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, ...

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 ...

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 ...

At the November 2015 meeting of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, China’s “open door” and “going out” policy, first declared in the late 1970s, was reaffirmed. Since its introduction and implementation, the policy has had a significant impact for China and the world. Today, China has become ...

Chinese and Western interests in Africa—in other words, what these countries want from Africa rather than what they can do for Africa—are surprisingly similar.  They all want access to African raw materials, the political support in international fora of as many as possible of Africa’s 54 countries, and the ability ...

As Director of the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University SAIS, Deborah Bräutigam has written extensively about the Chinese-African relationship.   Bräutigam tells The Cipher Brief why she thinks China’s involvement in Africa has had a positive economic impact. The Cipher Brief: We want to begin by setting the ...

One concern about the increased Chinese business presence in Africa is that it is forcing opportunities away from U.S. businesses.  Stephen Hayes, President and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa, explained to The Cipher Brief that there are opportunities for both, but that U.S. businesses have a lot to ...

The global oil industry is going through a lesson in Economics 101:  When supply increases, prices go down.  Crude oil prices are currently hovering around $45 per barrel, a 65 percent reduction from a summer 2014 peak at over $100 per barrel.  A surplus in crude oil supply has kept ...

In the seven months since arriving on the throne, new Saudi King Salman has brought fundamental changes to the Saudi power line-up and to succession politics.  Beneath the surface of the royal shake up, however, Saudi Arabia is also having to contend with trends in the global oil market that ...

Global oil markets are in flux.  Significant price swings—from triple digits to double digits, back and forth, over the past decade—are an indication of a systemic imbalance.  In a sector with few ready substitutes, this introduces new risks and heightens security concerns, with ramifications worldwide for the oil industry, oil ...

The business and geopolitical history of the 20th century was written in oil…black gold…Texas tea. Indeed, the need to secure abundant energy supplies has been an essential plot line of international relations ever since the Industrial Revolution. Some historians argue, for example, that the expansion of the British Empire was ...

Having begun transforming its energy sector, the Mexican government is learning the ups and downs of opening its oil resources to foreign companies.  In July, Mexico held its first round of bidding on oil blocks made available to foreign companies.  The auction followed radical changes to the nation’s constitution enacted ...

Saudi Arabia is showing a bolder side. The Kingdom has taken a new direction, undergoing changes in dynastic succession, foreign policy, and economic strategy. 1. The recent changes in Saudi royal succession are unprecedented. For the first time, the crown will transfer to the third generation of the al-Saud family. In ...

Saudi Arabia, blessed with political stability and deep pockets, presents one of the most attractive business and investment environments in the vast region between central Africa and China. The kingdom offers a stable currency that is freely convertible to dollars and Euros, a well-managed and respected central bank, membership in ...

In the wake of the nuclear agreement with Iran, US-Saudi relations appeared on the rocks. But when it comes to defense spending, business has rarely looked better. While Iran’s nuclear program may be a US and regional concern, Iran’s asymmetric and unconventional operations have long posed a more immediate threat ...

It is difficult to imagine the turmoil that the House of Saud must have been enduring since the price of oil began its precipitous and deep decline in the latter half of 2014.  Since then, not only has the value of the Kingdom’s precious and only significant natural resource declined ...