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: Syria Intervention, WMDs, the “Black Budget”

by Micah Zenko Friday, August 30, 2013
chemical weapons inspector in Syria A member of the United Nations chemical weapons inspection team, examines one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Damascus' suburb of Zamalka, Syria (Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters).

Barton Gellman and Greg Miller, “U.S. spy network’s successes, failures and objectives detailed in ‘black budget’ summary,” Washington Post, August 29, 2013. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Cyber Defense, Egypt, Drone Strikes in Iraq?

by Micah Zenko Friday, August 23, 2013
Suez Canal A U.S. guided missile destroyer crosses the Suez Canal near Ismailia port city, 75 miles northeast of Cairo on June 13, 2013 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

CNN, “Transcript of President Obama’s Interview on ‘New Day’,” August 23, 2013.

What I think the American people also expect me to do as president is to think through what we do from the perspective of, what is in our long-term national interests? You know, sometimes what we’ve seen is that folks will call for immediate action, jumping into stuff, that does not turn out well, gets us mired in very difficult situations, can result in us being drawn into very expensive, difficult, costly interventions that actually breed more resentment in the region. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Spies, Think Tanks, and Stuxnet Realities

by Micah Zenko Friday, August 16, 2013
funeral convoy carrying bodies of four Islamist militants killed by an air strike A funeral convoy carrying the bodies of four Islamist militants killed by an air strike that their comrades said had been done by an Israeli drone but which state media said was the work of an Egyptian army helicopter, in the north of the Sinai peninsula on August 10, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Gregory D. Johnsen, “Did an 8-Year-Old Spy for America?The Atlantic, August 14, 2013.

At the time of the meeting, the boy didn’t know that the United States had decided to kill a man named Adnan al-Qadhi, and had turned to its allies in Yemen for assistance. Now the Yemeni government needed the child’s help. The Republican Guard officers told him what they wanted him to do: plant tiny electronic chips on the man he had come to think of as a surrogate father. The boy knew and trusted the officers; they were his biological father’s friends. He told them he would try. He would be their spy. Read more »

What’s New in U.S.-Israel Plans for Iran’s Nuclear Program?

by Micah Zenko Thursday, August 15, 2013

Two days ago, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, met with his Israeli counterpart, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, chief of the Israeli general staff. Last August, Gen. Dempsey told reporters that an Israeli attack could “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program.” He added: “I don’t want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it.” This morning, the New York Times reported something that indicates that last year’s assessment from America’s most senior military official has changed. According to Thom Shanker: Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drone Strikes in Yemen, AQAP, Kissinger on Africa

by Micah Zenko Friday, August 9, 2013
A military police trooper checks a car at a checkpoint in Sanaa A military police trooper checks a car at a checkpoint in Sanaa, Yemen, on August 6, 2013. The United States told its citizens to leave the country and ordered the evacuation of non-essential government staff out of Sanaa because of a terror threat (Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters).

Maria Abi-Habib, Margaret Coker, and Siobhan Gorman, Yemen Steps Back From Terror-Plot Claims, Highlighting U.S.’s Challenge, The Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2013. Read more »

Guest Post: What Happens When “Foreign Fighter” Means American?

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Thursday, August 8, 2013
Syria Fighter A Free Syrian Army fighter throws a homemade grenade towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Deir al-Zor on July 30, 2013 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

Julia Trehu is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As the civil war rages in Syria, the arrival of foreign combatants in the region has become a troubling characteristic of the opposition forces battling President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. European governments have already taken steps to directly address the issue of their citizens’ involvement in the conflict–Belgium established a network to monitor returning fighters, and the Netherlands defined the return of jihadists from Syria as a top-level security threat.  A recent article documenting the flow of foreign fighters into Syria comes at a time when the United States is supplying limited arms to the opposition, an already controversial decision with concerns about ensuring that terrorists do not receive weapons. The question of foreign involvement, specifically of American citizens acting as free agents, could complicate immediate policy options in Syria,  evoke potential long-term threats, and provoke debate over the targeting of American citizens in the fight against global terror networks and their affiliates. Read more »

Don’t Gut the Foreign Operations Budget

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, August 6, 2013
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets Syrian refugees U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets a group of Syrian refugees during a joint meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at the Zaatari refugee camp near the Jordanian city of Mafraq on July 18, 2013 (Ngan/Courtesy Reuters).

This post was coauthored with my research associate, Amelia M. Wolf.

In what is becoming an annual practice, congressional appropriators are once again trying to reduce America’s $16.7 trillion gross federal debt by slashing President Obama’s $52 billion foreign operations budget request. The budget includes everything from embassy security to protect diplomats, vaccination programs to prevent new incidents of polio and measles, humanitarian aid for victims of war and natural disasters, and United Nations (UN) peacekeepers. All of this, and more, for an amount that is roughly a mere 8% of the $615 billion that the White House has requested for the Pentagon. Read more »

JP 3-60 Joint Targeting and U.S. Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko Monday, August 5, 2013
Reaper UAV A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle assigned to the 174th Fighter Wing, New York Air National Guard, takes off on a training mission at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield, Fort Drum, N.Y. in February 2013 (Best/Courtesy Reuters)

On February 27, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the updated version of Joint Publication 3-60 (JP 3-60): Joint Targeting. A short 154 days later, the Joint Staff provided me with a complete version of it, “without excision.” It is available in full here (PDF). For the previous 2007 version of JP 3-60 see here. Read more »