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 ...

On Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Iran, the last stop on a whirlwind tour of the Middle East, which included visits to Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well. There, Xi upgraded the two countries’ relations to a strategic partnership and signed an agreement to increase bilateral trade by ...

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. ...

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 ...

The Arab Spring was the beacon of hope that would free millions from the grip of autocratic rulers.   At first, it looked promising.  One by one, the dictators fell: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Moammar Khadafy in Libya, Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen.   Many ...

The “Arab Spring” of 2011-12 has profoundly changed the Middle East, but much is misunderstood about its effects.  First, it did not produce, other than in Tunisia, lasting liberalization and more democracy in the states of the region. Second, the Arab Spring was not just “Arab,” but it also had ...

When the so-called Arab Spring burst upon the Middle East five years ago, Henry Kissinger remarked that this was only “scene one of act one of a five act play.”  How right he was. Kissinger’s remark was a usefully sobering antidote to a brief moment of nearly unbounded euphoria.  Recall ...

As the citizens of Arab nations reflect on the fifth anniversary of the popular revolts of 2011, they are likely to feel a sense of malaise and frustration. The rise of autocratic counter-revolutionary politics, regime repression, the resurgence of terrorism, and the spread of violence have replaced the euphoria of ...

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 ...

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 ...

CIPHER SNAPSHOT: At a time when the Middle East is ablaze, the arrival of the Hajj presents a complex security challenge. September 22 marks the start of the Hajj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Participation in the Hajj is a religious obligation for both Sunni and Shiite ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...