Although the implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in January lifted some international sanctions on Iran, many non-nuclear sanctions remain in place. As a result, the return of international investment to the country has been slower than expected, raising temperatures in ...

Since Iran signed the nuclear deal with world powers in July 2015, Tehran has seen a flood of foreign visitors. Nine heads of state, 16 foreign ministers and dozens of other senior-level officials from across the world have come looking for diplomatic deals and economic opportunities. Iran is open for ...

Last Friday, Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Hiroshima after the city was destroyed by an American atomic bomb on August 6 1945. Although the President did not apologize for the act, he did use the occasion to advocate nuclear nonproliferation, mourning the day when “a ...

Seventy-one years ago, on August 6, 1945, a U.S. B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing an estimated 140 thousand people. The bombing came at the end of a long and bloody war in which 20 million people or more died in Asia. Soon thereafter, for the first ...

Against the backdrop of an increasingly assertive China and a highly-provocative North Korea, President Barack Obama attended the G-7 summit in Ise-Shima, followed by a personal trip to Hiroshima, where he was accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In what was sure to be his last official trip to ...

The adversarial history between India and Pakistan is compounded by each nation’s firm stance on the possession of nuclear weapons. As each country moves to expand its capabilities, it has become more important than ever before to bring both countries into agreement with international arms control norms. The Cipher Brief ...

South Asia is the region of the world at highest risk of suffering a nuclear crisis due to an explosive mixture of unresolved territorial disputes, cross-border terrorism, and growing nuclear arsenals. While the Middle East will remain a focal point for international nonproliferation efforts for the foreseeable future, the United ...

A May 15 test of India’s anti-ballistic missile system fanned the flames of a nuclear standoff 45 years in the making. Pakistan voiced “serious concern” over the test that it believes could nullify its nuclear deterrent against its long standing enemy. Of the nine nuclear armed states, Pakistan and India ...

North Korea held its Seventh Workers’ Party Congress last week. The primary focus of the Congress was to consolidate Kim Jong-un’s domestic power base and clarify the policy direction for the country’s future development.  Based on the statements released from the Congress, North Korea continues to seek nuclear power status, ...

North Korea’s first Party Congress in three decades, a grand spectacle at which Kim Jong-un’s greatest achievement seems to have been giving himself the newly-created title of the chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), cannot have given the long-suffering citizens of North Korea much hope for a ...

The 7th North Korean Workers’ Party (WPK) Congress --the first event of its kind in 36 years-- began and ended with the flair for the dramatic we have come to expect from the reclusive communist state. Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un dialed up the party rhetoric and called on all workers ...

Constraining Iran’s missile program is a worthwhile objective, but the muddled U.S. approach of sanctions and name-calling appears less likely to contain than to promote it. In the face of recent U.S. criticism, Iranians, ranging from hardline conservatives through reform-minded officials, are more united than ever in support of what ...

The Cipher Brief: Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have the technical ability to pursue nuclear weapons, but all three have refrained. What conditions would have to exist for these countries to consider nuclear programs? Tom Cynkin: Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have each considered the circumstances under which they would ...

It takes a trained eye to spot the patterns in the grainy satellite images, but subtle changes like tire tracks and repositioned mine carts show renewed tunneling activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. North Korea has restarted excavations. Though the evidence is far from conclusive, it does match activity ...

If there was one way to emphasize the grave problem of nuclear security to the international community, South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s recent visit to Washington summed up the issue pretty well. On the fringes of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), Park met with President Barack Obama and the leaders ...

North Korea watchers knew what to expect following Pyongyang’s 4th nuclear test on January 6th, 2016: a new round of United Nations sanctions. Known as UNSC Resolution 2270, this latest group of sanctions increases inspections on cargo vessels, limits the import of North Korean raw materials such as coal, gold, ...

With the conclusion of the final Nuclear Security Summit, Russia and the United States - the possesors of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals – are both in the midst of comprehensive nuclear weapons modernization efforts. The Cipher Brief spoke to former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia, Dr. ...

The drop in Russian state revenues has affected Russian military modernization to some extent, though the Russian government has made an effort to insulate the military from budget cuts. Although the 2015 military budget was cut by five percent mid-year, the total allocation was still 25 percent higher than the ...

Iran’s February 26 elections for the Majlis, or parliament, and for the Assembly of Experts, a clerically-dominated 88-member body that will select the successor to Iran’s current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, was hailed as a victory for Iran’s moderates and an endorsement of President Hassan Rouhani’s centrist policies. There is ...

At the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit, taking place Thursday and Friday in Washington, DC, President Obama will have his last chance to work toward his promised goal - set 7 years ago in Prague - to make the world safer from unsecured nuclear materials. The outcome of the ...

To optimists, it may appear that Iran is headed in a new direction. During the past year, Iranian leaders reached a landmark nuclear deal with the P5+1 and moderates emerged victorious in the country’s most recent elections in February. Yet the international community remains wary of Iran’s provocative behavior and ...

“Do you see the cornered cat?  With its tiny claws, it tears out the eyes of a leopard” --Sa’adi of Shiraz, 13th Century The last three years have brought some remarkable shifts in Iran’s political landscape: the departure of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his outrageous proclamations; a new Iranian president ...

Over four years have passed since Kim Jong-un took over the leadership of North Korea after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in late 2011. At the time, some hoped that Kim Jong-un’s young age and western education would lead him to set North Korea on a path toward ...

North Korea’s satellite launch over the weekend, on the heels of its nuclear test last month, raises the prospects of renewed tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in East Asia.  Beijing has heretofore protected Pyongyang from stricter economic sanctions.  Former U.S. foreign service officer and Northeast Asia expert, Dr. Thomas ...

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran are arguably at a historic low. Saudi Arabia has cut off diplomatic relations with Iran in response to mob violence against Saudi diplomatic facilities in Tehran and Mashhad. Those attacks were a reaction to Riyadh’s execution of a prominent Shi’a Saudi activist who had ...

Iran’s every move will be closely scrutinized by the international community now that sanctions have been lifted over its nuclear program, providing Iran access to tens of billions of dollars in frozen assets. Over the weekend, the International Atomic Energy Agency certified that Iran had completed all the requirements stipulated ...

Although the sanctions on Iran have been lifted as part of the nuclear deal, former Treasury Department official Adam Smith said the U.S. will continue to impose sanctions on Iran for its terrorist, human rights, and ballistic missile activities. Smith told The Cipher Brief that one of the secondary aims ...

Speaking from the White House on the day after the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, President Obama proudly declared “Today is a good day” demonstrating what is possible with “strong American diplomacy.”  History will determine whether the Iran deal proves to be the success its proponents already claim it ...

The year 1979 is remembered by most Americans for the takeover of the United States embassy in Tehran.  That year was pivotal for people in the region, as it marked the establishment of an Islamist government in Iran and the takeover of the Holy Mosque in Mecca by a group ...

With the recent rise in domestic homegrown terrorist attacks, the fear of a domestic WMD attack is also rising.  John Cohen, former Acting Under Secretary for Intelligence and the Counterterrorism Coordinator at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, assesses the evolving threat to the nation and how the government can ...

North Korea’s claim to have tested a hydrogen bomb earlier this month and allegations that ISIS used a mustard agent against Iraqi Kurds in August have brought some deep questions to the forefront of our national security discussion on weapons of mass destruction (WMD):  Was a WMD really used?  Who ...

The global strategic environment is growing progressively complicated by an expanding and dynamic network of actors with common motivations and increased access to the technology necessary to develop and employ weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and WMD-like capabilities, ranging from radiological dispersal devices, to toxic chemicals and bio-toxins, to improvised ...

President Barack Obama spent much of his last State of the Union address dwelling on domestic issues, but he also pointedly reminded Americans that the United States is the most powerful nation on earth.  Our commander-in-chief acknowledged that it’s still a dangerous world out there but pinned that on failing ...

North Korea tested what was initially announced by Pyongyang to be a hydrogen bomb on Wednesday, though the Obama Administration is skeptical.    White House Spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters, “the initial analysis is not consistent with North Korean claims of a successful hydrogen bomb test.”   Still, Pyongyang’s announcement has serious ...

Since his election in 2013, Western audiences have been eager to pin their hopes on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, viewing him as a moderate who will reform his country in line with international norms. Rouhani’s recent statements criticizing the Iranian security services for detentions of journalists and U.S. citizens serve ...

It’s one of, if not the most, dangerous border in the world.  Nuclear-armed powers, India and Pakistan, have a history of strained relations since their independence from Great Britain in 1947, fighting three wars and regularly exchanging fire across their heavily militarized border. Two of the wars were over their ...

Even though both India and Pakistan are members of the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA), established in January 2006, trade between them is strikingly small. Total trade (exports plus imports) between the two countries in the last few years has been averaging only a little over $2.5 billion. Currently, ...

Nowhere on earth is an act of terrorism more likely to spark a nuclear war than in South Asia. This is by no means a unique or recent observation. In early 2010, I wrote a “Contingency Planning Memorandum” for the Council on Foreign Relations suggesting that in the aftermath of ...

Born from the territorial splitting of British India in 1947, India–Pakistan relations have been historically beset by disagreements, pressure, and conflict over the status of Kashmir on India’s north-western border but also issues of regional pre-eminence.  With the dispute over Kashmir leading to direct war between the two sides in ...

South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s statements continue to confuse observers.  She has said that she is most interested in building trust with the North, but she has brought back ideas and government policies from the authoritarian past.  She suggests she is interested in peaceful reunification, but she does not talk ...

Twice last month, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea asked the United States of America to begin discussions on a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War. The problem, as Korea watcher Andrei Lankov has noted, is that Pyongyang does not want to include South Korea in the talks ...

Amid all the uncertainties about North Korea’s unpredictable young leader, Kim Jong Un, one thing is clear: he has an unrelenting focus on security – his own personal security and the authoritarian regime’s security from external pressure. For personal security and to consolidate his hold on power, Kim – in power ...

While the end of the Cold War brought the reunification of East and West Germany, the Korean Peninsula has remained divided over the ensuing quarter century. For much of that time, Korean unification has been viewed through the lens of the economic costs of German unification, but in 2014, South ...

  So what if Iran isn't planning to build an actual nuclear weapon?  Would that affect your take on the nuclear deal?  I mean it.  These aren't rhetorical questions. Now, it's not as if the Iranians hadn't been trying to build a bomb.  They were.  At least through about 2003. ...