Cipher Brief Expert and former Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin is a distinguished practitioner in residence at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.  He served as the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2000-2004 and Acting Director of the CIA in 2004. OPINION -- Attending the ...

OPINION -- American foreign policy has faded into a confusing and dangerous blur as a result of mismanagement, flip-flopping objectives, political turmoil in Washington and an understaffed and demoralized State Department. On issue after issue, it is impossible to discern a coherent strategy or an achievable goal. This is not just ...

Gary Grappo is a former U.S. ambassador who served as Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad; U.S. Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman; and Charge d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As a career member ...

China’s burgeoning economic and political interests in the developing world – particularly in the Middle East and Africa – will compel Beijing to undertake a more activist approach to foreign policy. This new reality contrasts with China’s longstanding position of non-interference and will inevitably force China to become more engaged ...

President Donald Trump's first overseas visit was "Trumpist" in its ambitions, ambiance, and expanse: the three monotheistic religions, NATO, EU, and G-7 gatherings; a whirlwind of cultural experiences; and "finally Make America Great Again" with commercial and arms sales, investments, and gestures. But the core of the visit was reassurance ...

South Korea and Japan are attempting to maintain business as usual in their alliances with the U.S., but the Trump Administration has not made this easy. A gap between President Donald Trump’s unpredictable comments and the more measured statements of his top Cabinet members has made building relations difficult. As ...

On May 9, Moon Jae-in was elected as the new President of South Korea after six months of political turmoil and a power vacuum caused by Park Geun-hye’s impeachment scandal. This is a return of nationalistic and progressive leadership after the past two conservative administrations, and Moon’s landslide victory indicates ...

Scrutiny over President Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia heightened this week as former FBI Director Robert Mueller was selected as special counsel to lead the inquiry into Russian influence on last year’s presidential election. It comes as the FBI and Congress continue their separate investigations into Russia’s meddling in the ...

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 ...

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 ...

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the State Department staff last week that our policy must ensure American security and economic interests first but also reflect American values. He said our relationships needed rebalancing and then toured the globe to describe how we should be active everywhere. He’s also going to ...

The administration of President Donald Trump has thrown key tenets of U.S foreign policy into question. After campaigning on a platform that skewered global free trade deals, called for economically nationalist policies, and questioned the U.S. alliance system, President Trump has so far done little to assuage international fears that ...

As the Trump Administration marks 100 days in office, there have been shuffles in the National Security Council, a strike in Syria, tough talk on North Korea, and plans for a controversial travel ban. What did the Trump team get right? And what was off the mark? The Cipher Brief ...

The apparent shift by the Trump Administration towards more traditional foreign policy has been welcomed by many inside, and more outside, of the U.S., as the global security system depends on a strong American role. Nevertheless, even a more ‘normal’ Trump foreign policy harbors risks, known and unknown. The known ...

It might be a “ridiculous standard,” as President Donald Trump put it, but presidents are measured by their first 100 days in office. In fact, even Trump has bought into it. On the 90th day of his administration, he proclaimed, “No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days.” ...

When President Barack Obama nominated Michele Flournoy to be Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, she became the highest-ranking woman in the Pentagon’s history.  She was rumored to be Hillary Clinton’s pick for Secretary of Defense.  And after President Donald Trump’s election, General James Mattis asked her to be his ...

Amidst a busy week in national security, The Cipher Brief’s CEO and Publisher, Suzanne Kelly, spoke with Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, author of the new book The Leader’s Bookshelf, and member of the Cipher Brief Network, to discuss the military budget, cyber security, the use ...

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Administration have been quick to use forceful rhetoric when discussing U.S. policy towards Iran during their first five weeks in office. However, whether a strong-armed approach to Iran is in fact the most effective direction for U.S.-Iranian relations is an open question. Early on ...

U.S.-Iran tensions are likely to rise in the coming months. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany) has been roundly criticized by President Donald Trump and others, including some lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The U.S. ...

Like it or not, the Trump Administration will have to pay attention to Iran.  The President’s pre­de­cessors, beginning in 1979, have taken multiple paths, usually with few results beyond frustration.  Unable to ignore the Islamic Republic, they tried contain­ment, regime change, and engagement.  Nothing much worked, and – with a ...

The Trump Administration’s proposal to hike military expenditures at the expense of foreign assistance is being challenged by a group of former military leaders. “We believe in the premise that the nation needs hard power (planes, tanks, warships, well trained combat troops) and soft power (diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign aid, ...

On Feb. 3, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced “we are in the midst of a full review of all U.S. policies towards Cuba.” This is excellent news. Under an administration which has thus far been dominated by knee-jerk responses and actions dictated more by politics than policy, it ...

The world got a taste last week of what “America First” means: insulting Iraqis who’ve risked their lives with U.S. forces; blacklisting dual-citizen legislators in Canada; and jeopardizing the political standing of leaders, like Enrique Pena Nieto and Theresa May, who try to work with the new American President. Yet, ...

In an historic proclamation, then President Barack Obama announced in December 2014, “the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba [and] we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.” Obama promised to reestablish diplomatic relations that had been severed for nearly 53 ...

I remember remarking to Cuban American friends in Miami some 20 years ago and in the wake of the passage of the Helms-Burton Act (which formalized the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba) that it was my humble opinion that if we just got rid of the embargo against Cuba and ...

President Donald Trump has indicated he will reverse the Obama administration’s policy on Cuba, despite previously saying the deal was fine. The Cipher Brief asked Frank Mora, Director of the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University, about what he thinks U.S.-Cuba relations will be like ...

George W. Bush and Barack Obama were, in many ways, polar opposites in world view. The former saw black and white and an eternal struggle between good and evil, where those on the side of morality were compelled to use the power at their disposal lest nefarious forces take advantage ...

The U.S. and Eritrea do not have strong bilateral relations. Ever since UN sanctions were imposed in 2009 and again in 2013, doing business in Eritrea, let alone having strong diplomatic ties, has become more difficult. Yet this country in the heart of the Horn of Africa could be key ...

Some of the most significant challenges the Trump administration will face are in the Middle East.  These include the threat of salafi-Jihadist terrorism, Iran’s efforts to create a “Shiite crescent” spanning the region, and a resurgent Russian role. In the Middle East, President Donald Trump, like his last five predecessors, ...

Four top State Department officials were reported Thursday to have resigned, and the head of the U.S. Border Patrol left his job. The Washington Post reported that those heading out the door at State include Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy, Assistant Secretary for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary for ...

Donald Trump today enters the most powerful office in the United States, and probably the world. Just how powerful, however, is an area of much dispute. Despite early promises to curtail executive authority in areas of national security, foreign policy, and warmaking, some argue that President Obama has actually expanded ...

Today, President-elect Donald J. Trump and Vice President Michael R. Pence will take the oath of office on the western steps of the Capitol building. Mr. Trump enters the White House as possibly the most controversial new President in history. His inauguration will be met by record-setting protests – 200,000 ...

Exxon Mobil Chief Rex Tillerson, like almost all post World War II Secretary of State nominees, if confirmed, will come to the job with extensive international experience and a global network of high level contacts. International business experience with its focus on underlying political and economic trends, as in Tillerson's ...

The story of the Tortoise and the Hare is well-known across cultures. In some countries, the plot is adjusted and the animals change and become, for example, a grasshopper and an ant. But just about every society tells the cautionary tale of the Hare who runs quickly ahead, only to ...