Bottom Line Up Front Iran has experienced intermittent periods of unrest in the decades since its Islamic Revolution of 1979, but the situation unfolding in early 2020 is exceptional. Dispatches from the protests suggest that Iranians believe that the highest levels of the government are responsible and must be ...

Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the ruler of Oman and the Middle East’s longest serving ruler, died on January 10 after nearly 50 years in power.  Oman, under Qaboos rule, transformed from an undeveloped country in the 1970’s, to a country known as ‘the Switzerland of the Middle East’ at the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group in Somalia, is resurging again and demonstrating the ability to launch attacks with impunity. Since March 2017, al-Shabaab has launched close to 900 attacks on civilians and hundreds more against U.S., Somali, and Kenyan troops.  Al-Shabaab controls vast swaths of ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Early this week, U.S. Attorney General William Barr labeled the December 6 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola as an act of terrorism. The attack, which killed three and injured eight, was conducted by Saudi citizen Mohammed Alshamrani, who was in Pensacola for military training. ...

Emile Nakhleh is a retired CIA Senior Intelligence Service Officer and founding director of the CIA’s Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program Office. Nakhleh is currently a Research Professor and Director of the Global and National Security Policy Institute at the University of New Mexico. Since retiring from the government in ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Following the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian response that targeted Iraqi bases, the possibility of a conventional war between the United States and Iran seems to have diminished. Despite the decreasing tensions, both Washington and Tehran are likely to engage in asymmetric ...

OPINION -- Ten minutes into President Trump’s speech at his first 2020 presidential re-election campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio, last Friday, he drew great cheers when he said, “If you dare to threaten our citizens, you do so at your own grave peril.” Moments later, Trump brought up the U.S. ...

BOOK REVIEW: The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution By Gregory Zuckerman Reviewed by Christopher Messina Messina is an investor and entrepreneur who works in global capital markets, cybersecurity, commodities and technology. He is Co-Founder and CEO of CrowdFill, a next-generation asset trading fintech firm, is ...

The U.S. is considering whether it will expel more than a dozen Saudi Arabian military students after a shooting at a naval base in Pensacola, Florida last month that killed three people and injured eight others. In the aftermath of the shooting, the Pentagon ordered a review of how DoD ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Turkey has intervened in Libya’s internecine civil war in an effort to prop up the increasingly beleaguered Government of National Accord (GNA). A recent Russian-Turkish initiative seems to have produced a conditional cease-fire, though it remains to be seen how durable the cessation of hostilities ...

TRUSTED SOURCE - In this day of disinformation and facts blending routinely with political opinion and being passed off as objective news, The Cipher Brief is launching a new occasional series called, ‘Trusted Source’ to share tips and insights on where our exclusive group of experts and readers get their ...

OPINION -- As 2019 drew to a close, while foreign adversary leaders such as President Putin, President Xi, and Chairman Kim often attracted the largest amount of media attention, the killing of Iran’s IRGC-Quds Force leader Major-General Qassem Soleimani is worthy of careful attention.  His recent tactical and strategic actions ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran responded to the death of IRGC-QF Major General Qassim Soleimani by launching nearly two dozen ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases where American troops are stationed. On January 8, U.S. President Donald Trump announced further sanctions against Iran but also suggested that ‘the United States ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Less than 24 hours after the United States killed IRGC-QF General Qassem Soleimani, the United States Department of State designated Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). AAH has a long history of targeting U.S. interests and maintains strong links to Iran ...

In an interview with FOX News after the drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “Frankly, the Europeans haven’t been as helpful as I wish that they could be,” adding, “The Brits, the French, the Germans all need to understand that ...

Cipher Brief Expert Mark Kelton is a retired senior Central Intelligence Agency executive who retired in 2015 with 34 years of experience in intelligence operations.  He led the Intelligence investigation for the CIA into Edward Snowden's activities once he fled the U.S. in 2013. Speaking in 1978, journalist David Frost wryly ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Entering 2020, there are a host of geopolitical trends that will significantly impact global security throughout the coming year and beyond. Many of these challenges overlap and interact with each other and will be impacted by developments in emerging technologies, demographic shifts, and socio-cultural factors. ...

  Bottom Line Up Front A key Iranian response to the U.S. strike that killed Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani will be to try to permanently oust the 6,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Iraq. Iran has already put to use a combination of its military and political levers in ...

The U.S. targeting and killing of Iranian Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani by a drone strike in Baghdad on Friday has prompted a series of swift statements and actions throughout the Middle East as experts work to anticipate what will follow. The Cipher Brief has spoken with a number of ...

  Bottom Line Up Front A U.S. strike that killed the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force, IRGC Major General Qassem Soleimani, and the founder of the pro-Iranian Iraqi militia Kata’ib Hezbollah, represents a major escalation of U.S. conflict with Iran. The strike appeared to represent direct ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The December 29 U.S. strike on the Iran-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah (KAH) militia in Iraq represented the first kinetic U.S. response to Iranian provocations that began in May. The U.S. strike, although provoked by a KAH rocket attack that killed a U.S. defense contractor, has harmed ...

OPINION -- The Trump administration’s new attempt to open strategic nuclear talks with China “ASAP,” as mentioned in a State Department tweet last Friday, focuses on the wrong subject. Any talks about strategic deterrence among nations should be dealing first with the future of cyber warfare and weaponry rather than ...

  Bottom Line up Front Iran is pursuing a variety of methods in an effort to preserve its influence in Iraq and Lebanon in the face of protests against existing power structures. Iran’s allies in both countries include technocrats who might satisfy popular demands for competent governance while maintaining ties ...

Patrick Duddy served as the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela from 2007 to 2010.  He is now teaches at Duke University where he is also the director of Duke’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Affairs. As 2019 comes to a close, it is clear the U.S needs to up its ...

Bottom Line Up Front Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan, recently returned to Kabul to jumpstart political negotiations with the Taliban. Talks are currently inching toward a ceasefire, though an agreement on the specifics has yet to be reached. One of the most significant variables impacting the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Protests continue in India over the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act, which provides for expedited citizenship but specifically excludes Muslims. The new law applies to people who entered India before 2014 from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh if they belong to six specified religions. The ...

OPINION -- As the Middle East bids farewell to 2019 and welcomes the new year, the peoples of the region have precious little to celebrate. Young and old — Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Kurds, and Israelis — view the coming year with trepidation, growing uncertainty, and a deepening mistrust of their ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Turkish President Erdogan recently suggested that Ankara might intervene militarily in Libya if requested by the government in Tripoli. A Turkish intervention to support the Government of National Accord would put Ankara in direct odds with Russia, as Moscow continues to back strongman Khalifa Haftar. ...

Cipher Brief expert Robert Dannenberg is a 24-year veteran of the CIA, where he served in several senior leadership positions, including chief of operations for the Counterterrorism Center, chief of the Central Eurasia Division and chief of the CIA’s Information Operations Center.  Post CIA, he worked as Chief of Global ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On November 4, 2019, nine Americans were killed in a targeted attack - believed to be perpetrated by a drug trafficking cartel - in northwest Mexico. In 2018, drug-related murders in Mexico rose 15% over the previous year and during the first-half of 2019, there ...

OPINION -- “The function of truth is to bring to light the hidden facts, to set them into relation with each other, and make a picture of reality on which men can act.” Walter Lippmann wrote in his 1925 book, Public Opinion. In the Trump era, officials and legislators are ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The NYC Police Department has formed a special unit to combat white supremacy extremists and others motivated by race or ethnicity to commit violence. The announcement came on the heels of a targeted domestic terrorism attack at a Jewish Deli that killed four people, including ...

The Gray Zone is that place between war and peace where actors use a range of elements at their disposal to effect outcome.  We see it in everyday operations like disinformation and election interference or in using economic means to coerce an outcome.  China and Russia have been big fans ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On the heels of the London Bridge terrorist attack and the looming Brexit process, tensions were high as British citizens went to the polls for the December 12, 2019 UK election. The Russian Federation, as well as organizations, individuals and UK-based entities, attempted to influence ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On December 4, Germany officially declared Russia was suspected in a brazen assassination in Berlin last August. German authorities believe Vadim Krasikov, currently in custody, is the killer of an ethnic Chechen Georgian national known as Zelimkhan Khangoshvili. This would be the first known Moscow-ordered ...

EXPERT OPINION -- Kim Jong-un is a desperate man. He has long believed that Donald Trump’s unpredictability and their quirky friendship offers him the best, and possibly only, chance of a deal with the United States whereby he could keep some of his nuclear capability and gain a substantial measure ...

OPINION -- It has been several years since I thought deeply about Syria. And that is a shame, given my long time affection for the Syrian people, whom I grew to know and love after several decades working on Near Eastern issues at CIA. Syria came crashing back for me ...

  Bottom Line Up Front U.S.-Iran tensions are escalating again after three months of relative stability. U.S. officials report that Iran is resupplying its allies and proxies in Yemen and in Iraq with increasingly sophisticated short-range missile equipment. U.S. commanders cite the Iranian military movements as evidence that Iran might ...

Cipher Brief Expert Ambassador Joseph R. DeTrani was the former Special Envoy for Negotiations with North Korea. OPINION -- North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, is getting bad advice from his senior advisers. Rather than pursuing closer relations with the United States, North Korea is in the process of unraveling a close ...

  Bottom Line Up Front In response to France’s plans to overhaul the country’s pension system, protesters took to the streets last week in growing signs of nationwide unrest. The scale and intensity of the protests pose a challenge to President Emmanuel Macron, who struggled to quell the ‘Yellow Vests’ ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On Friday December 6th, Saudi Air Force Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani murdered three U.S. Navy sailors and injured 8 others at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida. This incident raises questions about vetting procedures when it comes to identifying individuals who may be ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Just this week, members of Ukrainian far-right groups were photographed attending protests in Hong Kong against the Chinese government. White supremacy extremists likely traveled to Hong Kong to learn from and study the anti-government protests, riots, and resistance, even though they were not invited to ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On December 1, the Iraqi Parliament approved the announced resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. The courage of the protesters was on display even as the Iraqi security forces killed more than 400 protesters through a brutal countrywide crackdown. Protesters are demanding wholesale change ...

As NATO members meet in London this week, The Cipher Brief tapped former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), General Philip Breedlove (Ret.) to help cut through some of the rhetoric and understand the Alliance’s strategic importance today to both the U.S. and its allies. The Cipher Brief:  What needs ...

As NATO members meet in London this week, The Cipher Brief tapped former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.) to help cut through some of the rhetoric and understand the Alliance’s strategic importance today to both the U.S. and its allies. The Cipher Brief:  What's your ...

Bottom Line Up Front NATO countries gathered this week to celebrate the alliance’s 70th anniversary amidst growing uncertainty over the institution’s future. In a recent interview, French President Emmanuel Macron lamented that ‘what we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO.’ NATO has been criticized as an anachronism, ...

BOOK REVIEW:  Hunting the Caliphate: America's War on ISIS and the Dawn of the Strike Cell By Dana J.H. Pittard and Wes J. Bryant Reviewed by Brian Raymond Brian Raymond served as National Security Council Director for Iraq from 2014-2015. He participated in numerous meetings with President Obama in the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The top commander for U.S. forces in the Middle East warned that the growing U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf might not be enough to deter Iran from attacking Gulf states. The comments by CENTCOM commander Gen. McKenzie followed publication of a Defense Intelligence ...

The Commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, General Kenneth F. McKenzie, recently warned that the presence of an additional 14,000 U.S. troops sent to the Persian Gulf region over the past several months likely has not deterred Iranian efforts to launch future attacks there. General McKenzie highlighted the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The release of a trove of Chinese government documents offers close insight into a vast campaign of incarceration, intimidation, and abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province. China has relied heavily on emerging technology and artificial intelligence to track, monitor, and ...