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, ...

President Donald Trump is currently on his first trip to China and East Asia. The visit comes at a time when America's allies in the region are increasingly anxious about their security—which should rightfully be a major focus of the trip. But it is critical that our economic future with ...

U.S. President Donald Trump responded to a flamboyant welcome by Chinese President Xi Jinping with effusive praise, as the two leaders presented a united front in the face of a belligerent North Korea. However, inconsistent statements on trade and other key issues in the relationship reflect a seemingly incoherent U.S. ...

There is little doubt that Putin’s foreign policy centers on reviving Russia as a major international power, which seeks to undermine the global American alliance that has underwritten international security since the end of the Cold War. Stretching across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, this alliance has continually thwarted ...

Jalalabad, AFGHANISTAN – When Donald Trump announced his administration’s strategy for Afghanistan, it was welcomed by Kabul’s leaders and other Afghan urban centers. Influential figures in politics, business, security and the media saw it as much-needed change from President Barack Obama’s stopwatch approach to the 16-year-long U.S. involvement in the ...

President Donald Trump’s trip to the region comes at an opportune time. The subject of North Korea will dominate much of the discussion in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing. Let’s begin in Japan. Prime Minister Abe comes to these discussions after an election victory that gives him greater domestic support and ...

Most discussions about the North Korea nuclear threat focus on the risk of conflict between the U.S. and North Korea. Serious as that is, an even more important issue is what the crisis will mean for the U.S. and China – the world’s most consequential relationship. Great risk and great ...

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 ...

Five months have passed since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5 over allegations that Doha is supporting terrorism and that it embraces Iran and its regional agenda. The dispute is not only the most significant of its kind ...

The longest war in U.S. history enters its 17th year on Saturday, with approximately 11,000  American forces still stationed in Afghanistan.  The campaign began on October 7, 2001 in response to the devastating September 11 terrorist attacks . On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and General Joseph Dunford, the ...

The concept of regime change – toppling a hostile or distasteful foreign government and replacing it with a friendly one – has long tantalized U.S. policymakers, inspiring covert actions like the U.S.-supported Iranian coup in 1953 to U.S. military invasion and occupations, such as Iraq in 2003. Under the Trump ...

Renewed calls for more stringent gun control legislation echoed throughout Washington on Monday, following Sunday night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. “It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something,” Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said Monday. Murphy has been one of the most vocal advocates for gun ...

The worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history raises tough questions about how to guard against attacks on open crowds – and puts more responsibility on the crowd itself to look out for threats and escape routes in any public setting, former NYPD Detective Sergeant Joseph Giacalone told The Cipher ...

Firing from 32 stories up at a crowd a block away, a lone gunman killed at least 59 people and injured hundreds more, in a devastating attack that has law enforcement rethinking how to keep Americans safe. The 64-year-old retiree opened fire on a Las Vegas country music festival, from ...

The United States has long sought to export its system of liberal democracy abroad. In places where military juntas and dictators have risen – and U.S. national interest aligns – American intelligence, particularly the CIA, has sought to effect regime change through covert measures to include information campaigns and direct ...

It is easy to see why regime change could be appealing to foreign policymakers. Why bother to persuade, bribe, or threaten a defiant foreign country when you could support opposition groups who promise to align their policies with the goals of the U.S. leadership? The issue of regime change has ...

President Donald Trump called negotiations with North Korea a waste of time Sunday morning, directly contradicting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statement only one day prior. “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…” Trump tweeted. ...

The new U.S. ambassador to Russia will go to Moscow at a grim time for U.S.-Russia relations, but his biggest challenge won’t come from the Kremlin — Washington will be the source of Jon Huntsman’s headaches. The new ambassador, confirmed by the Senate Thursday, faces a difficult balancing act between ...

Puerto Rico may well be the most unusual and paradoxical situation in world affairs, and now it ranks among the most tragic. The existence of more than 7 million Puerto Ricans would rank Puerto Rico among the 15 most populous U.S. states, except that more than half of these Puerto ...

The U.S.-led coalition has achieved significant success this year in the battle against ISIS, first in Mosul and now in Raqqa where nearly 80 percent of the city has cleared of ISIS fighters. However, there has also been a worrying spike in civilian casualties under the Trump Administration. U.S. Central ...

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 ...

The fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq is nearing its second major victory this year as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – an allied anti-ISIS militia umbrella group – close in on the last remaining pockets of ISIS forces in their self-proclaimed “capital” of Raqqa. The success of the ...

As Afghanistan’s neighbor to the west, Iran has significant security and economic interests vis-à-vis Afghanistan. Relations between the two countries have been complicated for centuries, but the complex nature reached new heights in the latter half of the 20th century after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 saw a Shiite regime ...

How governments view powerful tools like the internet often determines how they treat them. In the West, governments have sought to let citizens freely and openly engage with cyberspace – for trade, culture, and civic discourse. Others, such as Russia and China, see the internet as a powerful tool to ...

The administration of President Donald Trump has focused very little on the promotion of U.S. values – particularly international human rights – in its first nine months. At times the president and his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, have appeared to belittle the use of human rights in foreign policy ...

In remarks to his staff at the State Department this May, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to announce a departure from decades of U.S. foreign policy. While lauding the fundamental American values of “freedom, human dignity, and the way people are treated,” Tillerson went on to say that “those ...

Michael Morell, the former Acting Director and Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, agreed to The Cipher Brief’s request to do an unusual interview. We asked Michael to play the role of a senior Chinese intelligence analyst responsible for making assessments about the U.S. and U.S. policy. We asked ...

Most casual students of U.S. history and foreign policy consider the beginning of the Carter Administration (1977) as the point at which concern for human rights became a factor in American foreign policy decision-making. Often overlooked is the fact that the U.S. led efforts to draft the UN’s Universal Declaration ...

In miniature, President Trump’s impetuous attempt to ban transgender individuals from military service illustrates why he is not qualified to be Commander-in-Chief of America’s armed forces. Start with his initial surprise announcement via Twitter at 6:55 a.m. on July 26th. Trump began his tweeting with a false statement: “After consultation ...

Following North Korea’s six nuclear test, reported to be far more powerful than any previous test conducted by the Kim regime, many wonder if denuclearizing North Korea is possible. Ambassador Joseph Detrani, former Special Envoy for the Six Party Talks and Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the Cipher ...

North Korea detonated a nuclear weapon underground early Sunday morning, demonstrating both its destructive power as well as its defiance of the international community. In this, North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, the blast’s power reportedly exceeded – by up to seven times - that of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima ...

Immediately following President Donald Trump's speech on Afghanistan last Monday, the gears of the U.S. foreign policy machine began to turn, and experts analyzed what the President’s statement meant for troop numbers, the scope of those troops’ mission, and whether this new approach differed from that of Trump’s predecessors. The Cipher ...

During a primetime address to the nation last Monday, President Donald Trump laid out his vision for the United States in Afghanistan: “our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win.” Standing in front of a large audience of U.S. service members and key members of his Cabinet, ...

The President will speak to the nation directly Monday night, the White House announced, to discuss his Administration’s strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia writ large. The announcement came just days after Trump held a high-level strategy meeting at Camp David that Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters yielded ...

The U.S.-South Korea joint Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercises begin Monday, after days of bellicose rhetoric between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – and followed by Defense Secretary James Mattis announcing there will be “strong military consequences” if North Korea “initiates hostilities.” Mattis and Secretary ...

The U.S. and South Korea will hold joint military exercises beginning on Monday, as tensions on the Korean peninsula are on the rise. U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un engaged in a war of words over the past few weeks, with Trump saying he would release ...

In the early days of our republic, George Washington warned against “entangling alliances.” In 1821, after strenuous debate, John Quincy Adams decided not to speak in favor of Greek Independence because we “go not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” We, Americans, have always had a desire to stick ...

Three days after the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Donald Trump said “racism is evil” and called out the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, “and other hate groups” as “criminals and thugs.” A 20-year old Ohio man believed to be a Nazi sympathizer has been charged with second degree murder, ...

When North Korea commits a provocation, the U.S. often responds by conducting a flyover with its strategic bombers. American bombers flew over South Korea after both of Pyongyang’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile tests this month as well as nuclear tests in previous years. Strategic bombers can display American power and ...

The White House’s National Security team is expected to issue a report early this week outlining U.S. options for deterring adversaries in cyber space.  The report, called for as part of President Donald Trump’s Cyber Executive Order issued last May, is expected to offer a range of options from economic ...

As President Donald Trump struggles to find a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, The Cipher Brief’s Mackenzie Weinger spoke to two experts — retired Lieutenant General Guy Swan, and retired Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — to get their respective insights on ...

In retaliation for the wave of new sanctions the United States Congress passed, Moscow has ordered the U.S. cut 755 diplomatic staff by September. The demand will likely end up hitting local Russian staff particularly hard, given they vastly outnumber the American embassy and consulate personnel in Russia. President Donald ...

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords last month was widely denounced as a blow to global climate change cooperation. However, it has also been used by some observers to mark a turning point in President Trump’s vision of American global leadership. The Cipher Brief’s ...

When President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement this June, it confirmed the administration’s intent to pull back on international efforts to combat global climate change. The Cipher Brief’s Fritz Lodge spoke with the Director of Population, Environmental Security, and Resilience at the Wilson Center, Roger-Mark ...

President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement this June was met with immediate outcry from both domestic opponents of the president and international partners. Business leaders like Elon Musk of SpaceX and Bob Iger of Disney quit White House advisory councils in protest, ...

A large portion of what U.S. special operations forces do in Africa is security force assistance – training, advising and equipping partner militaries – rather than putting large numbers of U.S. boots on the ground. What are America’s aims with this strategy, and is it effective? The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin ...

U.S. President Donald Trump’s “war on terror” – much like his predecessor’s – uses partners’ capabilities against terrorists in an effort to protect the country from potential attacks, while minimizing U.S casualties. In Africa, Trump’s continuation of this strategy has resulted in increased reliance on U.S. special operations forces. The ...

On the night of May 5, Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a senior chief special warfare operator, was killed during an attack on al-Shabaab militants outside Mogadishu, Somalia. Two other U.S. soldiers were wounded. Milliken was the first U.S. military death in the country since the infamous 1993 Black Hawk Down ...

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has demanded a cut in the number of United States diplomats in the country and said it will seize two U.S. diplomatic properties in Russia. These actions come as a response to the U.S. Congress passing a wave of new sanctions against Moscow Thursday afternoon. Both chambers ...

The United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation on Tuesday to impose tough new sanctions and codify existing sanctions against Russia into law, placing limits on any possible efforts by the president to try to lift sanctions against Moscow. The vote was 419-3. The sanctions package also targets Iran ...