When it comes to the world’s most fragile states, two of the wealthiest and most-developed countries, the United States and the United Kingdom, would not normally top the list. But by certain key metrics, they do: both significantly worsened in the category of “group grievance” – the indicator that measures feelings ...

President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey coincides with the ramping up of multiple investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with Trump campaign associates. On Tuesday, Senate investigators on the Senate Intelligence Committee asked the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network ...

Late Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump fired the Director of the FBI, Jim Comey, citing his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server – an investigation concluded in 2016, and one for which Trump praised Comey during the presidential campaign. The suddenness of the ...

As the White House sent shockwaves through Washington Tuesday, with the announcement that President Donald Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey, James Clapper –  former Director of National Intelligence and The Cipher Brief network expert— said it was “a huge loss for the nation, the FBI, and the Intelligence ...

As FBI Director, James Comey was not only a pivotal member of the Intelligence Community (IC), but the head of an organization investigating whether Russia interfered in last year’s U.S. elections. To get an IC perspective on Comey’s dismissal by the Trump Administration, The Cipher Brief’s Leone Lakhani talked with ...

FBI Director James Comey’s firing is likely to have massive implications for the image of the United States around the world – particularly if, as former National Counterterrorism Center Director Mike Leiter suggests, a special prosecutor is appointed to oversee the investigation of Russian interference in last year’s election. The ...

Despite former President Barack Obama’s efforts to cut U.S. military commitments in the Middle East, events quickly drew his Administration back into the region. Civil war in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and, particularly, ISIS’s 2014 expansion into Iraq combined to keep Washington militarily involved the region. However, the nature of this ...

U.S. special operations forces are widely considered to be some of the most highly trained and effective military units in the world and, as a result, they have played a critical role in America’s wars. Nowhere is that truer than in the Middle East and North Africa, where the U.S. ...

The role of U.S. special operations forces (SOF) in the Middle East has expanded steadily since the inception of the counter-ISIS campaign in 2014. In part, this expansion is due to the metastasis of ISIS into Libya, Yemen, and other countries beyond its major land-holding presence in Iraq and Syria. But ...

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the State Department staff last week that our policy must ensure American security and economic interests first but also reflect American values. He said our relationships needed rebalancing and then toured the globe to describe how we should be active everywhere. He’s also going to ...

The administration of President Donald Trump has thrown key tenets of U.S foreign policy into question. After campaigning on a platform that skewered global free trade deals, called for economically nationalist policies, and questioned the U.S. alliance system, President Trump has so far done little to assuage international fears that ...

As North Korea’s provocations increase, questions have been raised about whether the Trump Administration’s responses have made matters worse and if there really is a strategy to deal with Pyongyang’s expanding nuclear and missile programs. President Donald Trump has used harsh rhetoric toward North Korea, saying “all options are on ...

When Yitzhak Rabin met with President Gerald Ford on his first visit to Washington as Israel’s Prime Minister in 1974, he sought to cash in on Ford’s earlier promise to him that he would move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem if he ever became president. Ford remembered the ...

The apparent shift by the Trump Administration towards more traditional foreign policy has been welcomed by many inside, and more outside, of the U.S., as the global security system depends on a strong American role. Nevertheless, even a more ‘normal’ Trump foreign policy harbors risks, known and unknown. The known ...

It might be a “ridiculous standard,” as President Donald Trump put it, but presidents are measured by their first 100 days in office. In fact, even Trump has bought into it. On the 90th day of his administration, he proclaimed, “No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days.” ...

As we approach President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in the White House, it remains difficult to discern U.S. policy toward Russia.  The Administration has yet to articulate a clear policy, and its actions and words send mixed messages regarding American intentions toward Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin.  There ...

As the Trump Administration marks 100 days in office, there have been shuffles in the National Security Council, a strike in Syria, tough talk on North Korea, and plans for a controversial travel ban. What did the Trump team get right? And what was off the mark? The Cipher Brief ...

When President Barack Obama nominated Michele Flournoy to be Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, she became the highest-ranking woman in the Pentagon’s history.  She was rumored to be Hillary Clinton’s pick for Secretary of Defense.  And after President Donald Trump’s election, General James Mattis asked her to be his ...

The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel spoke with Michael Leiter, former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, about U.S. government efforts to counter violent extremism. Leiter says that instead of debating the name of the program, officials should focus on creating a single department charged with leading initiatives to counter violent ...

U.S. counterterrorism efforts have achieved their fair share of successes – killing terrorist leaders with drone strikes and commando raids, keeping terrorist cells on the run so they can’t plot future attacks, and destroying militants’ underground bases and infrastructure. But one glaring weakness in the U.S. counterterrorism strategy is the ...

In February, reports emerged that the administration of President Donald Trump was considering rebranding the Obama-era Countering Violent Extremism program to “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism.” This idea quickly sparked a public backlash from rights groups and Democratic congressional representatives who argue that the re-designation would both discriminate against Muslim communities ...

The process of radicalization, by which disaffected members of society are convinced to embrace violent means to pursue the goals of a terrorist ideology, has been intensely studied since the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, the threat of international terrorism has become one of the ...

The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Charlie Allen, former Under Secretary for Security and Analysis at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to discuss the continued threat that individuals who become radicalized pose to U.S. security. According to Allen, several factors drive people toward jihadist ideology including a ...

It is probably not a bad thing that U.S. President Donald Trump recently dispatched Jared Kusher, his son-in-law and his Administration’s jack-of-all-issues, to Iraq. As one of the few White House advisers implicitly trusted by the president, Kushner may be the person to quickly get the President’s ear about what ...

Now that President Donald Trump has demonstrated his willingness to get tough with a regional bad actor by using a cruise missile attack to punish the Assad regime and try to deter it from any future uses of chemical weapons, similar deterrent actions against challenging Iranian behavior seem more likely. ...

The United States has been the standard-bearer for free trade, multilateralism, and globalization since the end of World War II. However, as the Trump administration seems to back away from that historic role, new powers like China are rushing – at least rhetorically – to take advantage of the strategic ...

Since taking office in January, President Donald Trump has backed up the protectionist – and even isolationist – rhetoric of his campaign with concrete action. In a flurry of activity, the president has confirmed his intent not to pursue ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade treaty, signed two executive ...

The presidency of Donald Trump has had a rocky start, punctuated by embarrassing personnel shakeups, sloppy messaging, and major policy changes. However, the administration has remained relatively consistent on one central economic theme, first introduced in the campaign and vigorously pursued after President Trump’s inauguration, that of “America First.” From ...

Donald Trump entered the presidency committed to improving U.S. ties with Russia, but less than three months into his term, the President says the relationship is at “an all-time low.” Trump’s comments come in the wake of last week's U.S. missile strike on Syria’s Shayrat Air Base in response to ...

President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that “North Korea is looking for trouble” following Pyongyang’s threat to use nuclear force against the United States.  North Korea’s official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said, “Our revolutionary strong army is keenly watching every move by enemy elements with our nuclear sight focused on the U.S. ...

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Moscow for meetings with Russian officials at a time when U.S. rhetoric toward Russia has intensified in the wake of a deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria. The U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at Syria’s Shayrat Air Base last week in response to ...

In his first summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping offered his counterpart a Chinese calligraphy scroll with the aphorism “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Despite the lofty stakes involved in one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships, the achievements ...

In their first summit, Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping needed to demonstrate their leadership and authority to their respective publics. President Trump needed to show he was in charge and restore momentum after a major legislative defeat over health care reform. A validation of President Xi’s ability to manage ...

At 8:40PM EDT last Thursday, as the two were wrapping up a ceremonial dinner with their families, President Donald Trump informed President Xi Jinping that the United States was concluding a cruise missile strike against a Syrian airfield involved in a chemical weapons attack against rebels earlier in the week. ...

The United States launched a missile strike on a Syrian air base early Friday morning, local time, in response to this week’s deadly chemical weapons attack in Idlib province. The strike marked U.S. forces’ first direct assault on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime since the country’s devastating civil war began ...

After the United States launched airstrikes against a Syrian airfield late Thursday night, The Cipher Brief reached out to Rob Richer, the former Associate Deputy Director of Operations at the Central Intelligence Agency and Cipher Brief Network Expert, to discuss the message the Trump Administration has sent to the Assad ...

U.S. President Donald Trump, in a filmed statement from his Mar-a-lago resort Thursday night – where he is currently meeting President Xi – said the strike was “in [the] vital national security interest of the U.S.,” adding that “years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed.” The ...

Late on Thursday night, U.S. naval vessels stationed in the Mediterranean fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat Syrian military air base near Homs. The strike comes in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack on Monday in the rebel-held province of Idlib, which killed over 70 people. This ...

Since at least the 1979 Iranian revolution, intelligence and national security analysts have been working hard to identify the causal factors that lead to political instability. Working hard and yet struggling. Many factors, such as high infant mortality, have been found to correlate with the onset of political instability, and ...

The metro bombing in St. Petersburg Monday and White House comments that the U.S. will do what it can to help Russia get to the bottom of the incident raise the question of future Russia-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a senior fellow at ...

Even by the standards of the Trump Administration’s generally rocky start, the State Department has fared badly in media reporting and insider commentary. Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS program March 19, summed up the alleged litany of problems, from the huge budget cuts ...

Though the battle to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Mosul is slowly reaching its denouement, the campaign to take the jihadists’ Syrian stronghold of Raqqa has not experienced similar success. Insufficient combat-ready troops, a shortage of heavy artillery and ominous tensions between Kurds and Turks ...

The diversity and scope of national security challenges facing the U.S. continues to grow, asking ever more of an Intelligence Community (IC) that must stretch its resources to meet these demands. The move toward greater integration since the advent of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) has been critical to ...

The elites still don’t get it. Brexit, Trump, surging right-wing nationalism on both sides of the Atlantic; and yet time after time, the media and global leaders who helped steer the U.S. and Europe into the current morass of broken politics miss the forest for the trees in trying to ...

Since negotiations concluded for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in late 2015, observers have argued that Asian policymakers would interpret failure of the pact as a sign of America’s declining interest in the region or inability to assert leadership. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned in 2015, “Failing to get ...

New rules go into effect this weekend that restrict electronic items in passenger cabins on U.S.-bound flights. The measures are being taken as a security precaution to thwart potential threats. The ban includes flights on nine international airlines operating out of 10 airports in the Middle East, North Africa and ...

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes on Wednesday said he had seen intelligence reports showing that communications of President Donald Trump’s transition team had been picked up during foreign surveillance operations. Nunes, who had been a member of Trump’s transition team, told reporters it was “incidental collection” of the communications ...

We are living in a more complex world, with more state and non-state actors demanding more of our attention.  When we actively contributed to the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the success of the Solidarity Movement in Poland, and the eventual demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 ...

The term “Deep State” has achieved new popularity in recent weeks, but not in reference to opaque military elites in faraway countries. Today, the term is aimed at the U.S. government itself. In particular, the deep state has become a catchall term, which credits a shadow network of spies and ...

U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met face to face for the first time Friday during Merkel’s visit to Washington. In a joint press conference following the meeting, Merkel said she always maintained it is better to talk with each other than about each other, and “I ...