The U.S. has decided to send additional troops to Saudi Arabia after an attack on an oil facility that seriously impacted the country's oil production capabilities.  This comes as U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called the recent attack evidence of a "dramatic escalation of Iranian aggression". President Trump announced ...

The Cipher Brief’s new Academic Incubator program publishes the work of undergraduate and graduate students, writing short briefs on national security issues.  This week’s briefer is Anthony D'Ambola, an M.A. candidate in Security Policy Studies at George Washington University.  D’Ambola focuses on transnational security issues and geopolitics in the Middle East and ...

  Bottom Line Up Front S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, labeling the recent attack on Saudi oil infrastructure as an 'act of war.' Though Saudi leaders have suggested Iranian involvement, they have stopped short of more definitive statements, leaving many in the region ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The September 14 strike on Saudi critical energy infrastructure by Iran or one of its allies directly challenges U.S. regional and global interests. The attack demonstrates Iran’s ability to cause severe damage through precision strikes. The incident illustrates that U.S. sanctions are not succeeding in ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Drones have become a trusted tool in the arsenal of non-state actors seeking to engage in asymmetric attacks against a more powerful adversary. Besides Hezbollah, a range of terrorist groups deploy drones in their operations, including the so-called Islamic State, Palestinian Hamas, Boko Haram in ...

When a series of drones were used to attack a key Saudi oil facility over the weekend, the impact on oil production was noted by global markets.  Oil prices spiked as the attack was believed to impact more than half of Saudi Arabia’s daily exports. Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility, ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Over the weekend, Houthi rebels launched a drone attack against Saudi Arabia, targeting the Saudi Aramco crude stabilization facility in Abqaiq and an oil field at Hijra Khurais with ten drones. Despite Saudi Arabia spending untold sums on missile defense, Houthi-operated drones have been able ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Upcoming Russian-Iranian naval drills put Moscow clearly on the side of Tehran in the crisis unfolding between the United States and Iran. The Trump administration’s policy of 'maximum pressure’ will continue to drive Iran closer to U.S. adversaries and critics, particularly Russia. The emerging Iranian-Russian ...

  Bottom Line Up Front After Israel launched attacks in three different countries across the Middle East last week, Hezbollah responded by firing missiles at several Israeli military targets. Netanyahu is attempting to strike a difficult balance—appearing steadfast and resolute while avoiding a new round of fighting against Hezbollah. Perhaps ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Israel claimed responsibility for a recent airstrike in Syria last weekend, signaling that the long-simmering shadow war between Israel and Iran could escalate further. Iran has used the war in Syria to grow its proxy forces, which now include a Shia foreign fighter army that ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit to the G-7 meeting on Sunday signals European resistance to the Trump administration’s Iran policy. Despite provocative Iranian actions, G-7 European countries continue to seek ways to preserve the 2015 multilateral Iran nuclear agreement. President Donald Trump’s refusal ...

It was a busy weekend of activity for Iran, much of it rooted in its desire to seek ways around U.S. sanctions that are targeting its ability to sell oil around the world.  Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was the Biarritz surprise over the weekend as Group of Seven (G7) ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Turkey’s Defense Ministry claims that earlier this week, a Turkish convoy was bombed in Idlib province in northwest Syria. There have been ongoing clashes between Assad’s regime and fighters from the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA). Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria, is a ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The Persian Gulf remains a potential flashpoint as the United States and its allies increase their deployments and Iran strengthens its defense posture. Iran's seizure of another Gulf oil tanker in early August demonstrates Tehran's confidence in its strategic position throughout the region. The muted ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The Trump administration is so firmly aligned with Saudi Arabia, even bipartisan measures in Congress to curtail U.S. arms sales to Riyadh have failed. The deployment of 500 American troops to Saudi Arabia is intended to demonstrate a united front against the prospect of growing ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On July 27, Bahrain executed three men, two of whom were Shia activists convicted of terrorism charges and murder. The trial of Ali al-Arab and Ahmed al-Malali has been condemned by human rights experts as a travesty, with allegations of torture and forced confessions. Bahrain’s ...

Gary Grappo is a former U.S. ambassador who held senior positions including 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. The various ...

New audio of the seizure of a British-flagged tanker indicates the vessel was too far away from help to avoid being forced to change course by Iranian Paramilitary forces last week.  In audio released on Sunday by a maritime security firm, a British officer unsuccessfully demanded freedom to sail through ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran’s recent responses to U.S. pressure, including to the UK-led seizure of a Syria-bound Iranian oil tanker, have brought the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal to the brink of collapse. The UK and other European countries still seek to de-escalate tensions and avoid a U.S.-Iran military ...

Tensions remain high between Iran and several EU countries, even after some of the primary signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement vowed their continued support this week, offering Iran an opportunity to reverse its recent, deliberate violations of the JCPOA.  In play right now: Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ...

Tensions remain high between the U.S. and Iran with no recognizable movement toward formal negotiations, and the Administration’s recent effort in Bahrain to gain support for their plan to find a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via investment feels bankrupt, but if there is one thing every good businessman knows, ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran have now returned to the core issue of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s recent actions, including violating terms of the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement, are intended to make the Trump administration pay a price for its ‘maximum pressure’ campaign. ...

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif confirmed Monday that Tehran has violated the limits imposed on uranium enrichment that were a key part of the 2015 nuclear deal.  The U.S. withdrew its support for the deal last year.  The Trump Administration on Monday responded to the confirmation of increased uranium enrichment, ...

When he became Secretary of Defense in early 2001, Donald Rumsfeld publicly expressed his concern about the inevitability of surprise. He often reminded other officials that “The only surprising thing is that we continue to be surprised when a surprise occurs.” Secretary Rumsfeld was fond of sharing the celebrated strategist ...

Earlier this week, The Cipher Brief brought you expert insights into How Iran Targets U.S. Businesses, after a warning last weekend by DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Director Christopher Krebs.    “Iranian regime actors and proxies are increasingly using destructive ‘wiper’ attacks, looking to so much more than just steal ...

There are a few more details coming out about last week’s cyber targeting of an Iranian-backed group by the U.S. military. Sources told CNN that the goal was to “disable and degrade” an Iranian-backed group that operates forces in Iraq and Syria by disabling their communications systems. The latest details ...

U.S. businesses are being warned to harden their defenses in anticipation of potential cyberattacks as tensions between the U.S. and Iran continue to escalate.  President Donald Trump posted to Twitter on Tuesday that “Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force.  In some ...

  Bottom Line Up Front As it becomes more evident that Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro will remain in power, the Trump administration seems to have cooled on the idea of regime change in Venezuela. Given Russia’s intervention to bolster Maduro, and increasing tensions with Iran in the Persian Gulf occupying ...

From The Cipher Brief's Open Source Collection newsletter, U.S. officials and Cipher Brief experts are warning U.S. businesses to remain vigilant as tensions between Iran and the U.S. continue.  Christopher Krebs, director of DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a warning over the weekend that “malicious cyberactivity” was on the ...

Last week, the U.S. nearly launched retaliatory attacks against Iran for the shooting down of a U.S. military drone that was operating in the region.  While the Trump Administration has been casting some doubt in recent days as to whether the downing of the aircraft was authorized at the highest ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The U.S. and Iran are close to a conflict that would have no clear end and could quickly spread throughout the Middle East and beyond. Iran has acquired leverage by building proxies and allies into politico-military forces, arming them with short-range missiles, rockets, and other ...

  Bottom Line Up Front For the first time since 2001, there might be meaningful Congressional oversight over the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). From a legal standpoint, the U.S. has relied on the 2001 AUMF for nearly all of its military engagements in the post-9/11 era. ...

Putting Iran in a desperate situation without viable alternatives is likely to result in desperate responses. Two oil tankers carrying Japanese-related cargo were attacked in the Gulf of Oman last week. Shortly after the incident, Secretary of State Pompeo announced that Washington assessed Tehran was behind the attacks. Beyond the ...

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says his country "will not wage war against any nation”, as tensions continue to escalate between the U.S. and Tehran. U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said that the decision to send an additional 1,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East is based on the ...

A spokesman for the Iranian atomic agency said Monday that within 10 days, the country will pass the allowed limit for low-grade uranium enrichment under the nuclear deal struck in 2015. The U.S. walked away from the deal in May of 2018.    Also on Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sent a warning to his ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On June 13, two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman were damaged by apparent sabotage, as explosions ripped through the side of the ships. The U.S. has publicly blamed Iran for the attacks, as well as for similar incidents in May. American allies have ...

In the midst of recent escalatory statements and actions between the U.S. and Iran, a spokesman for the Iranian atomic agency said Monday that within 10 days, the country will pass the allowed limit for low-grade uranium enrichment under the nuclear deal struck in 2015. The U.S. walked away from ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Although they are on the same side in the conflict in Syria, Russia and Iran each maintain their own priorities beyond propping up the Assad regime. Russia and Iran have expended massive resources to carve out their own long-term spheres of influence in Syria and ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The only consistency in the Trump administration’s Middle East policy has been to support autocratic regimes and strongmen, as it has in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The Trump administration’s top national security officials met with Congress multiple times in May to discuss how the President ...

Bottom Line Up Front The Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies are making moves to retake Idlib from the last remaining pocket of rebel fighters holed up in the province. A combination of Russian airpower and Syrian Army ground forces have moved aggressively to retake sections of southwestern ...

As tensions between the U.S. and Iran continue to rise, Cipher Brief expert Norm Roule answered subscriber’s questions in a Cipher Brief Members-Only webcast. What follows is a slightly edited (for length and clarity) transcript of that webcast. For more opportunities to engage directly with the experts on pressing national ...

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 ...