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 ...

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 ...