Russia‘s military engagement in Syria reflects Vladimir Putin’s obsession with reasserting his nation’s influence in the Middle East and establishing superpower parity with the U.S. This policy, however, also has important domestic implications for dealing with instability in the nation’s most troublesome region, the North Caucasus. Russia’s history in the ...

ISIS has stood out among other terrorist organizations for, among other factors, its deftness at strategic communication. Using propaganda to increase followership is certainly not new among terrorist organizations, nor among state aggressors.  At al-Qaeda’s peak, they were exploiting satellite television, the Internet, DVD technology, and cellular communications to intimidate ...

The rise of the Islamic State has been accompanied by the increasing presence of the terror group on social media. ISIS’s message of a Muslim utopia is disseminated through various organizations and outlets, all coordinated through complex bureaucratic measures. Counterterrorism analyst for the Institute for the Study of War, Harleen ...

German U-Boat commanders called a period in 1940-41 when they were more or less unfettered and free to attack at will, “the happy time.”  For the Islamic State, the “happiest time” was certainly the period between the summer of 2013, beginning with the gradual fall of the Syrian city of ...

While debate continues over whether the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) poses an immediate threat to the United States and Europe, there is little doubt ISIL has developed a chemical weapons capability. In February, U.S. officials acknowledged that ISIL was likely responsible for mustard gas attacks in ...

In a town filled with a seemingly endless number of acronyms, none are dreaded as much as ISIS and WMD—especially when put together.  Recent allegations that ISIS is seeking nuclear material for a dirty bomb has exacerbated fears that ISIS could inspire a WMD attack outside of the Middle East, ...

The Paris attacks last year bought home that ISIL intends to terrorise all those who oppose the group, wherever they may be.  Outside the Syria and Iraq environs, ISIL strives for evermore spectacular attacks with ever more shocking outcomes.  The 130 dead in Paris came just after 228 (mainly Russians) ...

Mitch Silber, the former Director of Intelligence Analysis for NYPD, attributes Europe’s homegrown terrorist threat to Europe’s repeated failure to integrate immigrant communities and provide them with economic opportunities, leaving them vulnerable to radical indoctrination. To combat this threat, Europe needs to implement a comprehensive information sharing mechanism immediately, says ...

Europe has become a strategic target for terrorist infiltration.  Its proximity to war zones as well as several terrorist strongholds in the Middle East and North Africa has pushed the threat of terrorism to the forefront of the European security agenda. “Over the past 12 months, ISIL (the Islamic State, ...

According to Gilles De Kerchove, Counter-terrorism Coordinator for the European Union, effective cooperation and coordination between EU member states and the United States is critical for combatting terrorist threats. The terrorist attacks in Paris last November also demonstrated a need for increased information sharing amongst European countries through Europol systems, ...

January’s ISIS inspired attack in Jakarta raises serious concerns that the ISIS brand might be spreading to the world’s largest Muslim country.  Indonesia is the home to more Muslims than the entire Arab Middle East combined and occupies a strategic location alongside the busiest trading routes in the world.  Any ...

A month after attacks by Islamic State (ISIS) inspired militants outside a Jakarta Starbucks, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has set into motion tougher anti-terrorism laws to help the country better protect itself from future attacks. Indonesia is the fourth most populated country in the world, with the highest population of ...

The January 14 attack in Jakarta that left four civilians and four terrorists dead serves as a reminder that Indonesia remains vulnerable to groups that would resort to violence and terrorism to achieve their Islamist aspirations. The previous major terrorist attack in the country had been the twin bombings that ...

For seven years, President Barack’s efforts to close the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have been thwarted by Congress.  But the President has not given up. This week, he released his blueprint for closing the facility.   Of the 91 remaining detainees, 35 have already been approved for ...

As threats in the Middle East continue to loom large, Jordan’s successes in battling ISIS on the frontlines and promoting cooperation in the Middle East have proven critical. Jordan, which avoided much of the turmoil introduced by the Arab Spring, has served as an indispensible ally for the United States ...

Jordan’s past experience battling al-Qaeda in Iraq has prepared it for its ongoing offensive against ISIS, explained Dr. Musa Keilani to The Cipher Brief. A former Jordanian Ambassador to Bahrain, Dr. Keilani said that there is popular support in Jordan for airstrikes targeting ISIS and that Jordan has “played a ...

According to Dr. Jamal Al Shalabi, Professor of Political Science at the Hashemite University, turmoil in the Middle East has prompted Jordan to strengthen cooperation with its neighbors. Egypt-Jordan relations are at an all time high, Al Shalabi told The Cipher Brief, and it is “logical” for Jordan to deepen ...

On March 7, 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS.  Nearly a year later, has either of these terrorist groups gained from this partnership? For ISIS, the answer is undoubtedly yes.  Expanding its reach helps ISIS demonstrate in real terms that it is achieving its goal of creating a caliphate ...

Nearly one year since Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to ISIS, its threat to Nigeria has changed, though still remains.  “Clearly, the snake has been injured and weakened, but not killed or defanged,”  Ona Ekhomu, President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON), told The ...

The Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) was established on May 22,1964 through the Fort Lamy (now N’Djamena) Convention to ensure equitable and sustainable management of Lake Chad, while preserving the ecosystem and promoting sub-regional integration, peace, and security in the basin.  In the last decade, the LCBC’s member states—Cameroon, Chad, ...

From Russia’s reemergence as a top U.S. adversary to Iran’s reentry into the global market place, the 2016 national security landscape is fraught with challenges and opportunities guaranteed to impact industry, government, and their intersection. Looming questions—Will China cooperate on cyber security? What wider impact will Venezuela’s economic collapse have ...

In the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombing, terrorism expert Peter Bergen had a pressing question on his mind:  Who are these homegrown Islamist terrorists, and what has driven them to a life of jihad?  This week, he released his fifth book, The United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown ...

The alarming spread of ISIS, coupled with competition amongst Iraq’s sectarian groups, has accelerated the Iraqi government’s disintegration. This downfall began during the tenure of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki, whose policies triggered significant tensions between Iraq’s three main sectarian groups - the majority Shiites, the Sunnis and the ...

Victory in Ramadi City against ISIS by the Iraqi Army, despite ISIS holdouts, has given a shot in the arm to the Iraqi government and to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.  Strengthening Iraq’s political institution is not only essential to the fight against ISIS but also for larger regional objectives. ...

In Iraq, the fight to rid the country of the Islamic State (referred to colloquially in Arabic as Daesh) is taking longer than officials and analysts expected. For instance, U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, recently stated that the campaign to eject ...

The Caucuses region is simmering with tension, and, due to its strategic geographic location and Caspian energy markets, the international community cannot afford to let the situation boil over. Lying in between Russia, Turkey, and Iran, the Caucasus is a politically and ethnically diverse region.  In the North are the ...

For two decades, hundreds of Russian citizens have become victims of terrorism rooted in the turbulent North Caucasus region of Russia. This area has also been a major source of fighters for different radical Islamic groups in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and beyond.    Several developments contributed to the radicalization of ...

The situation in the Russian North Caucasus has been complex for over 25 years now. A host of economic and social reasons, as well as the relations between this region and the federal authorities, and the mistakes made by both federal and regional politicians, have all contributed to the problem. ...

With the Middle East ablaze, new opportunities have emerged for regional cooperation. In fact, partnerships have formed in the most unlikely of places, as Israel and some of its Arab neighbors have joined together to combat common enemies, such as ISIS and Iran. Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has ...

Former head of Israel’s Shin Bet and current Knesset member Yaakov Perry discussed Israel’s cooperation with its neighbors to combat regional threats.  Perry explained that Egypt and Jordan are important partners for Israel in the fight against ISIS, and that Israel and many of the Gulf countries share mutual concerns ...

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 ...

The lack of good governance and the spread of terrorism seem to go hand in hand.   That is quite apparent in East Africa.  Just last month, al Qaeda’s affiliate, al Shabaab, attacked an African Union base in Southwest Somalia, the third forward operating base that al Shabaab has overrun in ...

As China, the current economic superpower of the East, becomes increasingly unstable and its markets unpredictable, many are focusing newfound attention southward on India. With its economy growing at a rate of seven percent, India is poised for an economic surge similar to that of China, with the benefit of ...

Recent efforts by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have resurrected the idea of rapprochement between India and Pakistan. So successful were these efforts that Pakistani militants felt compelled to stage an attack on an airbase in Indian Punjab early last month to derail them. ...

Former Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Teresita Schaffer, discussed with The Cipher Brief the continued importance of a close U.S.-India relationship.  Schaffer explained India’s tenuous security dynamic with China and Pakistan, and emphasized the importance of continuing active U.S.-Indian consultation and cooperation on East Asian security issues as India shapes its ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

As the calendar turns to 2016, homegrown terrorists seeking to carry out violent jihadi attacks continue to headline the most critical threats to U.S. security. To date, more than 150 American citizens have traveled abroad with U.S. passports in hand to join the ranks of terrorist groups, such as ISIS. ...

The New York Police Department arguably has the most advanced intelligence and counterterrorism operations of any other U.S. municipality. As the Former Director of Intelligence Analysis at the NYPD, Mitch Silber played a key role in all terrorism related investigations.  Silber told The Cipher Brief that homegrown terrorists will continue ...

The shift in the radicalization landscape in 2015, especially the ever-changing profile of the “homegrown terrorist,” has become one of the greatest concerns of those who protect our homeland.    Notwithstanding the horrific attacks in other parts of the world during the past year, the devastating events in San Bernardino, California ...

Some have argued that since the jihadist attack in Paris on November 13th, killing 130, and the December 2nd attack in San Bernardino, California, which killed 14, the United States has stepped up its domestic counter-terrorism efforts.  But with only five interdictions of ISIS supporters in the six weeks since ...

We humans are fond of organizing our lives around arbitrary constructs. Like calendars for example. Many businesses and government departments engage in strategic thinking only at the start of a new year, as if social and economic forces were governed by calendrical functions. And so we have the tradition of ...

As the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matthew Olsen oversaw the integration and analysis of all intelligence related to terrorism.  As he looks ahead to 2016, Olsen told The Cipher Brief the West faces the difficult challenge of countering terrorist plots more in line with the attacks that recently ...

With 34 years of service in the CIA now behind me, I was recently asked how our ongoing war with ISIS will end.  My answer that ‘either we will defeat them or they will defeat us’ struck some in the room, I am sure, as overly stark.  I am, however, ...

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is the most successful terrorist organization in modern history.  ISIS has aggressively expanded into nine other countries and, through social media, has motivated and inspired its followers around the world to kill fellow citizens. What differentiates ISIS from other terror groups is ...

Victory against ISIS requires not simply more military muscle but diplomacy.  On the Iraq front that means complementing more effective military and political action in Sunni areas with diplomacy involving Iran, Turkey, the Arab states and Baghdad. The Obama Administration’s policy to defeat ISIS is the right mission, but defeating ...

Since December 2011, when the last American troops officially left Iraq, the members of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) were mostly wiped out or on the run. However, the remaining AQI soldiers found new opportunities to rise again and went through a metamorphosis steered by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The violent ...

On October 31, 2015, an international charter flight departing from Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport disintegrated mid-flight en route to St. Petersburg, Russia, killing all 224 passengers onboard. Two weeks later, a series of coordinated attacks led by a Brussels-based terrorist cell struck Paris, resulting in the death of over 130 ...