Syria

March 23, 2017
While the U.S. remains focused on defeating ISIS in Syria and Iraq, al Qaeda in Syria is accumulating strength at an alarming pace and may eventually pose the most daunting counterterrorism challenge that the U.S. has ever faced.
March 23, 2017
The Cipher Brief sat down with Charles Lister, Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute, to discuss al Qaeda in Syria’s latest rebranding, how the group is expanding its influence across the country, and the implications for U.S. security.
March 23, 2017
Following recent infighting with other Syrian rebel groups in the northwestern part of the country, al Qaeda in Syria appears to have recognized the need to secure legitimacy and present itself to the civilian populat
March 17, 2017
As Iraqi forces close in on ISIS fighters stranded in eastern Mosul - the group's last urban bastion in Iraq - U.S.-backed Syrian rebels are simultaneously closing in on Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State.
March 17, 2017
Despite its fearsome codename, Operation Wrath of Euphrates, the campaign by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to capture Raqqa from ISIS has progressed in fits and starts since its announcement on November 6th of last year.
March 17, 2017
Supported by coalition weapons, airstrikes, military advisers, and now several hundred U.S. Marines, the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have advanced to within 50 kilometers of ISIS’capital in Raqqa. However, challenges, both tactical and political, remain ahead.
March 15, 2017
As part of military reforms begun in 2008, Russia has overhauled its special purpose forces, or Spetsnaz to expand its capabilities and professionalization. It also created a new Special Operations Command known as the KSSO.
March 12, 2017
The Trump Administration last week announced it deployed hundreds of U.S. Marines and Army Rangers to Syria to support the campaign to take Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria, from the extremist terror group. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with former U.S.
March 1, 2017
On January 28, President Donald Trump signed an order for the U.S. military to review the campaign against ISIS and develop a decisive plan to defeat it within 30 days. Given the threats that ISIS poses to our homeland, our allies, and partners, we argue this is the right approach.
February 10, 2017
At first glance, it would appear that the Middle East President Donald J.
February 10, 2017
The Middle East went through maelstrom developments during the Obama Administration. Some of these were put into motion by the 2003 American invasion of Iraq.
January 27, 2017
The fighting in Syria – and ever-rising death toll of civilians caught in the middle – is so horrifying that many seemingly have chosen to look away.
January 6, 2017
The agreement between Turkey and Russia stipulates a halt to the fighting throughout Syrian territory from midnight on December 29, with the exception of areas with a Fatah al-Sham (formerly the al-Nusra Front) or Islamic State presence.
January 6, 2017
The December 30 ceasefire in Syria, brokered by Russia and Turkey, has for the most held throughout the country, despite violence undermining the pact.  This ceasefire is the third of its kind attempted within the space of a year.
January 6, 2017
As 2016 comes to a close, Russia and Turkey have cobbled together a ceasefire in Syria, paving the way for peace talks to end the more than five-year long war that has destroyed the country and torn asunder its social fabric.
December 29, 2016
After the fall of Aleppo, few would deny the influence that Russian President Vladimir Putin now wields in Syria and the Middle East - but this was not always the case.
December 23, 2016
Editor’s Note: Over the coming days, The Cipher Brief presents some of our most incisive coverage on key issues of 2016 and a look ahead at what is yet to come in 2017.
December 22, 2016
The “complete meltdown of humanity” in Aleppo, as recently described by the United Nations, is an indictment of Russian/Syrian/Iranian barbarism, Arab indifference, and American dereliction and policy failure in the Levant.  The horrendous human tragedy, which is barely causing a yawn in the West
December 18, 2016
As the United States prepares for a new administration, The Cipher Brief's Leone Lakhani sits down with Ambassador Dennis Ross, Counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior Middle East Adviser to three U.S. Presidents.
November 9, 2016
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s assertion that the battle to dislodge the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from Raqqa “starts in the next few weeks,” caught many by surprise.
November 9, 2016
Following the aggressive Russian and Turkish interventions in Syria, it can be difficult to tell where the various parties in the conflict stand.
November 9, 2016
Amid the dizzying array of jihadist groups, rebel militias, umbrella opposition alliances, and state-level actors either directly or indirectly involved in Syria’s conflict, it can be difficult to tell who is fighting whom and why.
November 2, 2016
Three months after its “split” from al Qaeda, which in reality is simply a feint, Jabhat Fateh al Sham (JFS), formerly known as Jabhat al Nusra, may pose a more signifi
November 2, 2016
The battle to liberate Mosul in Iraq from the tentacles of the Islamic State (ISIS) is turning attention away from Syria, where fighting continues to rage. And whenever attention to Syria is given, ISIS remains a key focus.
November 2, 2016
Regardless of its name change and highly publicized “split” from al Qaeda this past summer, Jabhat Fateh-al Sham (JFS), formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, remains firmly on the United States’ terrorist radar.
October 25, 2016
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton should tell voters over the next two weeks that if elected, she would seek congressional authorization before ordering the Pentagon to institute a no-fly-zone over Syria.
October 13, 2016
It’s often hard to discern when a tipping point arrives in any international crisis.  For those of us working the Balkan beat in the 1990s, it wasn’t until the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica that U.S.
October 13, 2016
The conflict in Syria has ground on for roughly five years now, claiming some 400,000 lives, leading almost five million Syrians to seek refuge in neighboring countries, and displacing nearly seven million internally.
October 13, 2016
On July 4 1821, John Quincy Adams gave an historic address to Congress, in which he stated that, while America may support the cause of freedom with “benedictions and prayers…she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” However, from the Spanish-American War of 1898 to the U.S.
October 11, 2016
President Obama, and therefore the United States, has not faced simple choices when it comes to Syria and certainly none that would satisfy Americans’ traditional demand for instant gratification – or in foreign policy terms, a success.
October 2, 2016
Fighting in Aleppo has intensified with a Russian-backed government offensive to capture the rebel-held sector of Syria’s largest city.
August 28, 2016
As the Syrian civil war progresses with no end in sight, Rob Richer, former Associate Deputy Director for Operations at the CIA and member of the Cipher Brief network, discussed recent developments in Syria. According to Richer, U.S.
August 10, 2016
On July 15, the United States and Russia announced a tentative agreement on Syria which, according to media reports, would establish a joint command center staffed with military and intelligence officers who would initially exchange information on the al-Nusra Front —a terrorist organization that
August 4, 2016
The complex proxy war in Syria has demonstrated both the reach and limitations of Iran’s strategic influence. By mobilizing a wide range of strategic, tactical, and operational resources, Iran has prevented the collapse of the Syrian state.
July 29, 2016
It is now almost six years since the Syrian Revolution began, and to this day, the concept of an “ideal” end state remains vague and out of reach. Will Syria become a democracy or will it remain a dictatorship?
July 29, 2016
After six years of war, I find it difficult to imagine what Syria will look like after it all ends. Villages resemble ghost towns, while lawlessness and violence allow warlords to thrive.
July 29, 2016
Today, five years after democratic protests against Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime turned into open civil conflict, the ebb and flow of inconclusive military campaigns has, according to United Nations (UN), cost roughly 250,000 lives—what many see as a conservative estimate.
July 8, 2016
On June 27, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey would be normalizing relations with Israel and
July 8, 2016
Once defined by the catchphrase “Zero Problems with Neighbors,” the foreign policy of current Turkish President—and former Prime Minister—Recep Tayipp Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) used to be a model for measured neutrality in regional affairs.
April 14, 2016
In the late 1970s, Turkey experienced a convulsion of political violence between leftist and rightist factions that killed almost five thousand people by the time the military pushed out the government in a September 1980 coup d’état. The respite from violence was relatively brief, however.
April 14, 2016
The recent wave of violence in Turkey can be grouped into three categories. The first is the operations led by Turkish security forces in parts of eastern and southeastern Turkey to clear neighborhoods of their PKK (The Kurdistan Worker’s Party) presence.
April 14, 2016
In light of the ongoing military coup attempt in Istanbul, here is The Cipher Brief's recent feature explaining the myriad problems facing Turkey.  We will bring you more analysis on the situation as the story develops.
April 13, 2016
President Barack Obama is meeting today with his National Security Council at CIA headquarters to discuss efforts to combat the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL). This comes as the administration debates ways to fight recent ISIS gains. On the table: an increase in the number of U.S.
April 13, 2016
When I landed in Damascus in late 2005 as a foreign correspondent, I went looking for the most popular place where young Syrians spend their time. I found the American Cultural Center (ACC) to be one of the more popular hangouts with a staunchly loyal clientele.
April 13, 2016
Well into its sixth year, it is easy to conclude that there is no end in sight to the devastating Syrian civil war.
April 1, 2016
Syria is Russia’s only real ally in the Middle East. A stable and friendly Syria is in Moscow’s best interests. Stability in Syria is also in the best interests of the United States. Yet Moscow and Washington have different ideas on how to rid the region of chaos. Former U.S.
April 1, 2016
Russia is playing a game of Bismarckian realpolitik in the Middle East – political maneuvering based on current conditions, rather than on ideological premises, that uses the exertion of power to gain benefits for one’s country.
April 1, 2016
Since 2012, there has been a period of diplomatic activity by the Kremlin in the Middle East which is unprecedented since the fall of the USSR. Existing records of diplomatic and political contacts show an increased exchange of multilevel delegations between Russia and Middle Eastern countries.
March 10, 2016
ISIS is a terrorist group attempting to become a state. It inherited al Qaeda's strengths, including international networks, battle tested military doctrine and strategy, and a radical religious ideology, Jihadi Salafism.
March 10, 2016
It’s been a rough several months for the Islamic State in its quixotic effort to build a viable functioning nation-state.

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