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

by Micah Zenko
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
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 »

Obama’s False Dichotomy of the Iran Nuclear Deal

by Micah Zenko

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
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 »

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

by Micah Zenko
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
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 »

What Will Obama Do for Syrian Rebels?

by Micah Zenko
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 »

You Might Have Missed: Whack-a-mole, Sugary Drinks, and Libya

by Micah Zenko
Cans of soda are displayed in a case at a convenience store in San Diego, California on February 13, 2014. (Hodgson/Reuters) Cans of soda are displayed in a case at a convenience store in San Diego, California on February 13, 2014. (Hodgson/Reuters)

Comparing the Islamic State Air War with History

by Micah Zenko
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey at their joint news conference at the Pentagon on July 1, 2015. (Gripas/Reuters) U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey at their joint news conference at the Pentagon on July 1, 2015. (Gripas/Reuters)

With President Barack Obama visiting the Pentagon to assess progress in the U.S.-led air campaign against the self-declared Islamic State, which enters its twelfth month this week, it is a good time to evaluate a main criticism of the air war: not enough bombs are being dropped. Policymakers, retired military officials, and pundits offer a variety of reasons for this lack of airstrikes. Some claim that Washington-created rules of engagement are restricting whole categories of targets (particularly oil convoys heading to Turkey), others that military lawyers conducting collateral damage estimates are prohibiting strikes that might cause unwanted harm, or that there are no U.S. joint tactical air controllers on the ground to call in precision strikes. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Recent Academic Journal Findings II

by Micah Zenko
The Artron Wall on display at the 11th International Culture Industry Fair in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China, on May 14, 2015. (Stringer/Reuters) The Artron Wall on display at the 11th International Culture Industry Fair in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China, on May 14, 2015. (Stringer/Reuters)

Six months ago, I published the first blog in this series, highlighting earlier academic findings.

Jeffrey Stamp, “Aero-Static Warfare: A Brief Survey of Ballooning in Mid-nineteenth-century Siege Warfare,” The Journal of Military History, 79(3), July 2015, pp. 767-782. Read more »