A series of events last week led to escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. While tensions had seemed to ease somewhat on Friday, President Trump tweeted on Sunday ‘If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!’ Intelligence sources told ...

It’s been a week of escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran, beginning on Monday with reporting by The New York Times that senior U.S. leaders were reviewing plans to send as many as 120,000 U.S. troops to the region, in the event that Iran launches attacks against U.S. interests, ...

Cipher Brief Expert and former Director of the NSA, General Keith Alexander  (Ret.) and Jamil N. Jaffer, founder of the National Security Institute at George Mason University, weigh in on possible Iranian responses to recent U.S. actions in a column first published in The Hill. General Keith Alexander (Ret.), Former ...

Tuesday’s meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Sochi, Russia, was the result of a recent phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.  According to Lavrov, both heads of state directed to their subordinates to intensify the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front  Tensions have spiked between the U.S. and Iran recently, with both countries engaging in a series of tit-for-tat actions and heated rhetoric. But conflict should not be considered inevitable; containing Iran is possible and presents a favorable alternative to direct military conflict. Iran’s ‘playbook’ is ...

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week in Russia. The talks are expected to focus on the situation in Venezuela as opposition leaders Juan Guaido continues efforts to oust Nicolas Maduro.  State Department officials said ...

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is calling for unity and says that his country is facing ‘unprecedented’ pressure as the U.S. continues to ratchet up sanctions.  Tehran said last week it will no longer comply with portions of the negotiated nuclear agreement, an agreement which the U.S. left last year, while ...

The leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Qassem Soleimani said this week that Iran will never negotiate with the Trump Administration after the U.S. ended its practice of issuing waivers to countries that buy oil from Iran. The move, announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week, ...

The U.S. moved this week to apply even more pressure on Iran to end its involvement in illicit activities around the world by announcing that the U.S. State Department will no longer grant sanctions waivers to countries that import Iranian oil.    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The Trump Administration ended a key waiver on Iran oil sanctions as part of an effort to apply maximum pressure on Iran’s economy and its regime. The end of the waiver program will reduce Iran’s oil exports further but is unlikely to bring them to ...

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council is taking retaliatory steps after President Donald Trump announced on Monday that the U.S. will designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a ‘foreign terrorist organization’. Iran now says it will designate U.S. Central Command as a ‘terrorist organization’.  The IRGC designation will impose ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The 8 April Trump administration announcement designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization will have little practical effect on IRGC operations. There are few benefits to the designation because the IRGC is already widely sanctioned; few foreign companies transact any ...

OPINION -- As Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Saudi crown prince and de facto ruler Mohammad bin Salman clamor for a war against Iran, they seem to have conveniently forgotten the destruction and mayhem wrought ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran can exercise ‘hard power’ in Iraq through several major Shi’a militias that it has nurtured. Iran’s militia allies are emerging as significant political actors in Iraq and potentially in the broader region, following the prototype of Iran’s key regional proxy, Lebanese Hezbollah. With armed ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Even though President Trump decided to keep a residual force of U.S. troops in Syria, it will not be enough to counter Russia and Iran. The U.S. will keep as few as several hundred troops in Syria, mostly around al-Tanf, focused on intelligence, surveillance, and ...

  Bottom Line Up Front While Pakistan relies on terrorists as proxies, it remains unclear exactly how much control the military and intelligence services have over certain of those terrorist groups. Iran has suffered from a recent increase in terrorist attacks, which could lead Tehran to adopt an aggressive counter-terrorism ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran has built leverage over Iraq’s key power centers and its economy through its arming of Iraqi Shia militias and supplies of natural gas. The growing prospects for a U.S. military drawdown in Iraq are causing Iraqi leaders to draw closer to Iran than they ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The announced resignation of Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, reflects a growing domestic power struggle over the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement. The resignation, which President Hassan Rouhani rejected, could have been an effort to appease hardliners critical of Iran’s continued adherence to the agreement. ...

As part of The Cipher Brief's special coverage in the run up to our 2019 Threat Conference in Sea Island, GA March 24-26th, we will be presenting a series of weekly briefs on pressing national and global security issues.  Cipher Brief experts, many of whom have briefed presidents and world leaders ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The 40thanniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution finds the country in a stronger regional position than at any time since the 1979 revolution. The Trump Administration’s re-imposition of U.S. sanctions has failed to isolate Iran internationally, but it has damaged Tehran’s economy. Iran’s continued compliance with ...

Cipher Brief Expert Emile Nakhleh is a retired CIA Senior Intelligence Service Officer and founding director of the CIA’s Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program Office. Iran celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution during the first 10 “Days of Dawn” in February, beginning with February 1, the day Ayatollah ...

Last month, the U.S. Department of State marked the 35th anniversary of the U.S. designation of Iran as a state-sponsor of terrorism. Tehran is part of an exclusive club—partners in crime with other designees North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. Indeed, since at least 1996, in one country report on Terrorism after another, ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities enable it to project power while compensating for an otherwise modest conventional military capacity. Iran’s supply of missiles to regional armed factions have helped these groups morph into significant threats to American interests and allies. The fielding of Iranian-supplied missiles by ...

In part one of his two-part exclusive series for The Cipher Brief, AEI Scholar Kenneth Pollack, the author of the recently-released Armies of Sand: The Past, Present and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness, discusses how the fundamental balance of power in the Middle East is changing, and what's driving the change.  You ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On January 13th, the Turkish military sent reinforcements to the border region with Syria. The move comes as the terrorist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has consolidated control over sections of Idlib Province. The HTS defeat of Turkish-backed rebels threatens the cease-fire brokered by Moscow ...

With U.S.-Iran tensions rising after the re-imposition of nuclear sanctions, neighboring Iraq will likely emerge as a critical battleground in the U.S.-Iran contest. As the U.S. and its allies have pulled back from Iraq over the past decade, Iran has upped its engagement with local proxies to gain an advantage ...

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made clear during remarks in Jordan on Tuesday that the U.S. is intent on putting  more pressure on Iran  in the new year and says that Washington will 'redouble' efforts to counter Iran's malign influence in the region. The State Department also says it is 'aware' ...

As part of our special coverage on Syria, The Cipher Brief spoke with Norm Roule, the former National Intelligence Manager for Iran at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to get his expert assessment on how Iran might take advantage of a newly uncontested space in Syria, free ...

The 19 December announcement by President Trump to withdraw ground troops from Syria was surprising to everyone but should have come as a shock to no one. Here's why: First, ISIS may not be destroyed, but one is hard pressed to suggest that it remains an existential threat to the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On December 19, 2018, President Trump unexpectedly announced a full withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Syria within the next 30 days. This pronouncement is at odds with the administration’s current strategy, as well as counsel of top military leadership. The Defense Department has strongly ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Hezbollah’s emergence as Iran’s key regional proxy has prompted additional U.S. efforts to choke off the terror group’s finances. Sanctions will likely be ineffective because Hezbollah is a sub-state actor with few connections to the formal global economy. U.S. sanctions against Hezbollah are modeled after ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The most significant U.S. sanctions on Iran—aimed at Tehran’s core energy and banking sectors—went back into effect on Monday November 5. The goal of the re-imposition of sanctions is multifold: to deny the Iranian government the revenue it needs to develop strategic weapons or other ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Last week, both U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis declared the need for a ceasefire in Yemen. The statements come as some semblance of public and congressional pressure builds against U.S. support for the Saudi-led catastrophe, which up until ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The Trump Administration is seeking to minimize any U.S-Saudi rift over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in order to preserve Washington’s recently revitalized counter Iran strategy. The policies of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia (“MBS”) have set back, rather than ...

Last spring, two weeks after the Trump Administration withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - the international arms control deal that curbed Tehran's nuclear program - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a new approach to Iran that, he vowed, included history's most ‘draconian’ sanctions. This renewed ...

Bill Evanina is the Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) - a part of the U.S. Intelligence Community that leads and supports the government’s counterintelligence and security efforts.    The NCSC tackles that mission in a number of ways, but a large part of their task is ...

Bottom Line Up Front Iran’s Shi’a militia allies in Iraq enable the mullahs to exert substantial influence over Baghdad, and will continue to do so no matter the composition of the new Iraqi government. Key Iraqi Shi’a militia commanders are emerging as prominent politicians in their own right, capable of ...

Bottom Line Up Front: On September 26, Danish police arrested two men on charges of trying to send money and drones to the Islamic State in Syria. On September 27, police in the Netherlands arrested seven men in the central Dutch city of Arnhem and accused them of planning a ...

The United States and its allies routinely describe Iran as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.  Despite this designation, the regime proudly supports Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis and the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Tehran funded, trained, armed and supported terror groups targeting U.S. military personnel in ...

Bottom Line Up Front The United States is alienating its European allies by insisting that they comply with U.S. sanctions against Iran. Iran is attracting international support by remaining, at least for now, in the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal. The European Union (EU) countries are establishing a ‘special purpose vehicle’ ...

Bottom Line Up Front: On October 01, Iran fired several ballistic missiles at Islamic State targets in Syria. Tehran claimed that the missiles were launched in response to the September 22 terrorist attack on a military parade in Ahvaz, Iran, that killed at least 24 people. The U.S. remains concerned ...

Leslie Ireland is the former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Intelligence and Analysis. She joined Treasury in 2010 after 25 years at CIA where she specialized in Iran, the Middle East and WMD. Prior to joining the Treasury Department, from 2008-2010 Ms. Ireland served as daily intelligence briefer to ...

President Donald Trump largely followed the U.S. policy script on Iran when he addressed the United Nations on Wednesday.  So what exactly, did the key players get out of the verbal nack and forth and what does it mean for the future complicated relations between the U.S., its European partners, ...

Bottom Line Up Front: Iraq continues to be an important frontier in the growing conflict between Iran and the Trump Administration. Recent Iranian actions and U.S. threats, set the stage for potential escalation as President Donald Trump prepares to chair a September 26 U.N. Security Council meeting that he has ...

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin served as chief of Israeli military intelligence from 2006-2010.  He is now director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).  Ari Heistein is special assistant to the Director. OPINION -- That Iran seeks to diffuse advanced weaponry to its proxies in Syria and Lebanon ...

Bottom Line Up Front Hezbollah’s experience in the seven-year long Syrian civil war has been a mixed bag, with both positive developments and negative consequences. While the so-called ‘Party of God’ has suffered significant casualties in Syria, losing nearly 2,000 fighters throughout the course of the war, it has gained ...

Bottom Line Up Front: Political infighting within Iran’s leadership over how to respond to the Trump Administration policy toward Tehran has convinced U.S. officials that their efforts are succeeding. Economic difficulties and popular unrest have put moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the defensive internally, although it remains unlikely that ...

The world’s malicious cyber actors -- Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea – have spoiled cyber’s original, idealistic vision and instead use cyberspace to advance competitive interests to undermine Western laws and norms and pursue a clandestine means (cyber theft) to catch up with the West in technology, political influence, ...

By threatening a devastating war against Iran, President Donald Trump’s recent response to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani’s benign statement about “the mother of all peace” and “the mother of all war” is another example of erratic and dangerous foreign policy pronouncements. Trump tweeted in capital letters that Iran “will suffer ...

The U.S. re-imposed sanctions on Iran on Monday after pulling out of the JCPOA Agreement in May.  European allies responded by issuing a statement saying the nuclear agreement with Iran "is working."   The reimposition of sanctions followed Iranian military exercises in the Gulf last week that U.S. officials largely interpreted ...