Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

Is Incirlik a “Game-changer” in Destroying the Islamic State?

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, August 25, 2015
An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve on August 12, 2015. (Ardrey/U.S. Air Force ) An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve on August 12, 2015. (Ardrey/U.S. Air Force )

On July 22, after months of negotiations, Turkey finally agreed to allow the United States to use its bases, most importantly Incirlik Air Base, for manned and unmanned strike sorties against the self-declared Islamic State. Prior to this, Turkey had only permitted that its sovereign territory be used for unarmed surveillance drone flights and (apparently) a combat search and rescue element. This latest development was characterized as a “game-changer” by a senior Obama administration official, in particular for more intensive bombing of the Islamic State in northern Syria. Read more »

One-Year Anniversary of Operation Inherent Resolve

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, August 12, 2015
A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes against self-declared Islamic State targets in Syria on September 23, 2014. (Bruch/Courtesy Department of Defense) A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes against self-declared Islamic State targets in Syria on September 23, 2014. (Bruch/Courtesy Department of Defense)

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the U.S.-led airwar against the self-declared Islamic State, which in October 2014 was named Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR). What began with “targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys” to protect the Iraqi city of Erbil, according to President Obama, expanded into a pledge “to degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State, which has recently been altered to “lasting defeat,” by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. Read more »

Guest Post: Preventing the Third Intifada

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Monday, August 10, 2015
Mourners carry the body of Palestinian Anas Taha during his funeral in the West Bank village of Qatana, near Jerusalem on August 10, 2015. Israeli troops shot dead Tah, who stabbed an Israeli man at a petrol station in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, police said. (Awad/Reuters) Mourners carry the body of Palestinian Anas Taha during his funeral in the West Bank village of Qatana, near Jerusalem on August 10, 2015. Israeli troops shot dead Tah, who stabbed an Israeli man at a petrol station in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, police said. (Awad/Reuters)

Patrick Romano is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

If tensions escalate further, the West Bank could erupt in a violent uprising—sometimes referred to as the third intifada—for the first time since 2005. The death of a Palestinian toddler in an arson attack by Jewish extremists on July 31 was the latest example of an increasingly violent situation. Recent flare-ups between Israeli police and Palestinians over the al-Aqsa mosque, sometimes deadly arrest raids by Israeli forces on West Bank homes, and continued discord over Israeli settlements all underscore growing Palestinian frustration with the perceived status quo: lack of political independence, a depressed economy, encroaching Israeli settlements, and an increasingly divided Palestinian Authority (PA). Read more »

Obama’s False Dichotomy of the Iran Nuclear Deal

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, August 5, 2015

In a major policy address at American University, President Barack Obama made his best case on behalf of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States) and Iran. The agreement is intended to “ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program” in exchange for the comprehensive lifting of all multilateral and national sanctions related to that program. Read more »

How Obama Goes to War (Syria Version)

by Micah Zenko Monday, August 3, 2015
Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they walk on a frontline in Mork town on March 8, 2015. (Ashawi/Reuters) Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they walk on a frontline in Mork town on March 8, 2015. (Ashawi/Reuters)

 

On September 16, 2014, there was a brief exchange regarding the nascent war against the self-declared Islamic State—totally unnoticed at the time—between the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the secretary of defense: Read more »

Guest Post: Reevaluating U.S. Targeting Assistance to the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Tuesday, July 28, 2015
A man stands in front of a house destroyed by a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's western city of Mokha on July 26, 2015. The strike killed at least fifty-five people and left tens injured. (Stringer/Reuters) A man stands in front of a house destroyed by a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's western city of Mokha on July 26, 2015. The strike killed at least fifty-five people and left tens injured. (Stringer/Reuters)

Samantha Andrews is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As the United States provides targeting assistance to the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council in Yemen, it should consider that its allies’ standards for target selection may be less rigorous. However, the United States is still partially responsible for airstrikes enabled with its intelligence. Contrary to the official U.S. position that it remains in a “non-combat advisory and coordinating role to the Saudi-led campaign,” this enabling support makes the United States a combatant in the Yemen air campaign. Even if the United States is not pulling the trigger, the “live intelligence feeds from surveillance flights over Yemen” that “help Saudi Arabia decide what and where to bomb” are indispensable for the launch of airstrikes against Houthi rebels. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Incirlik Air Base, Open Source Data, and Existential Threats

by Micah Zenko Friday, July 24, 2015
A Turkish F-16 fighter jet approaches the tarmac of Incirlik airbase in the southern Turkish city of Adana July 3, 2012. (Bektas/Reuters) A Turkish F-16 fighter jet approaches the tarmac of Incirlik airbase in the southern Turkish city of Adana July 3, 2012. (Bektas/Reuters)

Dion Nissenbaum, “Turkey to Let U.S. Military Launch Strikes Against Islamic State From Turkish Soil,” Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2015. Read more »

Obama’s Terrorism Mistake

by Micah Zenko Friday, July 24, 2015
President Barack Obama talks to the media in the the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on July 17, 2015. (Gripas/Reuters) President Barack Obama talks to the media in the the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on July 17, 2015. (Gripas/Reuters)

In an interview conducted yesterday, President Barack Obama made the following comment to BBC North America Editor Jon Sopel:

You mentioned the issue of guns, that is an area where if you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I’ve been most frustrated and most stymied it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun-safety laws. Even in the face of repeated mass killings. Read more »

Guest Post: Endgame in Colombia – The Need for a Bilateral Ceasefire

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos talks with Colombian armed forces chief Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez during a presentation of new military leaders at the Jose Maria Cordova military school in Bogota on July 9, 2015. (Vizcaino/Reuters) Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos talks with Colombian armed forces chief Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez during a presentation of new military leaders at the Jose Maria Cordova military school in Bogota on July 9, 2015. (Vizcaino/Reuters)

Patrick Romano is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’s unrelenting opposition to negotiating a bilateral ceasefire with left-wing guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) threatens to derail current peace talks and indefinitely perpetuate the longest conflict in the Western Hemisphere. Though the war began in 1964, over the past fifty years more than 220,000 Colombians—80 percent civilians—have lost their lives and more than five million have been displaced. Read more »

What Will Obama Do for Syrian Rebels?

by Micah Zenko Monday, July 20, 2015
Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they walk on a frontline in Mork town on March 8, 2015. (Ashawi/Reuters) Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they walk on a frontline in Mork town on March 8, 2015. (Ashawi/Reuters)

Without any formal announcement from Washington, the United States became further militarily committed to the civil war in Syria last week. It was reported that the first wave of a few dozen U.S.-trained Syrian rebels had crossed the Jordanian border into Syria on July 12. They were reportedly instructed to integrate themselves into other rebel units in order to increase the opposition forces’ overall combat effectiveness. Commander Elissa Smith, a Pentagon spokesperson, wrote that rebels are expected to “coordinate with other moderate opposition forces to build trust between organizations that are countering ISIL.” Read more »