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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Time to Rethink Syria

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi pauses during a news conference at the UN European headquarters in Geneva January 27, 2014. (Balibouse/Courtesy Reuters) UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi pauses during a news conference at the UN European headquarters in Geneva January 27, 2014. (Balibouse/Courtesy Reuters)

Julie Anderson is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

After three years of recurring conflict, an estimated 162,000 people killed (10,000 in the last two months), and millions displaced, international policies to stem the violence in Syria have been a clear failure. These efforts hit a new low on May 13 when United Nations (UN) mediator Lakhdar Brahimi resigned from his post, citing frustrations with the diplomatic process and the lack of common ground from which to build a negotiated solution. As the Syrian government, opposition forces, and international powers, particularly the United States and Russia, continue to stake out entrenched positions, and the regime prepares for sham elections in June, many have questioned if the Syrian conflict is ripe for a mediated solution. Read more »

Guest Post: The Hague Nuclear Security Summit: Opportunities for Pakistan and India

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani speaks to India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul March 27, 2012. (Downing/Courtesy Reuters) Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani speaks to India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul March 27, 2012. (Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

Anna Feuer is a research associate in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more »

Guest Post: Protecting Journalists in Armed Conflict

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Somali journalists protest as they demand for the release of a colleague, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, in Mogadishu on January 27, 2013. Abdiaziz was reportedly arrested after reporting on a rape case allegedly involving government soldiers according to local media reports. (Omar/Courtesy Reuters). Somali journalists protest as they demand for the release of a colleague, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, in Mogadishu on January 27, 2013. Abdiaziz was reportedly arrested after reporting on a rape case allegedly involving government soldiers according to local media reports. (Omar/Courtesy Reuters).

Julie Anderson is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Reporting from conflict zones, while risky, is crucial to understand global crises. Seventy journalists were killed on the job in 2013: 44 percent were murdered, 36 percent in direct combat or crossfire, and 20 percent while on a dangerous assignment. Combat-related deaths were due in large part to the Syrian civil war, along with spikes in violence in Iraq and Egypt. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, the country has been the deadliest in the world for journalists, with thirty-one killed in 2012 and twenty-eight in 2013. Professional media workers and citizen journalists alike have been targets of death, torture, enforced disappearance, abduction and intimidation, and an indeterminate number of human rights violations by both pro- and anti-government forces. Already ten journalists have been killed globally in 2014. Read more »

Guest Post: Conflict Prevention Challenges in 2014

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he peeks through a mat erected as protection from forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad in Deir al-Zor July 25, 2013. (Khalil Ashawi/Courtesy Reuters) A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he peeks through a mat erected as protection from forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad in Deir al-Zor July 25, 2013. (Khalil Ashawi/Courtesy Reuters)

Anna Feuer and Helia Ighani are research associates in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Syrian civil war highlights some of the most challenging features of contemporary conflict that stymie prevention and mitigation efforts. Although the war has been fought primarily within Syria’s borders, the violence has spilled into neighboring states, aggravated longstanding sectarian tensions in the region, and magnified rivalries between major powers. As Middle East sources of instability and violence are increasingly interconnected, the means of “unlocking” this dense conflict complex become more obscure. Read more »

Guest Post: Diplomatic Pressure in Bosnia, But Nothing More

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Anti-government protesters hold a banner that reads "EU help" during protests in Sarajevo on February 11, 2014. (Ruvic/Courtesy Reuters) Anti-government protesters hold a banner that reads "EU help" during protests in Sarajevo on February 11, 2014. (Ruvic/Courtesy Reuters)

Amelia M. Wolf is a research associate for the Center for Preventive Action and the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more »

Tracking Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan

by Micah Zenko

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

Since the Afghanistan war began twelve years and four months ago, the fate of innocent civilians has been a constant focus of Afghan and international audiences. Trying to understand and assign responsibility for harm to noncombatants in an insurgency/counterinsurgency conflict has been tremendously difficult, due to the obstacles faced by reporters and human rights investigators to obtain direct access to alleged victims, and the motivated biases of combatants to defend their targeting practices. Recently, the office of Afghan President Hamid Kharzai has taken to distributing demonstrably fake evidence to attempt to blame the United States for civilian deaths, and blamed the U.S. military for terrorist attacks overwhelmingly believed to have been committed by the Taliban. Read more »

Guest Post: The Humans Behind Remotely Piloted Aircraft

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Travis, a 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) sensor operator, and Ben, a 432nd Wing/432nd AEW RPA pilot, fly an MQ-1 Predator during the wings 2 million flying hour milestone on October 22, 2013. (Courtesy U.S. Air Force) Travis, a 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) sensor operator, and Ben, a 432nd Wing/432nd AEW RPA pilot, fly an MQ-1 Predator during the wings 2 million flying hour milestone on October 22, 2013. (Courtesy U.S. Air Force)

Priscilla Kim is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The U.S. Air Force trains more remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) pilots than traditional fighter and bomber pilots combined—350 RPA pilots compared to 250 fighter and bomber pilots in 2011. Additionally, one in every three planes is unmanned, and the Pentagon intends to double the number of unmanned aircraft systems from 340 to 650 by 2021. If RPA proliferation is not complemented with policy changes that effectively address the concerns of RPA pilots, there could be damaging overall effects for U.S. military forces. Read more »

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

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
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 »

Guest Post: UNSC Debate on the Protection of Journalists in Armed Conflict

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko

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

On Wednesday, July 17, the United States Mission to the United Nations (UN), which holds the UN Security Council (UNSC) presidency, will host an open debate in the council chamber on the protection of journalists in armed conflict. Chaired by UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, participants in the open debate will include NBC’s Richard Engel, Somali journalist Mustafa Haji Abdinur of Radio Simba and Agence France Presse, Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad of the Guardian, and Kathleen Carroll, Associated Press executive editor and vice chair of the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Read more »

Guest Post: An Unwritten Definition: Humanitarian Intervention After Mali

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
MINUSMA peacekeepers UN peacekeepers mark the start of the 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) in Mali, on July 1, 2013 (Palm/Courtesy Reuters).

Amelia M. Wolf is a research associate for the Center for Preventive Action and the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more »