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.

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You Might Have Missed: Japanese Drones, Shutdown, CIA in Syria

by Micah Zenko
October 4, 2013

John Hudson, “U.S. Rules Out a New Drone War in Iraq,” Foreign Policy Magazine, October 3, 2013.

In 2013 alone, Iraq is averaging 68 car bombings a month. The United Nations reports that 5,740 civilians were killed since January, which is almost two times more deaths than recorded in all of 2010.

Despite the staggering numbers, the U.S. isn’t about to open up a new drone war in Iraq. An administration official tells The Cable the use of lethal drones has not been discussed nor is it even under consideration for Iraq.

“The administration got us out of Iraq, which is seen as an accomplishment for the administration. So any ramping up of activity back in Iraq would go against that success,” Joseph Quinn, an instructor at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, told The Cable. “They might also be weary of what in the military we call ‘mission creep.’ It starts with drones, but where does it end?”

[Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. Iraq Lukman] Faily, speaking with The Cable today, declined to say if the Iraqis ever made a request for drones in the first place, but he did say they would continue asking for more assistance from the United States.]

(3PA: It is a positive sign that President Obama has decided not to authorize drone strikes in Iraq because it would be a terrible idea.)


Greg Miller, “CIA Ramping Up Covert Training Program for Moderate Syrian Rebels,” Washington Post, October 2, 2013.

The CIA is “ramping up and expanding its effort,” said a U.S. official familiar with operations in Syria, because “it was clear that the opposition was losing, and not only losing tactically but on a more strategic level.”

The CIA’s mission, officials said, has been defined by the White House’s desire to seek a political settlement, a scenario that relies on an eventual stalemate among the warring factions rather than a clear victor. As a result, officials said, limits on the agency’s authorities enable it to provide enough support to help ensure that politically moderate, U.S.-supported militias don’t lose but not enough for them to win.

Islamist factions have taken advantage, luring fighters away with offers of better pay, equipment and results. A spokesman for the ISIS said the group had added 2,000 Syrian recruits and 1,500 foreign fighters over the past two months.

“What happens when some of the people we trained torture a prisoner?” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with agency operations in the Middle East. Even if the CIA can produce records to defend its training program, “we’re going to face congressional hearings,” the former official said. “There is no win here.”

(3PA: This is a predictable outcome. America’s unwillingness to attack Syria is reflected in the level of military force officials and policymakers are willing to employ.)


Defense Ministry Working on Protocol to Shoot Down Encroaching Drones,” Asahi Shimbun, October 2, 2013.

The Defense Ministry is planning a new protocol to deal with foreign unmanned aircraft that approach Japan’s airspace, like the Chinese military drone that ventured near the disputed Senkaku Islands last month.

The protocol will include provisions for “necessary measures,” or shooting down a drone, if it continues to violate Japan’s airspace and poses a serious and immediate danger to the lives and property of the Japanese public, sources said.

Officials will work out measures to deal with drone-specific issues and incorporate them into the “rules of engagement,” which set specific protocols on the use of arms.


Michael Peck, “Global Cybersecurity Spending to Reach $94B,” Defense News, October 1, 2013.

Global cybersecurity spending will reach $94 billion between 2013 and 2023, according to a new study by market research firm ASDReports.

This makes the U.S. the largest market for cybersecurity firms, followed by Europe at $25 billion, Asia-Pacific at $23 billion, the Middle East at $22.8 billion and Latin America at $1.6 billion, according to an ASDReports announcement.


Michael D. Shear, “On Day 1, Parks Close, Workers Stay Home and ‘Panda Cam’ Goes Dark,” New York Times, October 1, 2013.

Officials informed lawmakers that about 72 percent of the intelligence community’s civilian work force were furloughed. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, angrily denounced the shutdown as “the biggest gift that we could possibly give our enemies.”


Charles Clover, “Russia: A Return to Arms,” Financial Times, October 1, 2013.

But now Russian arms dealers are prioritising a new client: the Russian state itself. Last year Russia’s defence spending soared 25 per cent and this year Moscow’s expenditure is set to overtake that of the UK and Japan, according to analysis by IHS. That would make Russia the third largest arms buyer in the world, spending $68.8bn in 2013, trailing only China ($131.7bn), and the US, which spends more on defence ($637.8bn) than the next 10 countries combined.

As a percentage of economic output, Russia’s defence expenditures are scheduled to rise from 3.2 per cent in 2013 to 3.8 per cent by 2016. This is much higher than in other big emerging markets such as India (2.6 per cent), Turkey (2.3 per cent) and China (1.9 per cent), according to research by Renaissance Capital, the Moscow-based investment bank.


Sam Fellman, “How Doing More with Less is Hurting Sailors—and the Navy,” Navy Times, September 30, 2013.

“Listen, if we went to war with China today — and you can print this — I think it would take us 10 days to destroy their Navy,” said retired Cmdr. Bryan McGrath, a former destroyer commanding officer who has worked as a consultant with Cropsey.


Steven Aftergood, “To Fix U.S. Intelligence, Shrink It?Secrecy News, September 30, 2013.

“Something that’s worth considering,” another CIA analyst said, “is completely counterintuitive, which is to make the CT [counterterrorism] community smaller, not larger. I think there are far more people at CIA HQ now than when we defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War. What the hell?”

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