From its base in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) has morphed into a worldwide jihadi network. Casting a vast net is part of ISIS’ grand strategy, which focuses on using terrorist tactics to establish an Islamic Caliphate across Muslim lands and attacking Western targets as part ...

It’s been a rough several months for the Islamic State in its quixotic effort to build a viable functioning nation-state. The Kurds and the Iraqi military keep slicing meaty territorial chunks from its flanks; the group is slashing its fighters’ salaries to make up for financial shortfalls; the U.S. continues ...

ISIS is a terrorist group attempting to become a state. It inherited al Qaeda's strengths, including international networks, battle tested military doctrine and strategy, and a radical religious ideology, Jihadi Salafism. The ISIS ideology has a proven record in recruiting foreign fighters worldwide to support jihadist insurgencies and terror cells. ...

The chaos we’re seeing today throughout the Mideast continues to escalate and shows no signs of subsiding. The United States and the West seem unwilling or unable to take the necessary steps to help bring some semblance of order to the region.    The Russians have entered the fray further complicating ...

In the past five years, the Middle East has suffered from a double collapse.  First, having proven unable to provide capable political institutions or economic opportunity to their citizens, several of the region’s states have effectively collapsed.  Reconstituting them has proven to be a task of immense difficulty, leading to ...

A couple years ago, when the Middle East was in turmoil but considerably less complicated than today, I was at a small gathering of foreign policy specialists, including one eminent Middle East expert who has followed the region for 25 years.  As we speculated about the region's future, this expert ...

The alarming spread of ISIS, coupled with competition amongst Iraq’s sectarian groups, has accelerated the Iraqi government’s disintegration. This downfall began during the tenure of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki, whose policies triggered significant tensions between Iraq’s three main sectarian groups - the majority Shiites, the Sunnis and the ...

Victory in Ramadi City against ISIS by the Iraqi Army, despite ISIS holdouts, has given a shot in the arm to the Iraqi government and to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.  Strengthening Iraq’s political institution is not only essential to the fight against ISIS but also for larger regional objectives. ...

In Iraq, the fight to rid the country of the Islamic State (referred to colloquially in Arabic as Daesh) is taking longer than officials and analysts expected. For instance, U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, recently stated that the campaign to eject ...

Labeled as the richest terrorist group in the world, the Islamic State (ISIS) continues to amass substantial funds to bankroll its military, economic, recruitment, and propaganda campaigns. The key sources of ISIS income are grounded in illicit networks, as ISIS utilizes the black market to generate significant revenue streams. ISIS ...

The Islamic State, popularly known as ISIS, is in many ways an innovative economic actor. But its method of bringing oil to market has been anything but cutting-edge. ISIS took advantage of a black market that had been sharpened long ago, when Saddam Hussein’s regime looked for ways to skirt ...

Retired Brigadier General Russell Howard discussed ISIS’s involvement in antiquities trafficking with The Cipher Brief, explaining that ISIS taxes artifacts that are smuggled in territory it controls and even directly sells artifacts to antiquities traders on the black market. According to Howard, as the U.S. continues to target ISIS’s oil ...

The Islamic State (ISIS) and the threat from terrorism has dominated the news for the past 18 months. ISIS emerged from the chaos in Iraq and the Syrian civil war to seize control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria, declare itself a “caliphate,” and become the richest terrorist group ...

With 34 years of service in the CIA now behind me, I was recently asked how our ongoing war with ISIS will end.  My answer that ‘either we will defeat them or they will defeat us’ struck some in the room, I am sure, as overly stark.  I am, however, ...

Having spent some years living in Muslim countries and fighting terrorism, I always cock an eyebrow when I hear someone like Secretary of State John Kerry speak in the wake of the Paris attacks and say, "This is not about a clash of civilizations..."  Secretary Kerry’s statements tracked closely with ...

Here’s the wicked paradox about terrorism. Long-term responses do nothing about short-term dangers. Short-term reactions feed extremism over the long term. There are no quick solutions and there may be no "solution" as we think of it. This is quite distressing for Americans in particular, I think. Pick your point ...

This weekend, the international talks on Syria will reconvene in Vienna, and a main focus will be the creation of a list of rebel groups deemed acceptable in a transition and postwar government. This process will be extremely divisive; countries like Saudi Arabia will vie to get the United States ...

As the world reacts with horror to Friday's terror attack in Paris coming so shortly after the downing of the Russian-operated A321M over the Sinai, it should be clear to even the most casual observer that the piecemeal and divided international effort to deal with violent radical Islam in general ...

Osama bin Laden would be a happy man were he still alive. His hopes and dreams have seemingly come to fruition. And, the master plan that one of his closest disciples devised for him a decade ago to reverse al Qaeda’s then waning fortunes and launch it on a trajectory ...

Dr. Sebastian Gorka, an expert in counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and irregular warfare, told The Cipher Brief that ISIS has superseded al-Qaeda as the world’s leading jihadist terror organization. Furthermore, Gorka explained that the U.S. is currently losing the war against ISIS due to its inability to effectively counter ISIS’ strategy. The ...

“We have contained them.”  Those words from U.S. President Barack Obama about the status of ISIS came the day before the Paris terrorist attacks and continues to reverberate around the world.  The President has since said he was referring to stopping ISIS’ march across Iraq and Syria when he made ...

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, U.S. defense officials announced a rare military strike on a senior Islamic State group (ISG) leader in Libya. Wall-to-wall press coverage of events in Europe made the strike on the Iraqi commander Wissam al-Zubaydi (aka Abu Nabil al Anbari) seem relatively trivial, but ...

Today, the United States arguably contends with one of the most complicated and dangerous “world orders” in its history.  It must maintain a credible nuclear deterrence, defend against unprecedented levels of cyber warfare, compete in the militarization of space, engage in asymmetric warfare against insurgencies and terrorist groups worldwide, and ...

Military security assistance as it is currently applied is an outdated, myopic approach. It is characterized by ambiguous funding timelines, stove piped information, and the lack of unified resource application.  The U.S. can significantly increase the efficacy of security assistance resourcing through a holistic approach, integrating private and federal programs. ...

Nobody likes comparisons with the Vietnam War, but in the case of United States security assistance, the comparison is worth considering. The United States often approaches security assistance the same way it did in Vietnam, with the same results.   Moreover, because the United States has been using the same ...

U.S. security assistance and cooperation programs have come under a lot of fire recently.  The failure of the $500 million program to train and equip moderate opposition forces in Syria is the latest example. However, there is a longer history, including the collapse of the Iraqi military in its fight ...

A fifty-year veteran of American intelligence recently told me how once, as a young officer, he had blurted out that a situation he had been reporting on was so bad that it could hardly get any worse.  One of his mentors quietly stared at him and then observed, "It can ...

A fifty-year veteran of American intelligence recently told me how once, as a young officer, he had blurted out that a situation he had been reporting on was so bad that it could hardly get any worse.  One of his mentors quietly stared at him and then observed, "It can ...

There has been no shortage of speculation about the motives behind Russia’s recent military deployment to Syria following the September 28 meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama at the United Nations General Assembly session in New York. Most of the commentary, however, has failed to ...

The recent infusion of Russian weapons and other military materiel into Syria has gotten the chattering class in Washington in a tizzy. "Inside-the-Beltway" policy experts, as a chorus, are now calling for the U.S. and other Western powers to include Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in any talks about a non-military ...