Syria

May 18, 2017
There are two schools of thought about the nature of the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Some experts say the group is nearly vanquished as it struggles to hold on to Mosul, Iraq, and prepares for the inevitable fight for its capital in Raqqa, Syria.
May 18, 2017
The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Michael W.S. Ryan, Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, to discuss ISIS’ recent battlefield losses, the group’s current level of influence, and what to expect from ISIS in coming months.
May 18, 2017
Nearly three years ago, the Islamic State (ISIS) catapulted to the top of the news worldwide after the group seized vast swaths of Syria and Iraq, used Mosul’s revered Great Mosque of al-Nuri to announce the creation of an Islamic caliphate, executed tens of thousands of civilians, and committed
April 28, 2017
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.
April 25, 2017
President Donald Trump may be the only world leader impressed with the impact of the recent United States use of Tomahawk missiles in Syria and later the giant, GBU-43/B MOAB bomb in Afghanistan.
April 11, 2017
The lessons Donald Trump takes away from last Thursday’s U.S. Tomahawk missile strike against Syria’s Shayrat Air Base are more important than the ones learned by Bashar al-Assad.
April 7, 2017
The U.S. military launched dozens of Tomahawk missiles from two naval warships in the Mediterranean Sea at the Shayrat air base near Homs in Syria, on Thursday night. The Pentagon said the base was used by the Assad regime to store chemical weapons.
April 7, 2017
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 Admini
April 7, 2017
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.
April 5, 2017
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.
March 31, 2017
Before the civil war, few outside the Middle East had ever heard of Syria’s Kurds. Syria has by far the smallest Kurdish population of the four countries with Kurdish minorities.
March 31, 2017
Syria has by far the smallest Kurdish population of any country with major Kurdish minorities. However, in the last two years, the Kurds of Syria have risen to local, regional, and international prominence.
March 31, 2017
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.
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 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 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
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.
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.
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.

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