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen or Nigel Farage are unimportant. We also should stop wondering why voters ...

The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Suzanne Maloney, Deputy Director of the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, to discuss how the results from last Friday’s Iranian presidential election could impact Iranian domestic and foreign policy moving forward. The Cipher Brief: Leading up to the Iranian presidential ...

Iranian voters sent a strong message to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, decisively electing incumbent President Hassan Rouhani to a second term in office. The presidential election shaped up to be a two-man race between Rouhani, considered a “moderate” by many observers, and hardline rival Ebrahim Raisi, who has served ...

Hassan Rouhani’s decisive victory in the Iranian presidential elections held last week reveals that after 38 years, Iranians are still struggling to re­solve the conflicts and contradictions unleashed by the original Islamic Revolution of 1979. That movement, which united millions under the banner of making Iranians, at long last, masters ...

Friday’s presidential election in Iran marks a pivotal moment for the Islamic Republic. Although ultimate power in the country remains in the hands of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the results will indicate the direction of Iranian foreign and domestic policy, as well as how Tehran plans to engage with ...

What is the most stable country in the world? Which is the most fragile? What determines those qualities? In 2017, South Sudan was ranked the most fragile country by The Fund for Peace, an organization that publishes the Fragile States Index (FSI) every year. Finland was judged the most stable. Measured on ...

From day one, South Korea’s new President, Moon Jae-in, has shown he will be a different type of leader. He confirmed a campaign promise that he would consider visiting Pyongyang before Washington to tackle the North Korean nuclear issue, albeit only if the conditions were right. He has said he ...

In his first days in office, newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in has tried to reassure the governments of the United States, Japan, and China that he will work to reduce tensions with North Korea, however his preference for engagement over sanctions has some experts wondering if his North ...

After months of uncertainty following the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, South Korea has a new president. Moon Jae-in, a human rights lawyer and former chief of staff in the Roh Moo-hyun administration, has promised to pursue economic and political reform and restore prosperity and trust in government. Moon faces ...

The term “political Islam” has become commonplace after the Arab uprisings of 2011, during which Islamist groups rose to political prominence across the Middle East and North Africa. But what does “political Islam” really mean, and should Westerners fear it? For most observers, the term refers to relatively moderate Islamist ...

The concept of political Islam has deep historical roots in Islamic societies and, during the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 in the Middle East and North Africa, many moderate political Islamist groups rose to prominence. In Egypt, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood won the presidency.  Since then, however, Morsi ...

Usage of the term political Islam has become common in recent years as Islamist movements vie for influence in a changing Middle East. However, the expression means very different things to different people It is often used to refer to a wide spectrum of Islamist groups, from the Muslim Brotherhood ...

Speaking at a rally in Istanbul on March 26, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan further escalated his ongoing fight with Europe: “Have you [Europeans] not burned and destroyed my mosques? You are fascists, fascists!” Erdogan’s creation of alt-facts, wholesale targeting of all Europeans as “fascists,” and bare knuckles fight with European countries, initially appear ...

Turks went to the polls on Sunday and voted “Yes” in Turkey’s constitutional referendum by a margin of just over 51 percent to nearly 49 percent.   Turkey’s three largest cities, Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir, all voted “No.” Major opposition parties have contested the validity of the results, citing concerns that ...

Turkey has a checkered history with democracy. Since adopting a multiparty parliamentary system, the country has suffered periodic military coups – including a failed putsch last July – designed to reassert the control of traditionalist military and political elites. Now, Turkey faces a new attempt to consolidate power, but not ...

Speaking at a rally in Istanbul on March 26, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan further escalated his ongoing fight with Europe: “Have you [Europeans] not burned and destroyed my mosques? You are fascists, fascists!” Erdogan’s creation of alt-facts, wholesale targeting of all Europeans as “fascists,” and bare knuckles fight with ...

On April 16, Turkey will hold a constitutional referendum, which if passed, promises to transform the country’s governing system. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stands to gain expansive new executive powers - powers that critics say will create a de facto dictatorship in Turkey. For his part, Erdogan has branded ...

Vladimir Putin is portrayed in the West as the master manipulator in foreign policy, creating turmoil in U.S. and European elections and outfoxing his rivals in the Ukraine and Syria. In domestic politics, he is portrayed as a brutal but cunning tyrant, crushing dissent and murdering his harshest critics, yet ...

With just a few weeks left until French voters head to the polls, far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen made her way to Moscow for a surprise meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.   As Putin stood last Friday beside his open admirer — Le Pen supports lifting Russian sanctions, ...

The elites still don’t get it. Brexit, Trump, surging right-wing nationalism on both sides of the Atlantic; and yet time after time, the media and global leaders who helped steer the U.S. and Europe into the current morass of broken politics miss the forest for the trees in trying to ...

The term “Deep State” has achieved new popularity in recent weeks, but not in reference to opaque military elites in faraway countries. Today, the term is aimed at the U.S. government itself. In particular, the deep state has become a catchall term, which credits a shadow network of spies and ...

Academic and policy analysts generally agree that Pakistan’s army and directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, exert a controlling influence over most of Pakistan’s core state policies. This entrenched, unelected, and opaque “deep state” is complemented by a near-permanent “establishment” comprised of a relatively small cadre of politicians, senior bureaucrats, ...

The so-called “deep state” is like dark matter. There is wide belief in countries like Turkey, Egypt, and Pakistan that it exists, but no one has ever actually seen it. The term has now—rather surprisingly—become a part of the political lexicon in the United States. Among many others, President Donald ...

On November 8 last year, Donald Trump upended the American political system with his surprising electoral victory over Hillary Clinton. That result has raised many questions about the U.S. political system. Most significantly, it revealed a deep and widespread frustration with a system of governance in the United States, which ...

The South Korean court’s unanimous decision to remove President Park Geun Hye from office will prompt a new election within 60 days. With the ruling conservative party fractured by the scandal, liberal candidate Moon Jae-in is the current front runner. A win by the liberal party, which supports constructive dialogue ...

From South Korea’s point of view, the year of 2016 will be remembered as one of the most challenging years since the armistice of the Korean War was signed in 1953. North Korea conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests on January 6 and September 9 respectively, and it continued ...

South Korea’s National Assembly voted to impeach President Park Geun-hye Dec. 9.  Since then, Park has been suspended from power and the nation is waiting on a Constitutional Court ruling finalizing the impeachment process, to reinstate or permanently remove Park from office.  Among other things, perhaps what troubles South Koreans ...

Poland’s democratic institutions are under pressure from the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS). PiS efforts to control the judiciary and media risk alienating its Western allies, which it relies on for defense and national security. The Cipher Brief spoke with Piotr Buras, Head of the European Council on ...

From Constitutional Court reforms that make the judiciary less independent of political power to restrictions on journalists to suppressing of the opposition, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is causing a commotion within the European Union (EU). European authorities consistently make their displeasure with the Polish government actions known, ...

President-elect Donald Trump will inherit a close defense alliance with Poland when he enters the White House later this month. America is getting ready to deploy additional troops to Poland. An armored brigade combat team from Fort Carson, Colorado will be based in western Poland soon. By April, a U.S. ...

Hungary’s Viktor Orban is creating an illiberal democracy in central Europe. This is souring relations with the European Union (EU) and the current U.S. administration, while pulling Hungary back into the orbit of its eastern neighbor – 60 years after a massive uprising against Soviet influence. Europe’s migration crisis has ...

The Fund for Peace’s (FFP) 2016 Fragile States Index ranks Hungary, under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, as the “most-worsened” country this year, due in part to its recent track record on refugees, human rights, and rule of law. FFP Executive Director J. J. Messner, who is also the editor of ...

Hungary has decidedly taken a turn toward “illiberal” democracy, which is hurting its relationship with the United States. The Cipher Brief spoke with Ambassador András Simonyi, who served as Hungarian Ambassador to the U.S. from 2002-2007 and Hungarian Ambassador to NATO before that, about Hungary’s path to illiberalism. The Cipher ...

I just returned from my first visit to China—13 days of a typical tourist itinerary: Shanghai, Wuhan, Yangtze River, Chongqing, Xian, and Beijing. But even as a tourist, I was expecting to learn much about China—by reflecting both on what I saw and what I didn't see. Whenever I visit ...

Late on Sunday, Bruno Tshibala, the Deputy Secretary and spokesman of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’s largest opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), was arrested for his alleged role in violent anti-government protests that rocked the capital city of Kinshasa in mid-September. The protests, ...

African leaders have tried many different ways to evade term limits in recent years. Usually these take a form of reinterpreting when an incumbent’s first term started. Or they orchestrate a referendum or constitutional amendment bypassing the term limit restriction. The tack taken by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s ...

With the recent announcement that presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be postponed until at least 2018, tensions have been rising over the continued reign of DRC President Joseph Kabila. The Cipher Brief spoke with John Siko, Head of Business Intelligence for Africa at the Risk ...