Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, US Army (Ret) was the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs from 2008-2009. Prior to that, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Affairs from 2006-2008. These positions followed a 30-year career in the military with service as Deputy Director for ...

The Cipher Brief’s Academic Incubator program partners with colleges and Universities across the country on highlighting the next generation of national security leaders.  If your program is interested in joining the Academic Incubator, which provides free Cipher Brief memberships for enrolled students and faculty, send an email to [email protected] Youssef Elshamy ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Following intensified fighting in Syria between Turkey and the Assad regime, thousands of refugees are fleeing the country in an effort to reach Europe. Erdogan threatened, and then followed through on his threat, to open Turkey’s borders to refugees and to provide them with a ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Dozens of Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike on Thursday in a development that threatens to drastically escalate the conflict in Syria. In an effort to pressure European countries, Erdogan suggested that Turkey would open its border to millions of Syrian refugees and provide ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Turkey has intervened in Libya’s internecine civil war in an effort to prop up the increasingly beleaguered Government of National Accord (GNA). A recent Russian-Turkish initiative seems to have produced a conditional cease-fire, though it remains to be seen how durable the cessation of hostilities ...

As NATO members meet in London this week, The Cipher Brief tapped former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.) to help cut through some of the rhetoric and understand the Alliance’s strategic importance today to both the U.S. and its allies. The Cipher Brief:  What's your ...

Bottom Line Up Front NATO countries gathered this week to celebrate the alliance’s 70th anniversary amidst growing uncertainty over the institution’s future. In a recent interview, French President Emmanuel Macron lamented that ‘what we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO.’ NATO has been criticized as an anachronism, ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Turkey recently sent a dozen Islamic State prisoners back to their respective home countries, while Erdogan has promised to send more home over the next weeks and months. Most countries, particularly in the European Union (EU), have refused to repatriate captured foreign fighters, stripping them ...

OPINION -- Donald Trump as president displays weakness toward those he envies as strong foreign leaders, while he acts like a bully toward leaders he considers less powerful than himself.  Those contrasting natures were on full display last Wednesday. At the same time Trump was offering unwarranted concessions to Turkish ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On October 26, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a raid by U.S. forces in northern Syria near the Turkish border. The October 27th announcement by President Trump marks another shift for a group that has persisted as a 'brand' and global insurgency for years. ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Earlier in the week, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia, where the two leaders negotiated the contours of a post-American Syria. While Moscow is one of the clear winners of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria, there ...

  Bottom Line Up Front As the United States continues its hasty withdrawal from Syria, Russia has consolidated immense leverage in the country. Acting as Assad’s air force, Russia has helped to reverse the regime’s territorial losses, committing war crimes by targeting civilians and hospitals. Given the recent U.S. withdrawal ...

OPINION – Why is there no Whistleblower in the case of President Trump’s October 6, phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan?  Who was on the line with Trump? Anonymous Pentagon sources last Tuesday said Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Milley were on the line, ...

OPINION -- President Donald Trump’s decision to remove the small contingent of United States troops remaining in Syria is a disaster on multiple levels. It illustrates not only his reckless instincts on foreign policy but also the near-total absence of a process for making momentous decisions in his administration. For process, Trump’s style ...

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is defending President Trump’s decision to withdraw support for Kurdish troops in Northeast Syria, saying Turkey has a “legitimate security concern’.  Meanwhile, other countries, along with both Republican and Democrat members of Congress in the U.S., are condemning the move calling it a betrayal ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On Sunday evening, the Trump administration released a statement from the White House press secretary that signals a major shift in U.S. policy toward Syria. The decision to pull back and allow a Turkish military incursion means that Washington has betrayed its truest allies in ...

The White House announced Sunday that President Trump will endorse a Turkish military operation near the border with Syria that will target Kurdish forces.  Turkey sees the forces as a terrorist insurgency but many of those forces fight alongside the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.) battling ISIS in the region. ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The Assad regime again demanded the immediate withdrawal of U.S. and Turkish troops from Syria, labeling them ‘occupying forces.’ Meanwhile, the United States and Turkey are finalizing a so-called safe zone along Turkey’s eastern border with Syria, which will introduce ancillary issues. The U.S. continues ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On the heels of its suspension from the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program, Turkey is now reportedly considering joint development of its own fighter jet with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin seized the suspension as an opportunity for Russia to capitalize on Turkey’s rift with ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Turkey’s Defense Ministry claims that earlier this week, a Turkish convoy was bombed in Idlib province in northwest Syria. There have been ongoing clashes between Assad’s regime and fighters from the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA). Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria, is a ...

  Bottom Line Up Front By purchasing Russian S-400 missiles, Turkey has complicated an already strained relationship with NATO and the West. The U.S. has ejected Turkey from the F-35 program, while insisting that Turkey remains a trusted NATO partner. The past several years have seen Ankara move further away ...

President Trump took to Twitter this week, tweeting, "Hearing word that Russia, Syria and, to a lesser extent, Iran, are bombing the hell out of Idlib Province in Syria, and indiscriminately killing many innocent civilians. The World is watching this butchery. What is the purpose, what will it get you? ...

Ripped straight from the headlines, there are a number of current, inter-related political and security issues that could have a significant impact on the U.S.’ future security posture, including NATO’s future capabilities, exploration and control of the Arctic, Huawei and a race for dominance in space.   The Cipher Brief ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On May 5 the Turkish Foreign Minister said his country would accept delivery of Russian S-400 missiles. The prospect of a NATO member purchasing advanced Russian missile systems, specifically designed to shoot down NATO planes, is creating serious tensions within the decades-long alliance. There is ...

  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 ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Turkey’s ruling AKP party is asking for a full recount in the mayoral election in Istanbul, making accusations of ‘wide-spread crimes.’ Defeats for the AKP in the nation-wide elections demonstrate that despite Erdogan’s attempt to consolidate power, there remains a very credible political opposition across ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On January 13th, the Turkish military sent reinforcements to the border region with Syria. The move comes as the terrorist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has consolidated control over sections of Idlib Province. The HTS defeat of Turkish-backed rebels threatens the cease-fire brokered by Moscow ...

The 19 December announcement by President Trump to withdraw ground troops from Syria was surprising to everyone but should have come as a shock to no one. Here's why: First, ISIS may not be destroyed, but one is hard pressed to suggest that it remains an existential threat to the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On December 19, 2018, President Trump unexpectedly announced a full withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Syria within the next 30 days. This pronouncement is at odds with the administration’s current strategy, as well as counsel of top military leadership. The Defense Department has strongly ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The U.S. will likely maintain an enduring military presence in Syria for years, in an extremely complex operating environment. Washington sees its force posture as necessary to check the expansion of Iranian influence, yet others, like Turkey, Russia, and the Assad regime, view the situation ...

  Bottom Line Up Front At some point today, the U.S. government is expected to release its assessment on the murder of U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. President Trump has already minimized the assessment, questioning ‘will anybody really know?’ when asked about the Khashoggi murder ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The most significant U.S. sanctions on Iran—aimed at Tehran’s core energy and banking sectors—went back into effect on Monday November 5. The goal of the re-imposition of sanctions is multifold: to deny the Iranian government the revenue it needs to develop strategic weapons or other ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On October 19, Saudi Arabia once again changed its official response to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi from a denial to an implausible cover story. The manner in which other countries react to the official version of events from Riyadh is extremely important; Saudi citizens ...

Bottom Line Up Front As the details continue to emerge, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi appears to be a political assassination, potentially orchestrated by the Saudi government. There are reports, given credence by President Trump, that the royal family will seek to blame ‘rogue elements’ for Khashoggi’s murder, however implausible ...

Bottom Line Up Front The disappearance and likely murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is the latest episode in an on-again, off-again struggle between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long been pushing to move his country back into position as the ...

Bottom Line Up Front: On September 7, the leaders of Russia, Turkey, and Iran are scheduled to meet in Tehran to discuss the Syrian civil war and the pending campaign to retake Idlib. Turkish President Recep Erdogan hopes the summit can forestall an all-out regime offensive in Idlib, where Turkey ...

Iran hasn’t been the only target of U.S. sanctions in the past week.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered retaliatory sanctions again two unnamed U.S. officials after the U.S. ordered sanctions against two Turkish ministers last week.  That action came in response to Turkey’s refusal to release North Carolina pastor ...

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is in Washington for talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  On the Agenda are a number of important strategic issues among the NATO allies, including U.S. support of the Syrian Kurdish YPG - a group deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, as well ...

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. ...

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: 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 ...

The Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has exacerbated existing tensions between Turkey and Israel, only 18 months after the two countries reconciled. Bucking years of precedent by the international community, President Donald Trump’s announcement provoked wide criticism and prompted an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders in Istanbul. Turkish ...

Limited visa services will resume between the United States and Turkey after they were halted last month following the arrest of a U.S. consulate employee in Istanbul. The U.S. Embassy in Ankara issued a statement on Monday saying it has received “high-level assurances" from Turkey that no other employees are ...

On Sunday, the U.S. embassy announced the suspension of Turkish visa applications for the U.S., stating that “recent events…have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission facilities and personnel.” In retaliation, the Turkish government suspended its own ...

On Sunday, the U.S. embassy announced the suspension of Turkish visa applications for the U.S., stating that “recent events…have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission facilities and personnel.” In retaliation, the Turkish government suspended its own ...

Relations between Turkey and the United States have hit a new low point with tit-for-tat visa suspensions after the arrest of a U.S. embassy employee. "The last time bilateral ties between the two countries hit a crisis point like this would be late 1970s, in the aftermath of the Cyprus ...

Today, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq is holding a historic referendum on Kurdish independence. Kurds are widely expected to overwhelmingly vote Yes, a result that threatens once again to undermine the fragile Iraqi state – split between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish regions – and is causing consternation throughout ...

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 ...