Bottom Line up Front The October 2020 expiration of the U.N. ban on arms transfers to and from Iran would have little material impact on the strategic threat posed by Iran. Iran’s economic difficulties hamper its ability to buy major new combat systems. Conventional weapons are marginal to Tehran’s ...

  Bottom Line up Front Iran’s apparent drawdown of its military presence in Syria likely reflects Tehran’s calculation that the regime of President Bashar Al Assad is secure. Both Russia and the Assad regime maintain a dedicated interest in limiting Iran’s influence in post-conflict Syria. Israeli defense officials believe that ...

Emile Nakhleh is a retired CIA Senior Intelligence Service Officer and founding director of the CIA’s Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program Office. He is currently a Research Professor and Director of the Global and National Security Policy Institute at the University of New Mexico. OPINION -- According to Johns Hopkins ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Israeli cyberattacks against Iran are intended to send a signal, as a means of pushing back against Iran’s actions in Syria and Tehran’s own growing cyber activities throughout the region. In terms of cyber, Iran is not ‘big-game hunting,’ at least not yet, but its ...

In part one of Iran and Hezbollah’s Pre-Operational Modus Operandi in the West, authors Mitch Silber and Ioan Pop pulled from court documents and open source reporting to shed light on ways that Iran and its proxy groups have engaged in regional escalations after the killing of Iranian General Qassem ...

Cipher Brief Expert Mitch Silber and Ioan Pop have pulled from court documents and open source reporting to compile a modus operandi of Iran and Hezbollah and their efforts to attack the west. Mitchell D. Silber, Former Director of Intelligence, NYPD In January 2020, Mitchell D. Silber was named the ...

  Bottom Line up Front The April 24, 2020 launch of a satellite by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) indicates that Iran might intend to use space launch capabilities for military purposes. Iran’s missile and space launch technology has advanced significantly in recent years, contributing to Iran’s emergence as ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The United States recently announced plans to remove two Patriot anti-missile systems from Saudi Arabia, which could be accompanied by a further drawdown of other U.S. military capabilities in the region. The removal of the Patriot missile batteries is emblematic of the Trump administration’s schizophrenic ...

  Bottom Line up Front Iraq’s new government will struggle to extricate the country from its role as an arena for conflict between Iran and the United States, or necessarily set Iraq on a course for long-term stability. The new Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, faces an immediate economic crisis brought ...

OPINION -- This past March and April, US Naval Forces attached to Central Command carried out live fire exercises in the North Persian Gulf’s international waters near Iran, using Army Apache helicopters and AC-130 gunships to practice defense against threats from swarming Iranian speedboats. Such a US exercise was underway ...

The Cipher Brief Threat Conference has been re-scheduled for September 13-15, 2020.  This special series of national security briefings has been launched to keep our public-private threat conference community together and engaged on the issues that matter until we can safely gather again. Conference speaker Christopher Costa is a former ...

  Bottom Line up Front The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated both Iran and the United States, but has not prevented tensions between them from escalating again. Iran’s willingness to undertake provocative actions indicates that the U.S. campaign of ‘maximum pressure’ has not mitigated the threat from Iran. Iranian leaders assess ...

  Bottom Line Up Front With Afghanistan sharing a border with Iran, one of the epicenters of the pandemic, government officials in Kabul have warned that COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan could eventually reach into the tens of millions. The Taliban has been cooperating with Afghan health ministry officials in distributing ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Baghdad’s difficulty in assembling a new government is a result of U.S.-Iran competition for influence in Iraq. The latest choice for Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, appears to be acceptable to both the United States and Iran. Despite its struggles against COVID-19, Iran has unified Iraq’s ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran is continuing its efforts to strengthen its influence in Iraq and drive U.S. military personnel out. Iran’s struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic have not diminished its activities in Iraq. Iran’s strategy involves backing armed attacks on Iraqi bases as well as leveraging its allies ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Lethal attacks on U.S. troops by Iran-backed Iraqi militias in March 2020 demonstrate that Iran continues to retaliate for the January U.S. killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani. The continued attacks suggest that Iran, contrary to Trump administration claims, is not deterred by the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran is the Middle East’s epicenter for the spread of the COVID-19 infection. The failure of Iran’s leaders to contain the virus add to the other ongoing challenges of the regime, including domestic unrest and U.S. economic and military pressure. Iran has become even more ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Countries are struggling to counter the spread of the coronavirus respiratory disease, while also trying to figure out how to navigate a range of political, economic, and logistical challenges. High levels of distrust that populations in authoritarian countries have toward their governments will, at least ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran’s intervention in Syria’s civil war has provided Tehran with the ability to support its closest regional allies while simultaneously threatening Israel. Iran’s success in buttressing the Assad regime exemplifies the effectiveness of its regional strategy. Iran’s support for Assad threatens to bring Iranian forces ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran-backed Shia militias in Iraq remain active despite the assassination of their Iranian mentor and the leading Iraqi militia commander. New Iraqi figures are emerging to fill the vacuum left by Kata’ib Hezbollah commander Abdul Mahdi Al Muhandis. The Iraqi militias and their political leaders ...

On the sidelines of last weekend’s Munich Security Conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down to talk.  Lavrov left the meeting saying he felt “a more constructive approach” regarding US-Russia dialogue that was said to focus on strategic dialogue and arms control. ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran’s hardliners are likely to prevail in February 21, 2020 parliamentary elections. Regime hardliners have used their available levers of power to exclude critics and moderate elements from running. The turnout will be a barometer of the regime’s efforts to shape the election to its ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The Iranian regime is using all elements of state power to suppress organized dissent, including widespread arrests and the use of force against demonstrators. The regime’s long record of human rights abuses has been consistently abysmal, while its suppression of political and economic dissent has ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Virtually every sector of Iran’s civilian economy is now subject to U.S. secondary sanctions, rendering additional sanctions progressively less significant. Most of the economic damage affecting Iran’s economy is a product of the tightening of U.S. sanctions on Iran’s exports of oil imposed in May ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Europe’s use of the formal dispute resolution provision of the Iran nuclear deal is a consequence of the Trump administration’s abandonment of the deal in 2018. The Europeans have made clear that invoking the dispute mechanism does not imply that they will join the Trump ...

When news broke that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was scheduled to deliver the Friday Prayer sermon on January 17 for the first time since 2012, Iranian media went into overdrive to promote the event.  One reporter with the state media conglomerate Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) previewed ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The operations of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Qods Force (IRGC-QF) will continue unabated despite the death of its commander Qasem Soleimani. His successor, Esmail Qaani, has intimate familiarity with all Qods Force operations but lacks Soleimani’s independent channel to Iran’s Supreme Leader. The ...

John McLaughlin served as the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2000-2004 and served as Acting Director of the CIA in 2004.  He currently serves as a distinguished practitioner in residence at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.   The current situation between the United States ...

  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 ...

CONVERSATION STARTER -- Few would argue that the January 3 drone strike that killed Iranian General and Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani was a bold move.  The overt nature by which the strike was carried out seemed to offer a clear sign that the US is ready to openly ...

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. ...

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 ...

Since his death at the hands of a US drone strike in Baghdad last week, much has been said about Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and his ties to terrorism. Iraq’s Prime Minister claimed that at the time of his death, Soleimani was in the country to take part in indirect ...

  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 ...

  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 killing of Iranian Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani has drawn sharp condemnation from Iran. American politicians – while agreeing that Soleimani was a threat to Americans - are divided over the wisdom of killing him and over the longer-range consequences. OZY caught up with senior contributor, former CIA Deputy ...

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 ...

  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 ...

As the U.S. continues to announce new sanctions aimed at Iran, there are some signs that indicate the U.S. policy of applying maximum pressure on Iran is working.  Or is it?    Tehran released Princeton University scholar Xiyue Wang this month after holding him for more than three years as ...

  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 ...

  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 ...

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 recent unrest in Iran is unlikely to bring about political change or extract significant government concessions to popular demands. Despite the protests, the government is unlikely to alter its stance on talks with the Trump administration or retrench any of its regional interventions. The ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran is working with key allies in Iraq and Lebanon to forestall political change in the face of significant protests in both countries. Protesters in Lebanon and Iraq are primarily opposing governmental corruption, but are also angered by Iran’s support for key Shi’a factions in ...