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 ...

The Caucuses region is simmering with tension, and, due to its strategic geographic location and Caspian energy markets, the international community cannot afford to let the situation boil over. Lying in between Russia, Turkey, and Iran, the Caucasus is a politically and ethnically diverse region.  In the North are the ...

For two decades, hundreds of Russian citizens have become victims of terrorism rooted in the turbulent North Caucasus region of Russia. This area has also been a major source of fighters for different radical Islamic groups in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and beyond.    Several developments contributed to the radicalization of ...

The situation in the Russian North Caucasus has been complex for over 25 years now. A host of economic and social reasons, as well as the relations between this region and the federal authorities, and the mistakes made by both federal and regional politicians, have all contributed to the problem. ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

For the second time this month, massive clouds of black smoke from burning oil billowed above Libya. The first time, in early January, the Islamic State (ISIS) attacked two major oil storage facilities. Out of the seven tanks targeted, one collapsed entirely. Damage to the others rendered them unusable. Together, ...

While considerable attention has been devoted to combating the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, Libya has often been referred to as the next frontier in the battle against the terrorist group. Plagued by unrest since the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gadhafi in 2011, Libya’s lawless environment has paved ...

On the ground in Libya, Mohamed Eljarh, a fellow with the Atlantic Council, said there is significant uncertainty surrounding the UN-brokered accord, which aims to reconcile Libya’s two competing governments. Furthermore, Eljarh told The Cipher Brief that ISIS is now attacking the country’s oil infrastructure and that Libya’s armed groups ...

The attacks carried out by Islamic State (ISIS) on the Ras Lanuf and Sidra oil export terminals this year have demonstrated definitively that the jihadist organization has no intention of exploiting Libyan oil resources for commercial gain. In fact, this was never an option. While ISIS was able to profit ...

President Xi Jinxing’s visit to the Middle East last week appeared to be business as usual. Short and relatively low-key, his studious avoidance of controversy was in keeping with China’s longstanding approach to the region: focus on energy and economics, and keep your head down on security and political matters. ...

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 ...

As the calendar turns to 2016, homegrown terrorists seeking to carry out violent jihadi attacks continue to headline the most critical threats to U.S. security. To date, more than 150 American citizens have traveled abroad with U.S. passports in hand to join the ranks of terrorist groups, such as ISIS. ...

The New York Police Department arguably has the most advanced intelligence and counterterrorism operations of any other U.S. municipality. As the Former Director of Intelligence Analysis at the NYPD, Mitch Silber played a key role in all terrorism related investigations.  Silber told The Cipher Brief that homegrown terrorists will continue ...

The shift in the radicalization landscape in 2015, especially the ever-changing profile of the “homegrown terrorist,” has become one of the greatest concerns of those who protect our homeland.    Notwithstanding the horrific attacks in other parts of the world during the past year, the devastating events in San Bernardino, California ...

Some have argued that since the jihadist attack in Paris on November 13th, killing 130, and the December 2nd attack in San Bernardino, California, which killed 14, the United States has stepped up its domestic counter-terrorism efforts.  But with only five interdictions of ISIS supporters in the six weeks since ...

We humans are fond of organizing our lives around arbitrary constructs. Like calendars for example. Many businesses and government departments engage in strategic thinking only at the start of a new year, as if social and economic forces were governed by calendrical functions. And so we have the tradition of ...

As the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matthew Olsen oversaw the integration and analysis of all intelligence related to terrorism.  As he looks ahead to 2016, Olsen told The Cipher Brief the West faces the difficult challenge of countering terrorist plots more in line with the attacks that recently ...

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, ...

Victory against ISIS requires not simply more military muscle but diplomacy.  On the Iraq front that means complementing more effective military and political action in Sunni areas with diplomacy involving Iran, Turkey, the Arab states and Baghdad. The Obama Administration’s policy to defeat ISIS is the right mission, but defeating ...

Since December 2011, when the last American troops officially left Iraq, the members of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) were mostly wiped out or on the run. However, the remaining AQI soldiers found new opportunities to rise again and went through a metamorphosis steered by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The violent ...

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is the most successful terrorist organization in modern history.  ISIS has aggressively expanded into nine other countries and, through social media, has motivated and inspired its followers around the world to kill fellow citizens. What differentiates ISIS from other terror groups is ...

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 ...

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 ...

The recent ISIS attacks in Beirut, Sinai, Paris, and now San Bernardino, and subsequent discussion about Syrian refugees highlight the seriousness of the potential threats to the U.S. homeland.                                           ...

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 ...

The framework for a political settlement in Syria, recently negotiated by the United States, Russia, Iran, and regional players in Vienna, is superficially impressive. It calls for a ceasefire, the establishment of a transitional government in six months, and new elections in 18 months. It does not specify which members ...

Here we go again.  Security vs. privacy.  Round n.   Of course, I'm referring to the aftermath of the horrific ISIS attacks in Paris.  What did we (the U.S., France and like minded societies) know before the event?  When did we know it?  Could we have known more?  What may have ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Kathleen McChesney about hotel and personal security in the wake of the attack against the Radisson Hotel in Bamako, Mali. McChesney was the Vice President for Global Security for the Walt Disney Company and served as the Executive Assistant Director for Law Enforcement at the ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Hans Kanold, CEO of SafeHotels Alliance, a standards organization for hotel security. TCB spoke with Kanold about the siege of the RadissonBlu in Mali, the difficulty in preventing terrorist attacks, and the importance of the human factor in keeping a hotel safe.  The Cipher Brief: ...

The Cipher Brief reached out to Dr. Geoff Porter, the founder of North Africa Risk Consulting, to get his take on security trends in Mali in the wake of yesterday’s attack against the RadissonBlu hotel. Porter, also an assistant professor at West Point, has spent more than two decades working ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

“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 ...

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 ...

Intelligence failure: those are two words we often hear following a devastating terrorist attack such as what we saw this weekend in Paris.  Almost by definition, if the intelligence community didn’t know about it, then it failed in its core mission: keeping citizens safe.  But when a small group of ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Rob Richer, CIA's former Associate Deputy Director for Operations, about the terrorist attacks in Paris. Richer spoke about the importance of cooperation between US intelligence agencies and their foreign counterparts. He also discussed how legal restrictions have hurt the Intelligence Community’s ability to collect. The ...

The Paris attacks last Friday demonstrated ISIS ability to strike in the heart of Western Europe. Kevin Hulbert, a former senior intelligence officer in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, tells The Cipher Brief that these attacks signify a paradigm shift in ISIS’ tactics. The Cipher Brief: Do you think the ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with General Keith Alexander, former Director of the National Security Agency. Alexander discussed the Paris attacks, the impact of the Snowden leaks on intelligence collection, and the trade off between privacy and security. TCB: You were the longest-serving NSA director.  During your tenure, you saw ...