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 ...

  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 ...