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 ...

The collapse or weakening of state authority in different parts of the Middle East and Africa, together with growing inner challenges and chronic instability in large parts of the region and the widening and escalating Iranian-Arab power struggle, creates a chaotic environment militant Islamic groups exploit to expand their activities ...

Former head of Israel’s Shin Bet and current Knesset member Yaakov Perry discussed Israel’s cooperation with its neighbors to combat regional threats.  Perry explained that Egypt and Jordan are important partners for Israel in the fight against ISIS, and that Israel and many of the Gulf countries share mutual concerns ...

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran are arguably at a historic low. Saudi Arabia has cut off diplomatic relations with Iran in response to mob violence against Saudi diplomatic facilities in Tehran and Mashhad. Those attacks were a reaction to Riyadh’s execution of a prominent Shi’a Saudi activist who had ...

Iran’s every move will be closely scrutinized by the international community now that sanctions have been lifted over its nuclear program, providing Iran access to tens of billions of dollars in frozen assets. Over the weekend, the International Atomic Energy Agency certified that Iran had completed all the requirements stipulated ...

Although the sanctions on Iran have been lifted as part of the nuclear deal, former Treasury Department official Adam Smith said the U.S. will continue to impose sanctions on Iran for its terrorist, human rights, and ballistic missile activities. Smith told The Cipher Brief that one of the secondary aims ...

Speaking from the White House on the day after the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, President Obama proudly declared “Today is a good day” demonstrating what is possible with “strong American diplomacy.”  History will determine whether the Iran deal proves to be the success its proponents already claim it ...

The year 1979 is remembered by most Americans for the takeover of the United States embassy in Tehran.  That year was pivotal for people in the region, as it marked the establishment of an Islamist government in Iran and the takeover of the Holy Mosque in Mecca by a group ...

Iran is a second tier cyber power. By the standards of other state actors, its capabilities—both offensive and defensive—are relatively modest, but they are growing steadily. Cyber operations have also become an integral component of Iranian military doctrine and strategy, which place a heavy emphasis on the principles of asymmetry ...

Through a series of attacks over the last three years, Iran has revealed a limited offensive cyber capability but a willingness to use it to meet its geopolitical goals. In testimony calling out Iran for attacks on Sands Casinos, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper put Iranian cyber capability in ...

To understand what domestic and strategic factors may have encouraged Iran to seek stronger cyber-capabilities, it helps to look at the several ways Iran uses such capabilities. First, Iran wants to keep its citizens under surveillance. Second, Iran wants to know the intentions and capabilities of other countries. Third, Iran ...

Iranian hacks into the social media accounts of U.S. State Department officials are the latest signal from Tehran that it is not looking to turn the page on its embattled relationship with Washington. They also reflect the diversification underway in Iranian cyberwarfare tactics, which in recent years have expanded from ...

Shi’a Houthi forces recently killed al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) commander Mohammed Jamal in the Yemeni governorate of Taiz. Jamal died while fighting the Houthis alongside forces supported by the Yemeni government and Saudi Arabia, two long-time opponents of AQAP. His death was not unique in the conflict’s shifting ...

The conflict in Yemen has enabled ISIS to make its presence felt for the first time in Yemen and al-Qaeda to carve out a strategic territory on the coast of eastern Yemen.  Shortly after the Houthi movement took over the government in Sana’a, ISIS carried out its first significant attack in ...

Now in its eighth month, the conflict that Amnesty International has called Yemen's "forgotten war" grinds on, overshadowed by a metastasizing terrorist threat emanating from Syria, and a seemingly endless wave of Middle East and African refugees sweeping into Europe. But the international community ignores Yemen's war at its own ...

Nasser Arrabyee, a journalist based in Sanaa, Yemen, told The Cipher Brief that “al-Qaeda and ISIS are the biggest winners” from the ongoing war in Yemen. Furthermore, Arrabyee explained that Yemeni citizens have begun to view the Houthis as heroes defending against Saudi aggression. The Cipher Brief: How do Yemeni ...

Since his election in 2013, Western audiences have been eager to pin their hopes on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, viewing him as a moderate who will reform his country in line with international norms. Rouhani’s recent statements criticizing the Iranian security services for detentions of journalists and U.S. citizens serve ...

Contrary to most expectations – particularly outside of the United States, where suspicions about U.S. motives abound – the nuclear agreement reached between Iran and members of the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with the coordination of the European Union) will not offer ...

Despite the fanfare over the recently reached Iran deal, Tehran remains a bad actor. Iran recently tested a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead in violation of a key UN Security Council resolution, increased its crackdown on its citizens, and expanded its support for Syria’s Assad regime and terrorist ...

The Iranian people have been waiting for economic relief for many years. U.S. and international sanctions placed against Iran for its nuclear pursuit had a dramatic effect on the daily life of the average Iranian. Hassan Rouhani’s election as president in June 2013 heralded a new era for his supporters, ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Adam Smith, Of Counsel at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, about how the lifting of nuclear related sanctions against Iran will impact U.S. businesses. He explained that for most U.S. entities, current restrictions on their dealings with Iran will continue despite the nuclear agreement. The Cipher ...

  So what if Iran isn't planning to build an actual nuclear weapon?  Would that affect your take on the nuclear deal?  I mean it.  These aren't rhetorical questions. Now, it's not as if the Iranians hadn't been trying to build a bomb.  They were.  At least through about 2003. ...