Bottom Line Up Front Iran has experienced intermittent periods of unrest in the decades since its Islamic Revolution of 1979, but the situation unfolding in early 2020 is exceptional. Dispatches from the protests suggest that Iranians believe that the highest levels of the government are responsible and must be ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group in Somalia, is resurging again and demonstrating the ability to launch attacks with impunity. Since March 2017, al-Shabaab has launched close to 900 attacks on civilians and hundreds more against U.S., Somali, and Kenyan troops.  Al-Shabaab controls vast swaths of ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Early this week, U.S. Attorney General William Barr labeled the December 6 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola as an act of terrorism. The attack, which killed three and injured eight, was conducted by Saudi citizen Mohammed Alshamrani, who was in Pensacola for military training. ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Following the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian response that targeted Iraqi bases, the possibility of a conventional war between the United States and Iran seems to have diminished. Despite the decreasing tensions, both Washington and Tehran are likely to engage in asymmetric ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran responded to the death of IRGC-QF Major General Qassim Soleimani by launching nearly two dozen ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases where American troops are stationed. On January 8, U.S. President Donald Trump announced further sanctions against Iran but also suggested that ‘the United States ...

  Bottom Line Up Front A key Iranian response to the U.S. strike that killed Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani will be to try to permanently oust the 6,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Iraq. Iran has already put to use a combination of its military and political levers in ...

  Bottom Line Up Front A U.S. strike that killed the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force, IRGC Major General Qassem Soleimani, and the founder of the pro-Iranian Iraqi militia Kata’ib Hezbollah, represents a major escalation of U.S. conflict with Iran. The strike appeared to represent direct ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The December 29 U.S. strike on the Iran-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah (KAH) militia in Iraq represented the first kinetic U.S. response to Iranian provocations that began in May. The U.S. strike, although provoked by a KAH rocket attack that killed a U.S. defense contractor, has harmed ...

OPINION -- The Trump administration’s new attempt to open strategic nuclear talks with China “ASAP,” as mentioned in a State Department tweet last Friday, focuses on the wrong subject. Any talks about strategic deterrence among nations should be dealing first with the future of cyber warfare and weaponry rather than ...

  Bottom Line up Front Iran is pursuing a variety of methods in an effort to preserve its influence in Iraq and Lebanon in the face of protests against existing power structures. Iran’s allies in both countries include technocrats who might satisfy popular demands for competent governance while maintaining ties ...

Bottom Line Up Front Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan, recently returned to Kabul to jumpstart political negotiations with the Taliban. Talks are currently inching toward a ceasefire, though an agreement on the specifics has yet to be reached. One of the most significant variables impacting the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front U.S.-Iran tensions are escalating again after three months of relative stability. U.S. officials report that Iran is resupplying its allies and proxies in Yemen and in Iraq with increasingly sophisticated short-range missile equipment. U.S. commanders cite the Iranian military movements as evidence that Iran might ...

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 The top commander for U.S. forces in the Middle East warned that the growing U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf might not be enough to deter Iran from attacking Gulf states. The comments by CENTCOM commander Gen. McKenzie followed publication of a Defense Intelligence ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The release of a trove of Chinese government documents offers close insight into a vast campaign of incarceration, intimidation, and abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province. China has relied heavily on emerging technology and artificial intelligence to track, monitor, and ...

  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 ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On October 9, Turkey launched a cross-border offensive into northern Syria using airstrikes, artillery bombardments, and a ground invasion against Kurdish positions. The United States and Turkey have never agreed on Washington’s strategy of fighting the Islamic State by arming the Kurds. The abrupt decision ...

  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 The September 14 strike on Saudi critical energy infrastructure by Iran or one of its allies directly challenges U.S. regional and global interests. The attack demonstrates Iran’s ability to cause severe damage through precision strikes. The incident illustrates that U.S. sanctions are not succeeding in ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Over the weekend, Houthi rebels launched a drone attack against Saudi Arabia, targeting the Saudi Aramco crude stabilization facility in Abqaiq and an oil field at Hijra Khurais with ten drones. Despite Saudi Arabia spending untold sums on missile defense, Houthi-operated drones have been able ...

  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 Upcoming Russian-Iranian naval drills put Moscow clearly on the side of Tehran in the crisis unfolding between the United States and Iran. The Trump administration’s policy of 'maximum pressure’ will continue to drive Iran closer to U.S. adversaries and critics, particularly Russia. The emerging Iranian-Russian ...

  Bottom Line Up Front America’s longest war - soon approaching its 18th year in Afghanistan - is not over although it may be entering a new phase. The potential U.S.-Taliban deal comes at a time of maximum leverage for the Taliban, which controls more territory in 2019 than at ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Early this week, the G7 countries concluded several days of meetings in Biarritz, France. U.S. President Donald Trump has been clear about his desire that Russia be readmitted into the group, although European leaders have taken a harder line. Europe has continued to demonstrate crucial ...

  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 The latest attack by Houthi rebels against Saudi oil and gas infrastructure involved ten drones equipped with improvised explosives. The Saudis have achieved none of their goals in Yemen, while Iranian influence in the conflict, including Tehran’s support of the Houthis, has increased over time. ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On August 8, the United Nations released a new report that details accelerating climate change and its negative impact on global food supplies. A major second-order effect of climate change is an increase in migration, as individuals seek to relocate in hopes of escaping poverty, ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Amidst escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf, officials from the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) recently met with their counterparts in Iran to discuss maritime security. Both the United States and the United Kingdom are exploring potential options to increase maritime security in the Gulf. Unlike ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Several high-level reports published over the past few weeks reiterate what most terrorism and security analysts have been saying for months—the so-called Islamic State (IS) is alive and well in Iraq and Syria. Over the past several months, IS has waged a campaign of assassinations, ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The Persian Gulf remains a potential flashpoint as the United States and its allies increase their deployments and Iran strengthens its defense posture. Iran's seizure of another Gulf oil tanker in early August demonstrates Tehran's confidence in its strategic position throughout the region. The muted ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On July 22, 2019, China issued a new defense white paper titled China's National Defense in the New Era. The white paper stresses China's ‘peaceful intentions’ and focuses on defensive capabilities while affirming the Communist Party's stance on Taiwan and acknowledging the increasing strategic rivalry ...

This weekend’s back to back shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio highlight, in the deadliest way, growing concerns that the U.S. is fighting its own extremism problem. As authorities look into the motives in both attacks, we must act promptly to thwart future attacks.  Here’s how we can ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On July 27, Bahrain executed three men, two of whom were Shia activists convicted of terrorism charges and murder. The trial of Ali al-Arab and Ahmed al-Malali has been condemned by human rights experts as a travesty, with allegations of torture and forced confessions. Bahrain’s ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Pakistani authorities have arrested Hafiz Saeed, founder of the terrorist group LeT and mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Pakistan outlawed LeT in 2002, although the group continues to operate with the assistance of elements of the Pakistani security services.  New Prime Minister Imran Khan ...

  Bottom Line Up Front: In July 2019, China conducted joint military exercises with two European powers, Germany and France. Through Chinese president Xi Jinping’s signature policy, the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing is seeking to expand its economic and political influence abroad. Although China touts BRI as an economic ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran’s recent responses to U.S. pressure, including to the UK-led seizure of a Syria-bound Iranian oil tanker, have brought the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal to the brink of collapse. The UK and other European countries still seek to de-escalate tensions and avoid a U.S.-Iran military ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Following months of fighting, Sudan’s current ruling military government and the political opposition have forged a power-sharing agreement.  What happens next in Sudan will depend in large part on the rivalries and divisions that characterize the current regime, which is far from a monolith. One ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran have now returned to the core issue of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s recent actions, including violating terms of the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement, are intended to make the Trump administration pay a price for its ‘maximum pressure’ campaign. ...

When he became Secretary of Defense in early 2001, Donald Rumsfeld publicly expressed his concern about the inevitability of surprise. He often reminded other officials that “The only surprising thing is that we continue to be surprised when a surprise occurs.” Secretary Rumsfeld was fond of sharing the celebrated strategist ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Since April, Houthi rebels have conducted at least ten separate missile or drone strikes on Saudi targets, including airports, oil pipelines, and other energy infrastructure. Despite boasting the world’s third largest military budget, the Saudis’ Patriot missile-defense system has performed inconsistently in the face of ...

From The Cipher Brief's Open Source Collection newsletter, U.S. officials and Cipher Brief experts are warning U.S. businesses to remain vigilant as tensions between Iran and the U.S. continue.  Christopher Krebs, director of DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a warning over the weekend that “malicious cyberactivity” was on the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The U.S. and Iran are close to a conflict that would have no clear end and could quickly spread throughout the Middle East and beyond. Iran has acquired leverage by building proxies and allies into politico-military forces, arming them with short-range missiles, rockets, and other ...

  Bottom Line Up Front: In recent weeks, peaceful demonstrators in Hong Kong have gathered in large numbers to protest a controversial extradition bill with Mainland China. Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam has indefinitely suspended the bill but recently ignored protesters’ demands to withdraw the bill completely. Since 1997, ...

  Bottom Line Up Front For the first time since 2001, there might be meaningful Congressional oversight over the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). From a legal standpoint, the U.S. has relied on the 2001 AUMF for nearly all of its military engagements in the post-9/11 era. ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Shortly after being released from prison, Seuxis Pausias Hernandez, a former commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was sworn in as a member of Colombia’s congress. The transformation from rebel leader to politician was enabled by a 2016 accord between Bogota and ...

Bottom Line Up Front Last week, President Trump announced that the U.S. would be deploying an additional 1,000 troops to Poland. The deployment is reflective of the changing nature of U.S. alliances in Europe, with non-traditional allies growing much closer to the U.S. over the past two decades. The current ...

A spokesman for the Iranian atomic agency said Monday that within 10 days, the country will pass the allowed limit for low-grade uranium enrichment under the nuclear deal struck in 2015. The U.S. walked away from the deal in May of 2018.    Also on Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sent a warning to his ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On June 13, two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman were damaged by apparent sabotage, as explosions ripped through the side of the ships. The U.S. has publicly blamed Iran for the attacks, as well as for similar incidents in May. American allies have ...

In the midst of recent escalatory statements and actions between the U.S. and Iran, a spokesman for the Iranian atomic agency said Monday that within 10 days, the country will pass the allowed limit for low-grade uranium enrichment under the nuclear deal struck in 2015. The U.S. walked away from ...