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 ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On January 10, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech in Cairo, Egypt that portrayed the U.S. as a force for good in the region. The speech was a direct repudiation of former President Obama and his administration’s policies in the region, especially ...

  Bottom Line Up Front  U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to eight Arab nations from January 8-15, as he attempts to lay out a coherent U.S. approach to the Middle East. Pompeo must assuage the concerns of U.S. allies about Iran’s quest for regional hegemony, reassuring them ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The most significant U.S. sanctions on Iran—aimed at Tehran’s core energy and banking sectors—went back into effect on Monday November 5. The goal of the re-imposition of sanctions is multifold: to deny the Iranian government the revenue it needs to develop strategic weapons or other ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Last week, both U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis declared the need for a ceasefire in Yemen. The statements come as some semblance of public and congressional pressure builds against U.S. support for the Saudi-led catastrophe, which up until ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The Trump Administration is seeking to minimize any U.S-Saudi rift over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in order to preserve Washington’s recently revitalized counter Iran strategy. The policies of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia (“MBS”) have set back, rather than ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On October 19, Saudi Arabia once again changed its official response to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi from a denial to an implausible cover story. The manner in which other countries react to the official version of events from Riyadh is extremely important; Saudi citizens ...

Bottom Line Up Front The disappearance and likely murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is the latest episode in an on-again, off-again struggle between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long been pushing to move his country back into position as the ...

Bottom Line Up Front Iran’s Shi’a militia allies in Iraq enable the mullahs to exert substantial influence over Baghdad, and will continue to do so no matter the composition of the new Iraqi government. Key Iraqi Shi’a militia commanders are emerging as prominent politicians in their own right, capable of ...

With increasingly confusing statements and actions from the White House and the Pentagon on U.S. policy toward Syria, The Cipher Brief presented a live briefing from Amman, Jordan with Cipher Brief Expert and former CIA Chief of Middle East operations, Robert Richer during the 2018 Threat Conference.  Richer talked about ...

As Iran and Israel trade accusations over Iran’s nuclear program, and the U.S. sends indicators that it may pull out of the JCPOA agreement, The Cipher Brief talked with Norm Roule—the former National Intelligence Manager for Iran at ODNI and a Cipher Brief Expert —at The Cipher Brief’s Annual Threat ...

Just last month, the long-simmering Israeli-Iranian conflict came out of the shadows when Iran sent a drone across the Jordanian border into Israel, and Israel retaliated with air strikes on several targets including the Iranian drone operators at a Syrian base in Palmyra, northeast of Damascus. The two sides appear ...

February 15, 2018, will mark the seventh anniversary of the Benghazi rallies, in which Libyans took to the streets to protest the arrest of a human rights lawyer. Fueled by the success of demonstrators in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, the crowds also demanded the release of political prisoners and an ...

Bottom Line: As the ongoing dispute between Qatar and Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates enters its eighth month, the U.S. has been forced to strike a delicate balance in its dealings with critical allies in the Middle East. At the same time, the ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look ahead at key national security issues. Intelligence veteran and Iran hand Norman Roule sketches out where we are now in the Mideast and Gulf region, and what he sees ahead for Tehran. On the state of the Middle ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look back on key topics for this year, and predict what they see for the year ahead. CIA veteran and Middle East hand Rob Richer offered his take. On the fate of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, now that the ...

The whirlwind Middle East trip last week by Trump son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner and his team working to restart Israel-Palestinian talks highlighted the fallout from earlier policy missteps related to the Middle East. Take the still bubbling situation with Qatar. After almost three months, Qatar still faces an ...

Next week, on August 2, is the 27th anniversary of the day Saddam’s forces stormed across Iraq’s southern border with the goal of annexing their small neighbor, Kuwait. It took only two days to seize the entire country. During the seven-month occupation, Iraqi soldiers tortured and killed hundreds of civilians, and ...

The ongoing diplomatic confrontation between Qatar and four Arab nations – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt – has exacerbated regional tensions and created a deep rift within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), one of the most important organizations in the Middle East. As part of the ...

With the dispute between Qatar and its neighbors nearing the two-month mark with no resolution in sight, Kuwait has stepped in as a mediator in an effort to resolve the conflict. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Richard LeBaron, former U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait, to discuss why Kuwait ...

On Friday, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, and a number of allied Arab states provided Qatar with a list of 13 steep demands that Doha must meet within 10 days in order to have ruinous sanctions lifted against the tiny Gulf state. Some of these demands include shutting down ...

The only surprising thing about the leadership shakeup ordered on Wednesday by King Salman of Saudi Arabia was the timing. It has long been apparent that the king, 81, was grooming his favorite son, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, to succeed him. The young prince was already one of the most ...

Today’s diplomatic chaos pitting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt, and other Sunni states against Qatar, can be partly blamed on Trump’s ill thought out utterances and his administration’s resultant mixed messaging in the controversy. Perhaps as important, U.S. response to the Qatar situation also raises questions ...

Monday morning, several Middle Eastern countries, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Yemen, Libya's eastern-based government, and the Maldives, announced their intentions to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar within 48 hours. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain gave Qatari citizens two weeks to leave their territory ...

Iran’s leaders probably view the idea of an Arab NATO to confront Tehran as a U.S.-directed and Israeli-supported Sunni Muslim alliance against Shia Iran.   Yet the Islamic Republic’s leaders most likely will be thinking, “So what else is new?” And their next thought probably will be, “Why should we ...

The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Emad Kiyaei, Policy Advisor at the American Iranian Council to discuss Iran’s recent elections, U.S. President Donald Trump’s trip to the Middle East, and how Iran could react to the establishment of an “Arab NATO.” The Cipher Brief: Leading up to the ...

During last week’s Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud strongly condemned Iranian support for terrorist groups and militants throughout the Middle East.   “From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist ...

Despite former President Barack Obama’s efforts to cut U.S. military commitments in the Middle East, events quickly drew his Administration back into the region. Civil war in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and, particularly, ISIS’s 2014 expansion into Iraq combined to keep Washington militarily involved the region. However, the nature of this ...

U.S. special operations forces are widely considered to be some of the most highly trained and effective military units in the world and, as a result, they have played a critical role in America’s wars. Nowhere is that truer than in the Middle East and North Africa, where the U.S. ...

The role of U.S. special operations forces (SOF) in the Middle East has expanded steadily since the inception of the counter-ISIS campaign in 2014. In part, this expansion is due to the metastasis of ISIS into Libya, Yemen, and other countries beyond its major land-holding presence in Iraq and Syria. But ...