U.S.-Iran tensions are likely to rise in the coming months. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany) has been roundly criticized by President Donald Trump and others, including some lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The U.S. ...

Like it or not, the Trump Administration will have to pay attention to Iran.  The President’s pre­de­cessors, beginning in 1979, have taken multiple paths, usually with few results beyond frustration.  Unable to ignore the Islamic Republic, they tried contain­ment, regime change, and engagement.  Nothing much worked, and – with a ...

For Saudi Arabia, Yemen is a vital security interest. The Saudis have long claimed a dominant role in shaping Yemen’s domestic politics. Yemen’s desert border with Saudi Arabia is a source of anxiety for the Kingdom’s leaders. Yemenis are poor, Yemen’s large population is still growing, and the Yemeni state ...

Last October, I published a summary of the coalition battle to liberate Mosul from ISIS in The Cipher Brief, stressing that inside the one battle there were six “campaigns” – military or political in nature – that would shape Middle Eastern and counter-terrorism developments. This piece updates that analysis in ...

At a time that several Middle Eastern nations are plagued with civil strife, the Gulf Cooperation Council is a beacon of unity that has contributed to security and stability in the Arabian Gulf and beyond. “Gulf security is our security,” declared UK Prime Minister Theresa May during the GCC’s 37th ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Marcelle Wahba, President of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, to discuss internal dynamics within the Gulf Cooperation Council. According to Wahba, GCC countries view Iran as their “main international security challenge, but pursue ...

The Cipher Brief sat down the Former U.S. Ambassador to Oman, Gary Grappo, to discuss the current state of affairs in the Gulf Cooperation Council. According to Grappo, many GCC policies have been driven by the competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran over regional leadership, and that tension between the ...

This season’s parallel plots begin to converge in episode four. Carrie’s houseguest, Peter Quinn, still recovering from his near-death experience, hasn’t been involved in the political machinations between the President-elect and the CIA or in the FBI terrorism case against young Sekou Bah. In this episode, he is subtly woven ...

The Trump Administration is correct that the U.S. should focus on the significant threat posed by Iran’s misbehavior in the Middle East. Luckily, history provides a guide on how we can change that behavior. Some say that the threat from Iran’s malign behavior is overstated. Some say that the malign ...

The Middle East that the Trump Administration must now come to grips with is not the one Barack Obama envisioned leaving his successor when he took office eight years ago. Shortly after Obama entered office in 2009, the new U.S. president visited Cairo to give a landmark address to the Muslim ...

When Donald Trump was elected as the 45th U.S. President, there was reason for some comfort amongst the United States’ traditional Arab allies in the Middle East, with hopes of a stronger stand against their adversary Iran. “They’ve been measuredly optimistic about the Trump administration, in part because of the ...

Cyber is emerging as Iran’s weapon of choice for dealing with both domestic and foreign opponents. For more than a decade, the Islamic Republic has waged a relentless cyber­spying campaign against Iranian dissidents. Following its discovery of the Stuxnet cyberattacks on its nuclear program in 2010 and the imposition of ...

Cybersecurity is often discussed in relation to the major global powers: China’s economic espionage, Russian influence operations, and U.S. dragnet global surveillance to thwart terrorism. However, as other countries move to digitize their economies, cybercriminals are zeroing in on these new and lucrative targets while regional players are quickly incorporating ...

Russia, Iran and Turkey on Tuesday pledged to jointly enforce the fragile ceasefire in Syria, wrapping up two days of peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. The countries wrote in a statement that they will “seek, through concrete steps and using their influence over the parties, consolidation of the ceasefire” and ...

The December 30 ceasefire in Syria, brokered by Russia and Turkey, has for the most held throughout the country, despite violence undermining the pact.  This ceasefire is the third of its kind attempted within the space of a year. But with backing from Russia and Turkey, as well as seals ...

Iran is doing enough damage in the Middle East through unconventional methods without requiring a robust navy. That is why an idea floated by a key Iranian military leader to build naval bases in Yemen and Syria makes absolutely no sense. Mohammad Bagheri, the chief of Iran’s armed forces general ...

The “complete meltdown of humanity” in Aleppo, as recently described by the United Nations, is an indictment of Russian/Syrian/Iranian barbarism, Arab indifference, and American dereliction and policy failure in the Levant.  The horrendous human tragedy, which is barely causing a yawn in the West—and across the Arab world as well—will ...

Should we think of Iraq as a solution rather than a problem? For most Americans, Iraq is immediately associated with words like:  disaster, problem, mess, intractable, resource drain, incubator for ISIS, and worse.  For the Obama Administration, it was a place to disengage from militarily and politically.  And, above all, ...

Iran’s supreme leader implemented a dramatic overhaul of Iranian military leadership in June 2016, and in so doing, effectively consolidated control of the Iranian military into the hands of a small network of senior Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commanders. This same network of IRGC commanders have been the driving ...

According to U.S. Navy officials, confrontations between American and Iranian naval vessels in the Persian Gulf have risen by roughly 50 percent. This despite the fact that the landmark Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal with Iran, which lifted nuclear sanctions on the country, was implemented in January 2016. ...

When the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was signed in July 2015, you might have been forgiven for thinking that U.S. relations with Iran were on the path to stability. Although many U.S. sanctions remain in place and Iran still has difficulty accessing ...

With the Islamic State (ISIS) having lost more than 40 percent of its territory in Iraq since its height of control in January 2015, all attention has turned to ousting the group from its stronghold in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced in a televised ...

The good news: all signs point to a final attack on ISIS in Mosul by Iraqi forces and the American-led coalition. This struggle has received much media attention, and even presidential campaign play, and for good reason. Both quantitatively (size of coalition forces, size of the city and population) and ...

President Obama, and therefore the United States, has not faced simple choices when it comes to Syria and certainly none that would satisfy Americans’ traditional demand for instant gratification – or in foreign policy terms, a success. Who is the U.S. to support with money, arms, and perhaps even military ...

For the Islamic Republic of Iran, the stakes couldn’t be higher when it comes to the outcome of the upcoming U.S. presidential election. With a landmark nuclear agreement reached last year between the world powers – the U.S., Russia, China, UK, France, and Germany – and Iran, and implemented earlier ...

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election is fraught with uncertainty for the electorate, political establishment, and the world. The Iranian political establishment is closely observing the contest with an eye on the implications for Iran’s own national security and for the fragile region it resides in. With the United States' major ...

No country is watching the theatrics of the American presidential campaign more closely than the Islamic Republic of Iran. As the object of U.S. President Barack Obama’s most significant foreign policy initiative, Iran has a bigger stake in the outcome of the race than at any time since the end ...

There is a small window of time for the United States and its allies to determine what kind of nuclear technologies are delivered to Tehran, and by whom. And the clock is already ticking. The spokesman of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization recently announced that Tehran is holding talks with foreign ...

Iran has deployed a Russian-made air defense system around its underground Fordow nuclear facility, state media reported this week. Given the timing of the announcement, it’s a move that can be seen as a political effort by the regime’s leadership to try to maintain an “atmosphere of alarm” domestically to ...

Last week, the world learned of the unprecedented revelation that Russia was using Iran’s Hamadan military base to launch strikes into Syria. This week, that operation has already come to an end. Tehran announced Russia had stopped using its base. Moscow said it had completed its operation anyway. But it ...

Russia’s airstrikes into Syria from an Iranian air base mark a new phase in the relationship between the two countries. “Historically they’re not friends. They have been competitors, sometimes even rivals in the region. There’s a long history of rivalry in Central Asia,” says Anna Borshchevskaya, Ira Weiner fellow at ...

Donald Trump is a provocateur as well as a mythmaker, two qualities that should disqualify a presidential candidate and would be extremely dangerous if he were to become president. Start with a speech Trump made last Thursday in Portland, Maine. In the midst of his normal pitch, he said, “The ...

The region often referred to as Kurdistan, split between four areas in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, has long played a role as a conflicted buffer zone between larger states. Within these countries, the Kurdish people have, according to Akin Unver, a professor at Kadir Has University and Cipher Brief ...

The complex proxy war in Syria has demonstrated both the reach and limitations of Iran’s strategic influence. By mobilizing a wide range of strategic, tactical, and operational resources, Iran has prevented the collapse of the Syrian state. However, the depth of its commitment notwithstanding, the Islamic Republic lacks both the ...

When it comes to cyber attacks, one of the biggest problems is correctly determining who, exactly, is attacking you. This is called attribution, and it is extremely difficult, since many sophisticated actors are capable of obscuring or destroying evidence as to who they are. The difficulty of attribution is compounded ...

Most analysts have been impressed, and increasingly concerned, with the rapid improvement of Iran’s cyber capabilities. Tehran undoubtedly focuses the bulk of its cyber investment in defending itself from cyberattack, as well as being able to better monitor and manage its own people. That mission is a clear priority in ...

On May 10, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry prepared to discuss Iranian sanctions with leading members of the European banking industry in London. However, this time Kerry came, not to urge sanctions enforcement, but to reassure European banks that they are “absolutely free to open accounts for Iran, trade ...

Although the implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in January lifted some international sanctions on Iran, many non-nuclear sanctions remain in place. As a result, the return of international investment to the country has been slower than expected, raising temperatures in ...

Since Iran signed the nuclear deal with world powers in July 2015, Tehran has seen a flood of foreign visitors. Nine heads of state, 16 foreign ministers and dozens of other senior-level officials from across the world have come looking for diplomatic deals and economic opportunities. Iran is open for ...

Constraining Iran’s missile program is a worthwhile objective, but the muddled U.S. approach of sanctions and name-calling appears less likely to contain than to promote it. In the face of recent U.S. criticism, Iranians, ranging from hardline conservatives through reform-minded officials, are more united than ever in support of what ...

In this season of dramatic strategic surprises in the Middle East, seemingly almost anything is possible: Russia’s successful military re-entry into the region, America’s near abandonment of a 40-year commitment to that region under President Obama, the rise of an Islamic terrorist state, and a possible regional Sunni-Shia confrontation. In such a fluid ...

On April 15, Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, traveled to Moscow for talks with Russian political and military officials regarding the two countries’ strategies in Syria and the delivery of Russia’s S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Iran. Despite an international ban that prohibits Soleimani from legally ...

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is an ideological military force that, since its creation, has been involved in virtually every facet of Iranian politics, society, and economics. Although far from monolithic in their views, most senior Guard commanders retain a revolutionary outlook infused with religion and nationalism. They use ...

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was formed shortly after the 1979 revolution that ousted the U.S.-backed Shah Reza Pahlavi. According to the Iranian Constitution, the IRGC is the ‘guardian of the Revolution’ from internal and external threats and reports directly to the Supreme Leader. The IRGC quickly established its ...

Iran’s February 26 elections for the Majlis, or parliament, and for the Assembly of Experts, a clerically-dominated 88-member body that will select the successor to Iran’s current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, was hailed as a victory for Iran’s moderates and an endorsement of President Hassan Rouhani’s centrist policies. There is ...

To optimists, it may appear that Iran is headed in a new direction. During the past year, Iranian leaders reached a landmark nuclear deal with the P5+1 and moderates emerged victorious in the country’s most recent elections in February. Yet the international community remains wary of Iran’s provocative behavior and ...

“Do you see the cornered cat?  With its tiny claws, it tears out the eyes of a leopard” --Sa’adi of Shiraz, 13th Century The last three years have brought some remarkable shifts in Iran’s political landscape: the departure of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his outrageous proclamations; a new Iranian president ...

I remember reading many years ago a critic describe the passage of time as one of the cheapest of dramatic devices—an easy way to advance the plot in a drama or novel. Rather than actually tackle the issues that produce problems and conflict, authors often just advance the clock. Several ...

The Islamic State (ISIS) is the “preeminent global” threat and remains determined to execute direct attacks against the U.S. homeland, the top U.S. intelligence official told Senators at the annual Worldwide Threats hearings on Tuesday. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said ISIS “leaders are determined to strike the U.S. ...

With the Middle East ablaze, new opportunities have emerged for regional cooperation. In fact, partnerships have formed in the most unlikely of places, as Israel and some of its Arab neighbors have joined together to combat common enemies, such as ISIS and Iran. Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has ...