Bottom Line Up Front The United States recently announced plans to remove two Patriot anti-missile systems from Saudi Arabia, which could be accompanied by a further drawdown of other U.S. military capabilities in the region. The removal of the Patriot missile batteries is emblematic of the Trump administration’s schizophrenic ...

The global pandemic caused by COVID-19 has added a significant layer of uncertainty to an already complicated situation in the Middle East.  The Cipher Brief turned recently to our expert Norm Roule to put this in perspective for us. Roule served for 34 years in the Central Intelligence Agency, managing ...

Cipher Brief Expert Emile Nakhleh is a retired CIA Senior Intelligence Service Officer and founding director of the CIA’s Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program Office. Nakhleh is currently a Research Professor and Director of the Global and National Security Policy Institute at the University of New Mexico. Since retiring from ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Saudi Arabia announced a unilateral cease-fire in Yemen amidst growing concerns over the spreading coronavirus pandemic. Saudi Arabia’s scorched earth campaign has devastated Yemen’s health infrastructure over the past several years, making Yemen particularly susceptible to a nation-wide coronavirus outbreak among its population. Yemen is ...

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, US Army (Ret) was the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs from 2008-2009. Prior to that, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Affairs from 2006-2008. These positions followed a 30-year career in the military with service as Deputy Director for ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The spread of coronavirus is compounding the well-known problems faced by Middle East governments and societies. The coronavirus crisis could become particularly acute in conflict-ravaged countries where governance is already weak or absent. The decision by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to try to ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran is the Middle East’s epicenter for the spread of the COVID-19 infection. The failure of Iran’s leaders to contain the virus add to the other ongoing challenges of the regime, including domestic unrest and U.S. economic and military pressure. Iran has become even more ...

On the sidelines of last weekend’s Munich Security Conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down to talk.  Lavrov left the meeting saying he felt “a more constructive approach” regarding US-Russia dialogue that was said to focus on strategic dialogue and arms control. ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran’s hardliners are likely to prevail in February 21, 2020 parliamentary elections. Regime hardliners have used their available levers of power to exclude critics and moderate elements from running. The turnout will be a barometer of the regime’s efforts to shape the election to its ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Since the caliphate collapsed, several European nations of captured foreign fighters and associated women and children have refused to deal with repatriating their citizens and bringing them to justice, instead letting them linger in detention camps in Syria. In early February, the Syrian Democratic Forces ...

If there was any doubt about the moribund state of the two-state paradigm in Palestine, the unveiling of the White House’s peace plan last month has put that doubt to rest. The “deal of the century,” put together by Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt in close cooperation with Israel’s Prime ...

Last week, The White House announced President Donald Trump’s vision for a ‘comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.’ The White House refers to it as a peace to prosperity plan but it has its shortcomings, namely that the Palestinians weren’t involved in its drafting and rejected the plan ...

Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the ruler of Oman and the Middle East’s longest serving ruler, died on January 10 after nearly 50 years in power.  Oman, under Qaboos rule, transformed from an undeveloped country in the 1970’s, to a country known as ‘the Switzerland of the Middle East’ at the ...

Emile Nakhleh is a retired CIA Senior Intelligence Service Officer and founding director of the CIA’s Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program Office. Nakhleh is currently a Research Professor and Director of the Global and National Security Policy Institute at the University of New Mexico. Since retiring from the government in ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Following the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian response that targeted Iraqi bases, the possibility of a conventional war between the United States and Iran seems to have diminished. Despite the decreasing tensions, both Washington and Tehran are likely to engage in asymmetric ...

OPINION -- As 2019 drew to a close, while foreign adversary leaders such as President Putin, President Xi, and Chairman Kim often attracted the largest amount of media attention, the killing of Iran’s IRGC-Quds Force leader Major-General Qassem Soleimani is worthy of careful attention.  His recent tactical and strategic actions ...

The killing of Iranian Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani has drawn sharp condemnation from Iran. American politicians – while agreeing that Soleimani was a threat to Americans - are divided over the wisdom of killing him and over the longer-range consequences. OZY caught up with senior contributor, former CIA Deputy ...

OPINION -- As the Middle East bids farewell to 2019 and welcomes the new year, the peoples of the region have precious little to celebrate. Young and old — Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Kurds, and Israelis — view the coming year with trepidation, growing uncertainty, and a deepening mistrust of their ...

  Bottom Line Up Front U.S.-Iran tensions are escalating again after three months of relative stability. U.S. officials report that Iran is resupplying its allies and proxies in Yemen and in Iraq with increasingly sophisticated short-range missile equipment. U.S. commanders cite the Iranian military movements as evidence that Iran might ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On December 1, the Iraqi Parliament approved the announced resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. The courage of the protesters was on display even as the Iraqi security forces killed more than 400 protesters through a brutal countrywide crackdown. Protesters are demanding wholesale change ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The top commander for U.S. forces in the Middle East warned that the growing U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf might not be enough to deter Iran from attacking Gulf states. The comments by CENTCOM commander Gen. McKenzie followed publication of a Defense Intelligence ...

The Commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, General Kenneth F. McKenzie, recently warned that the presence of an additional 14,000 U.S. troops sent to the Persian Gulf region over the past several months likely has not deterred Iranian efforts to launch future attacks there. General McKenzie highlighted the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front According to the U.S. State Department, global terrorism clustered in three regions in 2018, with South Asia, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa accounting for nearly 85 percent of global attacks. The Islamic State is seeking to plot a resurgence, attempting to revive its logistics ...

As street protests continue unabated in Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, and other Middle Eastern countries, regimes have used the social media platforms and traditional media to track, control, and repress their citizens. Iran has shut down the Internet and other digital platforms. Since traditional media and journalism outlets, especially newspapers ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The recent unrest in Iran is unlikely to bring about political change or extract significant government concessions to popular demands. Despite the protests, the government is unlikely to alter its stance on talks with the Trump administration or retrench any of its regional interventions. The ...

The Cipher Brief’s Expert Take column highlights the thinking of our experts based on their areas of expertise.  Emile Nakhleh is a former member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service. Lebanon’s largely peaceful “Arab Spring” is a model in civic activism for the greater Middle East. Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s ...

Protesters came out in support of Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Sunday but they were followed by anti-government protesters who have been calling for a change in the ruling class.   Prime Minister Saad Hariri stepped down last week under pressure from protesters. Meanwhile, there is growing unrest in Baghdad as ...

The killings of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his possible deputy by U.S. special operations forces are major losses for the extremists, ones that are likely to usher in a period of chaos and improvisation among ISIS fighters. But it would be a fatal mistake to assume that the deaths have destroyed ...

  Bottom Line Up Front As the United States continues its hasty withdrawal from Syria, Russia has consolidated immense leverage in the country. Acting as Assad’s air force, Russia has helped to reverse the regime’s territorial losses, committing war crimes by targeting civilians and hospitals. Given the recent U.S. withdrawal ...

OPINION – It’s still unclear just how President Trump may further respond to the recent coordinated drone attack on a Saudi oil facility that has been blamed on Iran by the U.S., France, the U.K., Germany and Saudi Arabia. Within days of the attack, the President announced that he was ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The September 14 strike on Saudi critical energy infrastructure by Iran or one of its allies directly challenges U.S. regional and global interests. The attack demonstrates Iran’s ability to cause severe damage through precision strikes. The incident illustrates that U.S. sanctions are not succeeding in ...

  Bottom Line Up Front After Israel launched attacks in three different countries across the Middle East last week, Hezbollah responded by firing missiles at several Israeli military targets. Netanyahu is attempting to strike a difficult balance—appearing steadfast and resolute while avoiding a new round of fighting against Hezbollah. Perhaps ...

  Bottom Line Up Front President Trump’s revelation that the U.S. shot down an Iranian drone on July 18 suggests that tensions in the Gulf will not subside any time soon. The U.S. shootdown might have been intended to satisfy critics who opposed President Trump’s decision in June to refrain ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The United Arab Emirates has dumped weapons into conflict zones throughout the Middle East. Given how unstable the situation in Libya remains and the more external actors involved, the more prolonged and bloody the conflict is likely to become. Following the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi ...

Tensions remain high between the U.S. and Iran with no recognizable movement toward formal negotiations, and the Administration’s recent effort in Bahrain to gain support for their plan to find a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via investment feels bankrupt, but if there is one thing every good businessman knows, ...

  Bottom Line Up Front While the UAE is a close ally of Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi is now seeking to distance itself from Riyadh on critical issues of foreign policy. Following a string of tanker attacks believed to be perpetrated by Iran, the UAE cited a lack of evidence ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Under the leadership of Jared Kushner, the administration is attempting to cobble together a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. The proposal has been harshly criticized by analysts and politicians alike, who note that Washington lacks credibility in the region and can hardly be viewed ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The U.S. and Iran are close to a conflict that would have no clear end and could quickly spread throughout the Middle East and beyond. Iran has acquired leverage by building proxies and allies into politico-military forces, arming them with short-range missiles, rockets, and other ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On June 13, two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman were damaged by apparent sabotage, as explosions ripped through the side of the ships. The U.S. has publicly blamed Iran for the attacks, as well as for similar incidents in May. American allies have ...

The U.S. Administration is facing a tough sell as it leads the Bahrain Workshop in just under two weeks time, in what is widely seen as the first phase of the administration’s Middle East peace plan. The plan looks to large-scale investment in infrastructure improvement in the Palestinian territories, largely ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The only consistency in the Trump administration’s Middle East policy has been to support autocratic regimes and strongmen, as it has in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The Trump administration’s top national security officials met with Congress multiple times in May to discuss how the President ...

Bottom Line Up Front As U.S-supported Saudi air strikes continue to kill Yemeni civilians, a bill to end that support remains stuck in the Senate. In April, President Trump vetoed a different bill passed by both chambers aimed at ending U.S. support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, something ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The U.S. Treasury Department recently imposed sanctions on the Rawi terrorist financing network, which helped move funds for the so-called Islamic State. The network was truly global in nature; headquartered in Iraq, it had connections that spanned the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Even without ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Turkey’s ruling AKP party is asking for a full recount in the mayoral election in Istanbul, making accusations of ‘wide-spread crimes.’ Defeats for the AKP in the nation-wide elections demonstrate that despite Erdogan’s attempt to consolidate power, there remains a very credible political opposition across ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Vladimir Putin has consolidated Russian power in Moscow’s near abroad and traditional sphere of influence. The Kremlin has also made moves to increase the country’s influence in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. More recently, Russia has expanded its reach to Latin America ...

  With the so-called Islamic State losing its remaining territory, the focus has pivoted to geopolitical competition between the major powers involved in Syria. Assad has accused Erdogan of having imperial designs on Syrian territory, while Damascus leans on Moscow and Tehran for support. The shifting web of alliances in ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On January 19, a car bomb exploded in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, believed to be the work of the New IRA. On January 17, the National Liberation Army (ELN) killed 20 police cadets after exploding a car bomb at a training center in Bogotá, Colombia. Colombia ...

In part two of his two-part exclusive series for The Cipher Brief, AEI Scholar Kenneth Pollack, the author of the recently-released Armies of Sand: The Past, Present and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness, discusses how the fundamental balance of power in the Middle East is impacting the Arab world. The Middle East ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities enable it to project power while compensating for an otherwise modest conventional military capacity. Iran’s supply of missiles to regional armed factions have helped these groups morph into significant threats to American interests and allies. The fielding of Iranian-supplied missiles by ...

In part one of his two-part exclusive series for The Cipher Brief, AEI Scholar Kenneth Pollack, the author of the recently-released Armies of Sand: The Past, Present and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness, discusses how the fundamental balance of power in the Middle East is changing, and what's driving the change.  You ...