The Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization is putting the IAEA on notice that Tehran is likely to begin producing centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium.    According to the Fars news agency, Ali Akbar Salehi says the move does not violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ...

Russia. We hear and read about it every day in the mainstream media, but the news seems almost exclusively focused on the various investigations of Russian meddling and the politics surrounding them. Russian meddling, to be sure, merits this coverage since the cyberattacks and spread of polarizing disinformation represented a ...

Following the near destruction of ISIS in Iraq and in the U.S. “zone” in northeastern Syria, and then a call recently by President Donald Trump to pull out of Syria, administration officials, pundits and foreign leaders have all urged the president to keep troops in Syria. As justification, these officials—including ...

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 ...

Bottom Line: Syria’s chemical weapons program not only contributes to a tragic humanitarian situation, but its uninhibited use and maintenance creates strategic implications for the West and Israel. Limited military response seeking to degrade Syria’s stockpiles and logistical facilities sends a message, but Assad has shown his intent to continue ...

The American strikes last week on Syrian chemical production, storage and delivery facilities amounted to no more than another pinprick and a slap on Syrian leader Bashar Assad’s wrist and were devoid of any long-term strategy. It was a “one-shot” strike to punish the "Butcher of Damascus" for a one-time heinous act, which the regime ...

Bottom Line: The U.S. teamed with Kurdish forces to oust ISIS from its self-declared caliphate in Syria in Iraq, but now Washington’s continued support for Kurdish militias in Syria has strained relations between the U.S. and Turkey, which remains immersed in a longstanding feud with its sizable, domestic Kurdish minority. ...

After days threatening to take action, President Donald Trump announced Friday evening that he'd ordered "precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities," of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Trump said U.S. forces acted together with France and the U.K.,  retaliating for a suspected poison gas attack that killed ...

President Donald Trump is considering launching air strikes on Syria, if his own tweets are to be believed – an action that could show the value of switching from U.S. ground troops to a mostly air-focused campaign that would check the already decimated ISIS but avoid the risks and costs ...

In response to the “barbaric” chemical attack by the “animal” Assad on Douma, a suburb of Damascus, over the weekend, President Donald Trump has promised that Assad and his patrons Russia and Iran would pay a “big price.” Short of regime change, an American strike will be viewed as a ...

Bottom Line: U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to rain missiles on forces loyal to Syrian Bashar al-Assad, one week after they allegedly conducted a chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria's rebel-held town of Douma, near the capital Damascus. While a potential strike may signal to Assad that the ...

The commander-in-chief and his national security team are sending mixed signals on U.S. policy in Syria. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said: “The primary mission in terms of that was getting rid of ISIS. We’ve almost completed that mission, and we’ll be making a decision very quickly, in coordination with others ...

BRUSSELS – Director of Israel’s Ministry of Intelligence Chagai Tzuriel came to this European city to get the word out that if Iran tries to build a long-term presence in Syria, Israel would have to act – a conflict that could possibly be avoided if U.S. troops stay there. “Right ...

Bottom Line: Behind the curtain of violent conflict often resides a potentially devastating, long-term issue that demands global attention: food insecurity as both a weapon and consequence of war. Militant groups recruit the hungry with promises of the next meal, and states such as North Korea and Syria control food ...

Turkey has had considerable military success in its two-month old campaign against the Syrian Kurdish militia in the northwest Syrian border province of Afrin, but final victory may be difficult given realities in Syria. The U.S., now working better with Turkey on Syria since a January low point, could help ...

Bottom Line: As the Syrian regime consolidates power, with the help of Russia, Iran, and Iranian proxy Hezbollah, its combined forces are growing bolder, presenting an increasing strategic threat to Israel. In response, Israel has begun adjusting its policy of selective intervention, recently targeting Assad air defense systems in response ...

It was no surprise when two strategic vectors clashed this weekend on Israel’s northern front: The Iranian determination to build an advanced military force in Syria collided with Israeli determination to prevent that from happening. On a broader strategic level a conflict of this sort was expected, though the timing ...

The U.S. coalition says in defending its own troops, it killed an estimated 100 pro-Assad regime fighters on Wednesday. This clash, which took place in Khusham near the Euphrates River, is the largest reported to date between U.S.-backed forces and pro-regime forces in Syria. Here’s what happened, according to public ...

Bottom Line: While ISIS’s territory has dwindled, al Qaida has managed to build a strong following in Syria, and may use the civil-war-torn country as a base from which to target the West. The group has evolved into the network’s largest global affiliate by strategically positioning itself as a key ...

Sometimes reporters get called to a briefing so an administration can defend what it has done. And sometimes, it’s a warning of what it may be about to do. On Thursday, two senior administration officials warned that the Trump administration could take military action – again – against the Syrian ...

Bottom Line: Multiple rounds of peace talks aimed at ending Syria’s seven-year civil war have failed to yield results or relieve a catastrophic humanitarian crisis throughout the country. While the Trump administration throws its support behind a United Nations-led process that aims to deliver a roadmap for peace, Russia has ...

Does the Trump administration have a viable strategy for Syria -- and the tools and capability to carry it out? Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to articulate his interpretation of the goals in a Jan. 17 speech at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. But when read closely, the ...

Bottom Line: Although the U.S. and Turkey engage in robust cooperation on the political, military, and economic fronts, Ankara has experienced significant changes under the leadership of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which threaten the foundations of this relationship. Ties between the U.S. and Turkey have become increasingly strained in ...

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. Cipher Brief expert, CIA veteran and Russia hand Steve Hall looks ahead to U.S. relations with Moscow, as Russia gears up for ...

The military withdrawal from Syria that President Vladimir Putin touts is less than it seems. The stakes are high because leaders in Moscow see the intervention as crucial to their nation’s status as a global power. Moscow faces a dilemma, but there is a way out, if it will only see ...

President Donald Trump put Iran on notice in October, declaring that the U.S. would counter the regime’s “destabilizing activity.” Iran isn't listening. Instead, Iran is making gains throughout the region. Since October, Iranian leaders and their forces have used surrogates to launch what Ambassador Haley has just credibly argued are Iranian-made ...

Russia’s annexation of Crimea, intervention in eastern Ukraine, and meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election have escalated distrust and rancor between the U.S. and Russia to levels unprecedented since the Cold War. For two decades, President Vladimir Putin has driven a resurgent Russia to assert its interests globally, often ...

The Trump administration wants you to know that Syrian strongman Bashar Assad isn’t doing as well as he, or his Russian and Iranian allies want you to think, and that’s why they’re going to have to agree to some concessions at U.N.-sponsored talks in Geneva, rather than retaking the country ...

Moscow may increasingly look toward private military companies (PMCs), known in Russia as Chastnye Voennie Companiy (ChVK), to exert plausibly deniable and economically and politically sustainable military influence abroad, according to experts speaking to The Cipher Brief. Unlike relying on proxies such as ragtag local militias or organized criminal groups ...

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday announced their commitment to defeating the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, in Syria and agreed “there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria,” they said in a joint statement. "The Presidents affirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, unity, ...

The U.S. and Russia could soon come to an agreement on next steps in Syria, as the Islamic State, or ISIS, nears defeat in the country. The agreement would focus on “deconfliction” between the U.S. and Russian militaries, reducing violence in the Syrian civil war and reinvigorating UN-led peace talks, ...

As ISIS loses territory across Syria and Iraq, its capacity to generate revenue has declined drastically. Nonetheless, ISIS continues to profit from its oil industry, black market antiquities trading, and taxing and extorting local populations under its control. The U.S. government has worked with allies in the region to try ...

ISIS is rapidly losing territory across Syria and Iraq and, as a result, is suffering significant financial setbacks. Yet ISIS remains driven by its goal of establishing a physical caliphate. To acquire the necessary funds to maintain its bloody campaign, ISIS may turn to more traditional methods of terrorist financing, ...

Once billed the richest terrorist group in history, ISIS’ revenue streams are drying up, which may force it to rely more heavily on criminal enterprises and donations from like-minded extremists to survive. The group has ceded nearly 90 percent of the territory it once controlled in Syria and Iraq, according ...

The end is near for the battle for Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS’s self-declared caliphate, but the terrorist group still has ways of raising funds and plenty of cash on hand — and still remains a threat near and far. Although U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Tuesday ...

As the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) squeeze the last remnants of ISIS forces in Raqqa with U.S.-led coalition support, Syrian government and Iran-backed militia forces are also making gains against ISIS in the Deir al Zour region in eastern Syria. With ISIS nearing the end of its rope in Syria, ...

The end of the Islamic state puts the United States in an uncomfortable geopolitical situation. When it comes, the United States will enter a new phase of the conflict. The Syrian regime is back in full force in the east of the country, and the Iranian corridor from Iran and ...

Turkey’s announcement of what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called “a serious operation in Idlib” last Saturday has injected uncertainty into the Syrian civil war, but one thing is clear: militarily, the Syrian government of President Bashar al Assad is winning. The question now becomes: to what extent will the ...

One of the most worrisome trend lines in the Syrian civil war has been the accelerated growth of al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which seized control of Syria’s northwestern Idlib province over the summer and has transformed into the de facto face of the country’s anti-Assad campaign. ...

Al Qaeda’s role in the Syrian civil war drastically increased after the al Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) managed to take control of Syria’s northwestern Idlib province and position itself as the strongest rebel force battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. HTS has built accumulated support in Syria by focusing its ...

As the U.S. focuses its attention on defeating ISIS in Syria and Iraq, al Qaeda has managed to expand its presence in Syria and now controls Syria’s northwestern Idlib province with a population of two million people. In Idlib, al Qaeda has emerged as the head of an umbrella coalition ...

President Donald Trump is reportedly about to extend a terrorism designation to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in its entirety. The IRGC is both the dominant force inside Iran and the instrument through which the Islamic Republic projects power abroad. Operating throughout the region, the IRGC is deeply entrenched ...

The U.S.-led coalition’s battle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria has crossed significant milestones this year, supporting the final liberation of Mosul by Iraqi forces this July, and helping allied Syrian Democratic Forces to make swift gains in Raqqa with nearly 80 percent of the city now cleared. However, there ...

Syria's Kurds – led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military arm the YPG – have received much attention for their role as the cornerstone of U.S.-allied local forces fighting ISIS. However, as their battlefield successes continue, the PYD is building a miniature independent state in northern Syria ...

  Syria’s Kurds are best known for the role that their military arm, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), currently play as the military backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – allies of the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition in Syria who provide the majority of ground troops in the campaign. These ...

As the ISIS “Caliphate” in Syria and Iraq faces annihilation in coming weeks, the U.S.  must rethink relations with its highly problematic but effective ally in the ISIS fight – the Syrian Kurdish PYD – which controls the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) –a joint Kurdish-Sunni Arab militia that has ...

Hezbollah – an Iran-backed militia that controls southern Lebanon – boasts a medium-sized army and a whopping arsenal of up to 150,000 rockets and missiles. Since 2011, much of that army has been engaged in Syria supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. While this has thinned Hezbollah’s ...

No terrorist group has capitalized on networked technology more than ISIS, both for recruitment messaging and commanding their fighters on the ground. The internet is their response to asymmetric disadvantage. Where they lack in infrastructure and resources of a state, they use the web to plan attacks, solicit money and ...

On August 15, Israel’s Channel 2 news revealed satellite photos of an Iranian missile production facility near the town of Baniyas in northwestern Syria, capable of producing long-range rockets. Iran’s formidable military presence in Syria is nothing new, but the revelation of this production facility underlines how deeply the war ...

Hezbollah - an Iran-backed militia that controls southern Lebanon - boasts a medium-sized army and a whopping arsenal of up to 150,000 rockets and missiles. Now, as certain fronts of the Syrian civil war begin to stabilize along "de-confliction zones" sponsored by Russia, Iran, and Turkey, the possibility that Hezbollah's ...