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.

You Might Have Missed: Iran, Red Lines, Drones, and Dieting

by Micah Zenko Friday, September 28, 2012
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu draws a red line as he addresses the sixty-seventh UN General Assembly in New York (Keith Bedford/Courtesy Reuters). Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu draws a red line as he addresses the sixty-seventh UN General Assembly in New York (Keith Bedford/Courtesy Reuters).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “I believe that, faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down.” (September 27, 2012) Read more »

Tracking U.S. Citizens’ Deaths by Terrorism

by Micah Zenko Thursday, September 27, 2012
Bangladeshi Muslims attempt to break a police barricade during a protest in Dhaka on September 14, 2012 (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy Reuters). Bangladeshi Muslims attempt to break a police barricade during a protest in Dhaka on September 14, 2012 (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy Reuters).

The viral spread of an incomplete and crude—even by YouTube standards—video defaming the Prophet Mohammed led to a spike in anti-American and anti-Western demonstrations throughout the Muslim world. On September 11, concurrent with these demonstrations, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, faced a well-coordinated and intense terrorist attack that killed four U.S. citizens. On NBC News, Libyan president Mohammed Magarief called the attack “a preplanned act of terrorism directed at American citizens.” He added, “They chose this date, 11th of September, to carry a certain message.” Read more »

Who Else Is Violating Iraqi Airspace?

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Turkish F-16 jets prepare to take off from a military airbase on the southeastern border near Iraq (Osman Orsal/Courtesy Reuters). Turkish F-16 jets prepare to take off from a military airbase on the southeastern border near Iraq (Osman Orsal/Courtesy Reuters).

The Iranian government is reportedly supplying military equipment via Iraqi airspace to Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Although Iraq temporarily halted the flights in mid-March at the request of the Obama administration, they resumed in July. Last week, Reuters quoted from an intelligence report from an unnamed country: “Planes are flying from Iran to Syria via Iraq on an almost daily basis, carrying IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) personnel and tens of tons of weapons to arm the Syrian security forces and militias fighting against the rebels.” Read more »

Ask the Experts: Do Targeted Killings Work?

by Micah Zenko Monday, September 24, 2012
An armed U.S. Predator drone waits on the tarmac in Kandahar, Afghanistan (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters). An armed U.S. Predator drone waits on the tarmac in Kandahar, Afghanistan (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters).

The United States did not always carry out targeted killings (or assassinations) of perceived national security threats. To the contrary, the norm against targeted killings outside of battlefield settings was established by President Gerald Ford in 1976, when he issued Executive Order 11905: “No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.” Until the late 1990s, U.S. targeted killings were officially proscribed and rarely seriously considered or authorized by senior officials. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: National Security Threats, Drones, and ‘Red Lines’

by Micah Zenko Friday, September 21, 2012
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, DC (Joshua Roberts/Courtesy Reuters). Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, DC (Joshua Roberts/Courtesy Reuters).

Margaret Coker, Adam Entous, Jay Solomon, and Siobhan Gorman, “Miscues Before Libya Assault,” Wall Street Journal, September 21, 2012. Read more »

UN Security Council Vows No Nuclear Attack on Mongolia

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Representatives at the UN Security Council vote in New York (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters). Representatives at the UN Security Council vote in New York (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters).

On Monday, the five permanent members (P5) of the UN Security Council reaffirmed their promise not to attack Mongolia with nuclear weapons. In 1995, each of the P5 pledged not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear weapons states that signed and ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); this was solidified when the Security Council voted 15-0 to pass Resolution 984.  In October 2000, the P5 specifically extended this “negative security assurance” to Mongolia when it declared its nuclear weapons-free status. Read more »

Pundits Whiff on the Middle East

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, September 18, 2012
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, is seen in flames during a protest on September 11, 2012 (Esam Al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters). The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, is seen in flames during a protest on September 11, 2012 (Esam Al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters).

Like the mythical cold fusion, the Middle East is a self-sustaining source of energy, providing limitless material for U.S. policymakers and pundits. While the Obama administration may have announced a rhetorical pivot to the Asia Pacific—carefully rebranded later as “rebalancing”—the focus of U.S. foreign policy remains always and forever trained on the Middle East. Read more »

Who Else Has Drones?

by Micah Zenko Thursday, September 13, 2012
A MQ-1 Predator drone prepares to take off at Kandahar Airfield (Master Sgt. Demetrius Lester/Courtesy U.S. Air Force). A MQ-1 Predator drone prepares to take off at Kandahar Airfield (Master Sgt. Demetrius Lester/Courtesy U.S. Air Force).

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) just posted an excellent report, Nonproliferation: Agencies Could Improve Information Sharing and End-Use Monitoring on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, which I cannot recommend highly enough. A declassified version of a report provided to Congress in February, the publication assesses global trends in developing and using drones, and U.S. efforts to prevent the spread of certain drone technologies—for U.S. exports and through bilateral and multilateral diplomacy. Read more »

Preventing Political Unrest in Venezuela

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Thursday, September 13, 2012
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez talks during a press conference in Caracas on September 5, 2012 (Jorge Silva/Courtesy Reuters). Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez talks during a press conference in Caracas on September 5, 2012 (Jorge Silva/Courtesy Reuters).

Andrew C. Miller is a research associate in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

American policy toward Venezuela and its tendentious president, Hugo Chavez, rarely captures headlines. But when it does, the results aren’t pretty. In a campaign spat this July, Mitt Romney called President Obama’s Venezuela policy “alarmingly naïve.” An Obama spokesman, in turn, labeled Romney’s remarks “disturbing.” Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drones, Targeted Killings, and National Security Threats

by Micah Zenko Friday, September 7, 2012
President Obama makes calls in the Oval Office in Washington, DC (Handout/Courtesy Reuters). President Obama makes calls in the Oval Office in Washington, DC (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

Interview with President Obama,” Fox 19, September 6, 2012.

Q: Well let me ask then also about the so-called presidential kill list that has gotten a lot of attention…and on that list have been U.S. citizens who have not been afforded trial, including Anwar al-Awlaki. How do you as president and any president for that matter, regardless of party or person, utilize that power to assassinate U.S. citizens? Read more »