"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man."  It was true for Heraclitus of Ephesus in ancient times, and it is equally true for Iranian leaders nowadays. When Tehran considers its strategy vis-à-vis the nuclear ...

The future of the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is likely to take center stage at this week’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) gathering in New York – and to feature prominently in U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech before the UN on Tuesday. ...

Hezbollah – an Iran-backed militia that controls southern Lebanon – boasts a medium-sized army and a whopping arsenal of up to 150,000 rockets and missiles. Since 2011, much of that army has been engaged in Syria supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. While this has thinned Hezbollah’s ...

President Donald Trump and the Emir of Kuwait – one of two Gulf countries that has not cut ties with Qatar – said in a joint news conference at the White House on Thursday that the boycott of Qatar by its Arab neighbors will soon be resolved. Trump even announced ...

As part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Islamic Republic agreed to suspend activities related to its development of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, or so it seemed. In the year and a half that has passed since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) went into ...

Earlier this summer, the Trump administration chalked up a number of supposed achievements in its ongoing efforts to contain Iran’s ballistic missile program. U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law additional sanctions, while U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley coaxed the British, French, and German UN representatives into ...

Although the U.S. has stated that Iran remains in compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran continues to expand its ballistic missile capabilities and conduct missile tests, which the U.S. and its allies have argued violate the agreement. The Iranian government has asserted that these tests are aimed at boosting ...

The liberation of Mosul by the Iraqi military presents the Trump Administration with an opportunity to both stabilize the region by continued successful counterterrorism and to challenge Iran. As the Administration pursues its objective to defeat ISIS in the Middle East, continued military assistance is likely to be required. On ...

Iran has rejected a U.S. demand that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors be allowed to check out Iranian military sites. “Iran’s military facilities are secret (sites), and not everybody can have access to them,” Iranian government spokesman Mahammad Baqer Nobakht told reporters at a weekly press conference in Tehran ...

On August 15, Israel’s Channel 2 news revealed satellite photos of an Iranian missile production facility near the town of Baniyas in northwestern Syria, capable of producing long-range rockets. Iran’s formidable military presence in Syria is nothing new, but the revelation of this production facility underlines how deeply the war ...

In a speech on August 13, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s Secretary General, reassured his public that Israel will not attack Hezbollah and Lebanon, arguing that Israeli officials believe “any war on Lebanon, no matter its objectives, will not be worth the costs Israel will incur in such a war.” In other ...

President Donald Trump has made it clear that he thinks the international accord to reign in Iran’s nuclear program was the “worst deal ever.”  And he has twice reluctantly certified that Iran is in compliance.  But The Guardian is now reporting that the White House is pressuring intelligence officials to ...

Qatar announced on Thursday it is restoring full diplomatic ties with Iran. “The state of Qatar expressed its aspirations to strengthen bilateral relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all fields,” the Qatari Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that Qatar’s ambassador will return to Iran after a ...

With the liberation of Mosul from ISIS and the impending conquest of the “Caliphate” capital Raqqa, the U.S. is at a decision point in the Middle East. But it does not yet have a coherent strategy, as has been pointed out by Emile Simpson in a savvy piece in Foreign ...

The new sanctions slapped on Iran (and Russia and North Korea) last week by the U.S. Congress—and the sanctions placed the previous week on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) by the U.S. Treasury, State, and Justice departments—threaten to make the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA - aka the ...

As if there were not enough world problems already facing the United States, President Donald Trump is now talking about declaring Iran “non-compliant” with the July 2015 nuclear agreement that the Tehran regime signed with the P5+1 – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, and Germany. By U.S. law, ...

President Donald Trump’s administration slapped fresh sanctions on Iran on Tuesday, shortly after certifying the country is technically complying with the nuclear deal — a move that experts say is a key part of the White House’s approach until the comprehensive review of Iran policy is completed. The Treasury Department ...

Financial sanctions have emerged as a vital strategic weapon for the United States and a primary means of non-military confrontation with nations, companies, and individuals that threaten U.S. and international security. At the national level, Iran was forced to the negotiating table after the U.S. and the international community levied ...

David Cohen, former Deputy Director of the CIA and Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, says the U.S. sanctions program is not punitive, but rather designed to encourage a change in behavior. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel asked Cohen to explain how the U.S. determines when ...

May was a huge success for Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. He was re-elected with a landslide majority (57 percent) in the presidential elections, defeating his hardline competitor, Ebrahim Raisi, and helping his faction win most of the municipal elections in Iran. In most presidential democracies, a popular mandate like this ...

Israel faces a vast array of terrorist threats from groups such as Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, and ISIS in Syria and the Sinai, as well as from lone-wolf attackers. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Dr. Anat Berko, counterterrorism expert and current member of the ...

The U.S.-led military campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria appears to be nearing its end. In Mosul, Iraqi military forces are now pushing into ISIS’s last pocket of resistance in the Old City as allied militias cut off ISIS forces near Tal Afar. In Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces ...

The territorial battle against ISIS is nearing its final stages in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, U.S. coalition-backed Iraqi forces have trapped the remaining ISIS defenders in one tiny pocket of Mosul, and in Syria, U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are pushing deep into the ISIS "capital" of Raqqa. However, as ...

The Iraq-Syria border has emerged in recent months as the hottest piece of real estate in the multi-sided struggle between the Islamic State (ISIS), anti-ISIS fighters, and Iran’s militia proxies. Why is this? I’ve stood on the Iraq-Syrian border many times and it is not much to look at. Empty ...

Moscow ratcheted up its war of words against the U.S.-led coalition in Syria, after the Pentagon said it downed a Syrian military plane for the first time. That came as Tehran took an unprecedented step of firing ballistic missiles into eastern Syria, against what it called ISIS targets, over the ...

As we approach the two-year anniversary of the signing of the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 world powers—the U.S., UK, France, Russia, China plus Germany—The Cipher Brief sat down with network expert General Jack Keane to discuss the likelihood that the deal holds, what could transpire if ...

China, for some time, has performed a delicate balancing act in the Middle East. As a major importer of oil from two archrivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Beijing has managed to pursue its economic ambitions despite divisive regional politics. However, after Qatar was ostracized by its Gulf neighbors earlier this ...

Saudi-China bilateral relations took a notable upswing this March after Saudi King Salman and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed landmark economic deals worth approximately $65 billion. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel spoke with Gary Grappo, former U.S. Ambassador to Oman, about Saudi Arabia’s and China’s economic strategies as well as ...

As a major importer of oil from both Saudi Arabia and Iran, and with expanding economic interests in the Middle East, China has a stake in maintaining stability in the volatile region. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Simon Henderson, Director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program ...

The terrorist attacks on the Iranian Parliament building and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, marked the first time ISIS has been behind a major attack waged inside Iran and appeared to catch authorities by surprise.  At least 12 people were killed and more ...

On Wednesday morning, assailants entered the Iranian Parliament building and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini – founder of the Islamic Republic – armed with assault rifles and explosive vests. Iranian authorities report that both sites have now been retaken and the attackers killed, but the assault has left at least ...

The battle for the strategic Iraqi city of Mosul has reached its final stage as Iraqi forces close in on the Islamic State’s last stronghold in Mosul’s Old City. The liberation of Mosul, the second-largest Iraqi city and the capital of oil-rich Nineveh province, would mark a watershed moment in ...

During last week’s Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud strongly condemned Iranian support for terrorist groups and militants throughout the Middle East.   “From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist ...

Iran’s leaders probably view the idea of an Arab NATO to confront Tehran as a U.S.-directed and Israeli-supported Sunni Muslim alliance against Shia Iran.   Yet the Islamic Republic’s leaders most likely will be thinking, “So what else is new?” And their next thought probably will be, “Why should we ...

The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Emad Kiyaei, Policy Advisor at the American Iranian Council to discuss Iran’s recent elections, U.S. President Donald Trump’s trip to the Middle East, and how Iran could react to the establishment of an “Arab NATO.” The Cipher Brief: Leading up to the ...

On the surface, the Iranian election was an impressive display of hope trumping cynicism. Over 70 percent of the population turned out with more than half saying yes to President Hasan Rouhani’s moderate policies and giving a strong rebuke to hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the preferred candidate of Iranian Supreme Leader ...

President Donald Trump heads to The Vatican and Brussels on Wednesday, after wrapping up a trip to the Middle East, which started in Saudi Arabia and ended in Israel. The President delivered a speech on his vision for U.S.-Muslim relations in Riyadh, before heading to Jerusalem. There, he pledged to ...

Hassan Rouhani’s decisive victory in the Iranian presidential elections held last week reveals that after 38 years, Iranians are still struggling to re­solve the conflicts and contradictions unleashed by the original Islamic Revolution of 1979. That movement, which united millions under the banner of making Iranians, at long last, masters ...

Iranian voters sent a strong message to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, decisively electing incumbent President Hassan Rouhani to a second term in office. The presidential election shaped up to be a two-man race between Rouhani, considered a “moderate” by many observers, and hardline rival Ebrahim Raisi, who has served ...

The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Suzanne Maloney, Deputy Director of the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, to discuss how the results from last Friday’s Iranian presidential election could impact Iranian domestic and foreign policy moving forward. The Cipher Brief: Leading up to the Iranian presidential ...

Friday’s presidential election in Iran marks a pivotal moment for the Islamic Republic. Although ultimate power in the country remains in the hands of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the results will indicate the direction of Iranian foreign and domestic policy, as well as how Tehran plans to engage with ...

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the firebrand former Iranian president, stunned observers last week by submitting his name as a candidate in his country’s presidential elections next month, over the objections of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Ahmadinejad, who served as president from 2005 to 2013, is a hardliner, notorious for questioning the ...

Now that President Donald Trump has demonstrated his willingness to get tough with a regional bad actor by using a cruise missile attack to punish the Assad regime and try to deter it from any future uses of chemical weapons, similar deterrent actions against challenging Iranian behavior seem more likely. ...

U.S. President Donald Trump, in a filmed statement from his Mar-a-lago resort Thursday night – where he is currently meeting President Xi – said the strike was “in [the] vital national security interest of the U.S.,” adding that “years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed.” The ...

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s powerful, ideological military force, is one of the country’s most influential institutions, with major stakes in key sectors of the economy and supervision of Tehran’s vast network of militias and terrorist proxies in conflicts throughout the Middle East. In its eagerness to secure the ...

With one of the most complex systems of governance in the world, Iran finds itself at perhaps its most daunting political crossroads since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The 77-year old Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reportedly is in declining health and possibly nearing the end of his tenure, and several ...

In the perennial effort to deduce the likely evolution of the tumultuous relationship between the United States and Iran, all eyes today seem to be trained on Washington. This is understandable; after all, the election of Donald Trump appears to be generating a marked shift away from the Obama Administration’s ...

As the Islamic Republic readies itself for another presidential election in May 2017, now is a good time to size up the state of affairs in Iranian political leadership.  Many of the leading figures in the Islamic Republic have been major players on a national level since the 1979 revolution ...

Many U.S. policymakers have concluded that the Iranian government is an implacable enemy of the U.S. and that regime change is the only way to ultimately resolve our governments' hostility. However, developing a strategy that balances deterrence with constructive diplomacy could lead to a new, more effective path forward in ...

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Administration have been quick to use forceful rhetoric when discussing U.S. policy towards Iran during their first five weeks in office. However, whether a strong-armed approach to Iran is in fact the most effective direction for U.S.-Iranian relations is an open question. Early on ...