For much of the past century, the Kurds have rebelled against their respective rulers only to be brutally crushed each time. The 21st century is proving less cruel. More than two decades of upheaval unleashed by Iraq’s ill-fated invasion of Kuwait and accelerated by the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein ...

The UN-backed Government of National Accord’s Misratan-led Bunyan Al Marsus operation room made significant gains against IS this week, advancing to within 30km Sirte. So far the operation has cost 72 lives -- mostly Misratan fighters -- and over 150 injured. However, while the operations room is directly established by ...

Three interlinked conflict dynamics are discernible from last week’s developments on the ground: 1) increased lawlessness and militia rivalry in Tripoli and the western region; 2) increasing momentum of the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Misratan-led assault on ISIS; and 3) rising tension between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and ...

The 1990s Yugoslav wars disintegrated a nation and created a fractured Balkans that continues to deal with ethnic strife and political instability. The wars also opened the door for the development of Islamic extremist ideologies. The former Yugoslav region has a history of moderate Islam. But during the communist era, ...

The Balkan states are facing a series of problems. Geopolitical rivalry is stoking tensions in the region, Turkey has become more assertive in promoting its interests, and the U.S. still wants to incorporate the Western Balkans into NATO, while Russia considers the Balkans its own backyard. EU membership remains the main goal for ...

With minds focused on the number of Western European foreign fighters joining ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra in the wake of the Paris and Brussels terror attacks, violent jihadism in the Western Balkans has not received the same level of international attention. Yet, as the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) ...

Strikes and continuous violence have strained the fresh Aleppo cease-fire the United States and Russia brokered this week, leaving experts doubtful any cessation of hostilities will hold. The U.S. on Wednesday announced the “regime of calm” had been extended to the city of Aleppo and its surrounding districts, where a ...

Our basic understanding of the Islamic State’s ambitions, and its justifications of those ambitions, remains muddled. “Remaining and expanding” and “a caliphate on the Prophet methodology” are its bumper sticker slogans, but these do not answer the questions of why the group uses ultraviolence, why its narrative is so closely ...

Is ISIS Islamic?  Probably not.  Is it Islamist?  Definitely.  An Islamist is one who believes in a version of Islam which would impose a politicized interpretation of the faith over all of society by law. The concept is modernist and overturns more than a millennium of Islamic jurisprudence. Historically, Islam ...

Broadcasting brutal murder videos, enslaving religious minorities, training and deploying child soldiers, carrying out suicide bombings at crowded intersections – these are just some of the heinous crimes committed by the Islamic State (ISIS). To a certain extent, such acts mirror tactics employed by other violent extremist and paramilitary groups, ...

In the self-created mythical world that Donald Trump has conjured up through his GOP presidential nomination campaign, the Islamic State terrorists will be gone “very, very, quickly” should he be sworn in as President and Commander-in-Chief next January 20. “Their days are numbered,” he told a Washington audience last Wednesday ...

When Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook killed 14 people at a holiday office party in San Bernardino, California, the detail that stood out the most is that the perpetrators were a man and a woman, and that Tashfeen was not just a woman but a mother.  Indeed, that the couple ...

In light of the ongoing military coup attempt in Istanbul, here is The Cipher Brief's recent feature explaining the myriad problems facing Turkey.  We will bring you more analysis on the situation as the story develops. Facing an intensifying cycle of violence, a president seeking to consolidate power, and a ...

In the late 1970s, Turkey experienced a convulsion of political violence between leftist and rightist factions that killed almost five thousand people by the time the military pushed out the government in a September 1980 coup d’état. The respite from violence was relatively brief, however. Since the mid-1980s, the terrorists ...

The recent wave of violence in Turkey can be grouped into three categories. The first is the operations led by Turkish security forces in parts of eastern and southeastern Turkey to clear neighborhoods of their PKK (The Kurdistan Worker’s Party) presence. This strategy emerged as a response to the second ...

It’s time to take a closer look at the national security views of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). At a campaign rally in the Bronx on March 31, Sanders told a crowd of over 15 thousand, “We are determined that instead of spending trillions of dollars on a ...

Despite some recent successes against ISIS, including military strikes against top leaders such as Hajji Imam and the Russian-backed Syrian victory against ISIS in Palmyra, ISIS’s core control of a Britain-sized swath of Syria and Iraq is still solid.   Meanwhile, Iraq remains under military, terrorist and financial pressure with hundreds ...

Michael Morell, the former Deputy Director and twice Acting Director of CIA, spoke with The Cipher Brief about battling ISIS and how the terrorist attacks in Brussels last week could impact U.S. and European strategies moving forward.  The Cipher Brief:  A week has passed since the attacks in Brussels.  Can ...

This morning, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the death of ISIS’ number two leader, Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Mustafa al-Qaduli, also known as Haji Imam. In addition to serving as ISIS’ chief financial minister, Al-Qaduli reportedly played a critical role in overseeing ISIS’ daily operations and maintained a close ...

Europe is used to dealing with crises. In fact, what we now call the European Union is a result of one of the biggest crises in modern history. But there is something different about the crises that Europe faces today: they are all happening at a time when solidarity within ...

The United States needs strong allies in Europe. The United States also needs European unity. This has been a recurrent theme in Barack Obama’s foreign policy since the start of his campaign for the presidency in 2007. It is a theme he borrowed from the second administration of George W. ...

In the aftermath of a terrorist attack like the one in Brussels this week, we naturally focus on the loss of life and the people seriously injured. But the damage is far more pervasive. Everyone in those communities—and beyond—are affected.  Fear and uncertainty become the norm, at least in the ...

The Cipher Brief: First Paris, then San Bernardino, now Brussels. How widespread are ISIS networks in Europe and North America and can we expect these kinds of attacks on a regular basis?  What is the threat to the U.S.? Matt Olsen: The threat in Europe from ISIS is greater than ...

The Cipher Brief: First Paris, then San Bernardino, now Brussels. How widespread are ISIS networks in Europe and North America and can we expect these kinds of attacks on a regular basis? Mitch Silber: We need to make a distinction when we talk about ISIS networks. There are ISIS wannabe ...

The terrorist attacks in Brussels this week highlight two things:  First, the Islamic State is ramping up its efforts to attack the West, and second, Europe is fundamentally unprepared to confront the growing specter of violent radical Muslim extremism.  Tuesday’s attacks in the heart of Europe were tragic but certainly ...

The tragic events in Brussels on Tuesday once again brought to the forefront the seemingly never ending battle to fight the scourge of terrorism.   As has been the case, time and time again, suicide attackers set their sights on so-called soft targets, detonating their bombs at an airport and in ...

The Cipher Brief: First Paris, then San Bernardino, now Brussels. How widespread are ISIS networks in Europe and North America, and can we expect these kinds of attacks on a regular basis?   Michael Hayden:  This attack was not surprising.  It was somewhere between expected and inevitable.  It’s right in ...

The Cipher Brief: First Paris, then San Bernardino, then Brussels.  How widespread are Islamic State networks in Europe, and can we expect these kind of attacks to continue? Quite clearly the recent history of attacks, certainly those in Paris and Brussels, shows a very substantial increase in threats linked more ...

As if we needed another reminder, the Brussels attacks bring into even sharper focus the specter of growing radical Muslim extremism and the threat it poses to the west.   Yesterday’s attacks in the heart of Europe were tragic, but sadly predictable.  Not predictable by exact time and place, but if ...

It is an horrific attack and the death toll is still mounting.  As always with terrorist attacks, the damage is not just the terrible loss of human life and people seriously injured but also the disruption of air and train transport, of business and diplomacy—the EU in Brussels had to ...

Despite territorial losses to its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, ISIS remains committed to spreading its ideological message, harsh rule, and terrorist tactics to new outposts. “This phenomenon is probably because committing terrorist operations abroad is embedded in the organization’s DNA,” wrote counterterrorist analyst Aki Peritz in The Cipher ...

The rise of the Islamic State and its spread across Africa and the Middle East may seem like a novel phenomenon, but it is hardly a first. In 1881, when an Islamic cleric in what was then called “the Sudan,” declared himself to be the Mahdi—the successor to the Prophet Muhammad ...

As goes its motto, The Islamic State is remaining and expanding. Even as the group faces growing military pressure in its core territories in Iraq and Syria, an increasing number of countries are facing the threat of Islamic State-affiliated groups within their own borders. Ultimately, this expansion is necessary to fulfilling ...

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. ...

ISIS has stood out among other terrorist organizations for, among other factors, its deftness at strategic communication. Using propaganda to increase followership is certainly not new among terrorist organizations, nor among state aggressors.  At al-Qaeda’s peak, they were exploiting satellite television, the Internet, DVD technology, and cellular communications to intimidate ...

The rise of the Islamic State has been accompanied by the increasing presence of the terror group on social media. ISIS’s message of a Muslim utopia is disseminated through various organizations and outlets, all coordinated through complex bureaucratic measures. Counterterrorism analyst for the Institute for the Study of War, Harleen ...

German U-Boat commanders called a period in 1940-41 when they were more or less unfettered and free to attack at will, “the happy time.”  For the Islamic State, the “happiest time” was certainly the period between the summer of 2013, beginning with the gradual fall of the Syrian city of ...

In a town filled with a seemingly endless number of acronyms, none are dreaded as much as ISIS and WMD—especially when put together.  Recent allegations that ISIS is seeking nuclear material for a dirty bomb has exacerbated fears that ISIS could inspire a WMD attack outside of the Middle East, ...

The Paris attacks last year bought home that ISIL intends to terrorise all those who oppose the group, wherever they may be.  Outside the Syria and Iraq environs, ISIL strives for evermore spectacular attacks with ever more shocking outcomes.  The 130 dead in Paris came just after 228 (mainly Russians) ...

While debate continues over whether the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) poses an immediate threat to the United States and Europe, there is little doubt ISIL has developed a chemical weapons capability. In February, U.S. officials acknowledged that ISIL was likely responsible for mustard gas attacks in ...

According to Gilles De Kerchove, Counter-terrorism Coordinator for the European Union, effective cooperation and coordination between EU member states and the United States is critical for combatting terrorist threats. The terrorist attacks in Paris last November also demonstrated a need for increased information sharing amongst European countries through Europol systems, ...

Europe has become a strategic target for terrorist infiltration.  Its proximity to war zones as well as several terrorist strongholds in the Middle East and North Africa has pushed the threat of terrorism to the forefront of the European security agenda. “Over the past 12 months, ISIL (the Islamic State, ...

Mitch Silber, the former Director of Intelligence Analysis for NYPD, attributes Europe’s homegrown terrorist threat to Europe’s repeated failure to integrate immigrant communities and provide them with economic opportunities, leaving them vulnerable to radical indoctrination. To combat this threat, Europe needs to implement a comprehensive information sharing mechanism immediately, says ...

A month after attacks by Islamic State (ISIS) inspired militants outside a Jakarta Starbucks, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has set into motion tougher anti-terrorism laws to help the country better protect itself from future attacks. Indonesia is the fourth most populated country in the world, with the highest population of ...

January’s ISIS inspired attack in Jakarta raises serious concerns that the ISIS brand might be spreading to the world’s largest Muslim country.  Indonesia is the home to more Muslims than the entire Arab Middle East combined and occupies a strategic location alongside the busiest trading routes in the world.  Any ...

The January 14 attack in Jakarta that left four civilians and four terrorists dead serves as a reminder that Indonesia remains vulnerable to groups that would resort to violence and terrorism to achieve their Islamist aspirations. The previous major terrorist attack in the country had been the twin bombings that ...

According to Dr. Jamal Al Shalabi, Professor of Political Science at the Hashemite University, turmoil in the Middle East has prompted Jordan to strengthen cooperation with its neighbors. Egypt-Jordan relations are at an all time high, Al Shalabi told The Cipher Brief, and it is “logical” for Jordan to deepen ...

As threats in the Middle East continue to loom large, Jordan’s successes in battling ISIS on the frontlines and promoting cooperation in the Middle East have proven critical. Jordan, which avoided much of the turmoil introduced by the Arab Spring, has served as an indispensible ally for the United States ...