The U.S. moved this week to apply even more pressure on Iran to end its involvement in illicit activities around the world by announcing that the U.S. State Department will no longer grant sanctions waivers to countries that import Iranian oil.    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The Trump Administration ended a key waiver on Iran oil sanctions as part of an effort to apply maximum pressure on Iran’s economy and its regime. The end of the waiver program will reduce Iran’s oil exports further but is unlikely to bring them to ...

OPINION -- At almost every crucial moment in the Mueller report, President Donald J. Trump is recorded having expressed concerns to advisors that reports of Russia’s election interference might lead the public to question the legitimacy of his election. The legitimacy of Trump’s election should be questioned and investigated. “The ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The 8 April Trump administration announcement designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization will have little practical effect on IRGC operations. There are few benefits to the designation because the IRGC is already widely sanctioned; few foreign companies transact any ...

OPINION -- One result from the Hanoi Summit: North Korea continues to be a member of the elite nuclear weapons club, and probably will remain so for years to come. National Security Advisor John Bolton, on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday, acknowledged that North Korea kept producing weapons grade ...

OPINION -- What are the “corresponding measures” President Trump is prepared to take in return for a promise from Chairman Kim Jong-un to dismantle his Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, which has been producing both plutonium and highly-enriched uranium for North Korea’s nuclear weapons? Kim and his representatives have been ...

The Cipher Brief asked expert and retired four-star General David Petraeus for his big takeaways after attending last weekend's Munich Security Conference. First, the wedge between the U.S. Administration and Europe is a good bit bigger than last year, and Russia, Iran, and China are working to highlight and exploit the ...

Steven Hall spent more than 30 years in the CIA, the bulk of them running and managing intelligence operations in Eurasia and Latin America.  He has experience both in counterintelligence and counterterrorism and has overseen intelligence operations in the countries of the former Soviet Union.  When he retired from the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front At the end of February, U.S. President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un will meet in Vietnam following up last June’s Singapore summit. The second meeting occurs amidst both positive and negative developments between the countries. Tensions between North Korea and the U.S. ...

A senior Kurdish official has dismissed the idea of creating a 20-mile wide safe zone in Syria presented by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, something that Erdogan says would require both logistical and financial support from the U.S. and other allies.    The idea of creating the zone comes as ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities enable it to project power while compensating for an otherwise modest conventional military capacity. Iran’s supply of missiles to regional armed factions have helped these groups morph into significant threats to American interests and allies. The fielding of Iranian-supplied missiles by ...

The Trump Administration is defunding the nation’s primary anti-domestic terror program at the Department of Homeland Security and DHS’ Office of Terrorism Prevention has removed any reference to future funding from its website.  This decision does not reduce the threat but does give opportunity to re-examine the fundamentals of strategies ...

President Donald Trump now says U.S. troops will "slowly" be withdrawn from Syria after his controversial announcement in December, saying that troops would be pulled out within 30 days, led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis and the accelerated resignation of Special Envoy to Syria, Brett McGurk. The ...

The Administration will start the new year with a new acting Secretary of Defense after President Donald Trump accepted James Mattis’s resignation letter and moved up the date of his planned departure by two months.  President Trump named Patrick Shanahan to take on the acting Secretary of Defense role while ...

Reports that President Trump has ordered a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria are not inconsistent with prior messages we’ve heard from the President this year.  In April, The Cipher Brief polled a number of our Experts based on the President’s statements that he wanted to ‘bring our troops back ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On December 17, the U.S. reported that it had conducted six airstrikes in Somalia, killing 62 militants from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab. The U.S. has conducted 45 publicly confirmed airstrikes in Somalia in 2018, 14 more than in 2017, which was the greatest annual total up ...

Bottom Line Up Front:  The Trump Administration is confronting China on issues that have been developing for years and have percolated to the top of a list of concerns that are affecting bilateral relations.  The current 10% tariff on $250 billion of goods could escalate to 25% or higher if ...

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is out on bail in Vancouver while she fights an extradition request to the United States. This, as President Donald Trump suggested this week that he may intervene in efforts to prosecute her, if he thinks it will give the U.S. an advantage as it tackles ...

OPINION -- Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer last week joined the very public chorus of defense experts in questioning whether President Trump’s call for reducing fiscal 2020 DoD spending to $700 billion will actually take place. With the deficit soaring, Trump back in mid-October, told his cabinet members, with TV ...

OPINION -- “Do the Russians continue to hold some financial leverage over the president?”  That is one question Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) will be looking to get answered as he looks forward to January when he will take over the chairmanship of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “If the ...

The U.S. is calling for more rigorous enforcement of sanctions against Russia after Russian ships fired on and seized three Ukrainian boats on Sunday, claiming the ships had ‘illegally’ entered its waters.  Russia has been using Ukraine as a provocation point for some time, so will the tougher enforcement of ...

OPINION -- The media should be satisfied with President Trump’s telephoned “visit to the troops overseas” from his Mar-a-Lago resort on Thanksgiving Day, and not keep asking him when he plans to travel abroad to meet with them in a combat zone. First of all, the November 22, conversations were ...

President Donald Trump is expected to receive a full report on the killing of Washington Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Tuesday.  The President called a leaked CIA conclusion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the Khashoggi's killing "very premature" in comments over the weekend, though he ...

  Bottom Line Up Front As the recent World War I centenary tribute in Paris foreshadowed, the world order may be shifting, with the contours of a ‘Post-American Order’ slowly taking shape. The defining characteristic of a post-American world would be multipolarity, with revisionist powers like Russia and China growing ...

OPINION -- President Trump’s pre-election-day deployment of U.S. Army units on the southwest border may turn out to be more of a dangerous, long-term precedent than a short-term, political stunt. Forget about the Posse Comitatus Act, which in the past, has been thought to protect civilians from the government’s use ...

OPINION -- President Donald Trump’s recent threat to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) provides another false justification for adding to a needless, nuclear arms race that is already underway. Yes, the United States has a right to protest the fact that the Russians are breaking limitations ...

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is touting his recent trip to Pyongyang as a success, saying that he was able to make ‘real progress’ toward denuclearization, and that a second summit between North Korean President Kim Jung Un and President Donald Trump, will be announced soon. Cipher Brief Expert and ...

President Donald Trump largely followed the U.S. policy script on Iran when he addressed the United Nations on Wednesday.  So what exactly, did the key players get out of the verbal nack and forth and what does it mean for the future complicated relations between the U.S., its European partners, ...

Cipher Brief Expert and Former CIA Senior Deputy Counsel Robert Eatinger weighs in on the realities of a potential lawsuit. On last Sunday’s Meet the Press, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan said he was considering a court challenge to the President’s decision to revoke his security ...

Cipher Brief Update:  On August 23, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a Special Representative for North Korea.  Steve Biegun will "direct all U.S. policy on North Korea, lead negotiations, and spearhead our diplomatic efforts with our allies and partners," according to the State Department. Progress in nuclear dismantlement following ...

OPINION -- Don’t believe that President Trump’s retaliatory act of revoking former-CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance “will have a potentially chilling effect on the United States’ law enforcement and intelligence officers,” as the New York Times wrote in its Friday front page story. In my view, it will have ...

The backlash over President Trump’s decision last week to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan has gotten plenty of media attention over the past several days.  The Cipher Brief spokes with former CIA Chief of Station Dan Hoffman about a perspective not widely discussed. Hoffman: This ...

OPINION -- Congress has to take a serious, long, hard, public look at President Trump’s June off-the-cuff idea of a Space Corps, and turn down, rather than blindly approve, the idea for a fourth separate military service, with its own Secretary of Space.  It’s clear that the Trump administration has ...

By threatening a devastating war against Iran, President Donald Trump’s recent response to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani’s benign statement about “the mother of all peace” and “the mother of all war” is another example of erratic and dangerous foreign policy pronouncements. Trump tweeted in capital letters that Iran “will suffer ...

In a press conference on Monday, President Donald Trump reiterated his view that meeting with other world leaders is important, and again characterized his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin as “great”.  While details of that meeting still haven’t been widely shared, the President noted four areas where he ...

I served the United States for 48 years in various national security roles that required me to hold a security clearance.   I saw it as a privilege, granted by our government, and reflecting the nation’s trust and confidence in my loyalty and my professional knowledge and abilities.  It wasn’t, nor ...

OPINION -- President Trump’s repeated message that Russia’s possession of nuclear weapons requires him to have better relations with Vladimir Putin, should encourage China to sharply increase the size of its strategic nuclear forces. That’s the message in an article entitled, “China can learn from Trump’s Russia stance,” carried in ...

As most of the President’s men and women in senior roles re-iterated and even provided more detail about the Russian threat to U.S. national security in the days following the Helsinki summit, the President tasked his national security advisor to extend an invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit ...

In the four days since the Trump-Putin summit, we’ve seen a parade of justified emotion as Republicans joined the chorus of critics speaking out against the President’s performance at the Helsinki press conference. But as prominent members of his own party began to find their voice, and the President tried, ...

Cipher Brief Expert and former CIA Station Chief Dan Hoffman was in Helsinki filing question and answer dispatches for Cipher Brief members. Here’s a look at his post-summit brief: The Cipher Brief: Presidents Trump and Putin met for a little over two hours on Monday.  We’re told that aides were not ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Jill Dougherty, Global Fellow at The Wilson Center and CNN's former Moscow Bureau Chief, about what Putin will be able to take away from this summit. The Cipher Brief:  Tell me a little bit about how this summit is being reported on in Russia? Dougherty:  ...

Cipher Brief Expert and former CIA Station Chief Dan Hoffman is on the ground in Helsinki filing question and answer dispatches for Cipher Brief members.  He has deep expertise in the region and speaks fluent Finnish. Here’s a look at his first dispatch, hours before the summit is set to ...

UPDATED: As U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin emerge from their summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland, in which no aides were allowed in the meeting, The Cipher Brief takes an analytical look at the U.S. - Russian relationship under Putin.  Cipher Brief Expert Rob Dannenberg breaks down what we have ...

The White House put out a statement this morning as President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg offered comments to reporters before breakfast, with the President telling reporters that “We have a very good relationship.  Because of me, they’ve raised about $40 billion over the last year.  So ...

As a former member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service, I’m worried about the upcoming summit between the Chekist former KGB officer, President Vladimir Putin, and the former real estate businessman and reality show personality, President Donald Trump. My concerns center around the fact that Russia has much to gain, ...

Journalists need to find a way to pin down President Trump, and his June 10 press conference in Singapore provided a clear example of one way to do it. The subject was whether Trump had brought up human rights in his meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un. When first asked about ...

In my thirty-four years in law enforcement, I met with many confidential human sources working against terrorism, counter intelligence and violent crime targets.  I met them in inner city neighborhoods, rural small towns and a number of countries overseas.  The meetings often took place late at night, in the front ...

The Trump administration has yet to make public its objectives for a North Korea denuclearization agreement, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated what it should contain during questioning by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) last Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We are looking for the complete dismantlement of ...

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 ...

The framers of the U.S. Constitution decided 230 years ago to divide the nation’s war powers between the president and the Congress, making the president the commander in chief of the armed forces and giving the lawmakers the exclusive power to declare war. Yet, as 2018 gets underway, the executive ...