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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Guest Post: Preventing Cultural Destruction by ISIS

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
The Assyrian city of Nimrud before it was looted and bulldozed by Islamic State fighters. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons) The Assyrian city of Nimrud before it was looted and bulldozed by Islamic State fighters. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Aliza Litchman is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations. 

The U.S.-led coalition has been unsuccessful in halting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS or ISIL) second largest revenue stream: illegal artifacts. A March 6 UNESCO report attempted to call attention to the ISIS’ bulldozing of the three thousand-year-old city of Nimrud, and a February 25 video shows ISIS militants ransacking the central museum in Mosul. However, the most damage to Iraq and Syria’s cultural heritage is not inflicted with bulldozers and sledgehammers, but through illegal sales in foreign markets, which have thus far provided ISIS with over $100 million U.S. officials estimate. Antiquities dealings are ISIS’ second largest source of funding, and control of over four thousand archaeological sites ensures this revenue source will not expire. Read more »

Guest Post: Booking a Return Flight

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
A masked man speaking in what is believed to be a North American accent in a video that Islamic State militants released in September 2014. (FBI handout via Reuters/Courtesy Reuters) A masked man speaking in what is believed to be a North American accent in a video that Islamic State militants released in September 2014. (FBI handout via Reuters/Courtesy Reuters)

Harry Oppenheimer is a research associate for national security at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken on an international flavor as foreign fighters continue to pour into Syria and Iraq from eighty nations as disparate as Kyrgyzstan and Spain. The number of foreign fighters is currently estimated to be as high as 16,000. While the most foreign fighters originate from Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, up to 2,000 are from the United Kingdom (UK), 930 from France, 300 from Sweden, 300 from Belgium, and 450 from Germany. The growing scope of the foreign fighter problem has made it a priority in policy discussions on ISIS, either as Daniel Byman and Jeremy Shapiro of the Brookings Institution wrote, “Homeward Bound? Don’t Hype the Threat of Returning Jihadists,” or as Pascale Siegel, founder of Insight Through Analysis, warned, “Foreign Fighters in Syria: Why We Should Be Worried.” These discussions ignore the real question—what happens when these people want to return to their home countries? Read more »

Guest Post: Chinese Troops in Africa: Protecting Civilians and Oil

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
The national flags of South Sudan and China are displayed in front of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Ibuki/Courtesy Reuters) The national flags of South Sudan and China are displayed in front of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Ibuki/Courtesy Reuters)

Sean J. Li is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

China announced in September that it would send a battalion of seven-hundred infantry soldiers to reinforce the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), a heretofore unprecedented move that triples its troop contribution. It is suspected by commentators, such as Colum Lynch at Foreign Policy, that this commitment was made to shield the oil industry—which both UNMISS and the Chinese Foreign Ministry have denied. The increased international profile of Chinese national oil companies (NOCs) and other commercial interests, especially in Africa, has raised questions about whether China’s long-standing principle of non-interference will hold in the future. Read more »

Guest Post: The U.S. Role in Recruiting and Retaining Female Peacekeepers

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Italian UN peacekeepers stand as honour guards during a visit by Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata to the Italian UN Interim Force in Lebanon. (Hashisho/Courtesy Reuters) Italian UN peacekeepers stand as honour guards during a visit by Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata to the Italian UN Interim Force in Lebanon. (Hashisho/Courtesy Reuters)

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

During the frenzy of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, thirty-one countries met on September 26 for a summit on “Strengthening International Peace Operations,” during which the importance of expanding the participation of women in peacekeeping operations was the theme. Read more »

Guest Post: Tiptoeing Around Iran in Iraq

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Kurdish Peshmerga forces stand guard on August 18, 2014, near the town of Makhmur, south of Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan after Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)insurgents withdrew. (Boudlal: Courtesy Reuters) Kurdish Peshmerga forces stand guard on August 18, 2014, near the town of Makhmur, south of Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan after Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)insurgents withdrew. (Boudlal: Courtesy Reuters)

Helia Ighani is a research associate in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Iraq appears to be coming apart at the seams. The Sunni terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has expanded dramatically across Iraq over the past few months and murdered more than fourteen hundred Iraqis in August alone, and Iran is one-upping the United States in efforts to regain control. Both countries are actively involved in Iraq’s crisis, but have differing objectives for the future of the country. As the Obama administration strategizes on how to address the threat of ISIS, it should continue to build a coalition and refrain from working solely with Iran. Read more »

Guest Post: The ISIS Video and Military Strategy in Iraq

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on August 20, 2014, vowing that the United States will not be swayed from airstrikes against Islamic State after the group beheaded an American journalist, an act he said is proof that the militants stand for no religion. (Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on August 20, 2014, vowing that the United States will not be swayed from airstrikes against Islamic State after the group beheaded an American journalist, an act he said is proof that the militants stand for no religion. (Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Col. Clint Hinote, U.S. Air Force, is a Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He holds a PhD in military strategy, and he recently returned from Korea where he commanded a U.S. air base.  The conclusions and opinions expressed are his own and do not reflect the official position of the U.S. government. Read more »

Guest Post: Implications of Declining Israeli Sympathy

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Jewish men protest to support the people of Gaza, in central London on August 9, 2014. (MacGregor/Courtesy Reuters) Jewish men protest to support the people of Gaza, in central London on August 9, 2014. (MacGregor/Courtesy Reuters)

Elena Vann is an interdepartmental intern at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Once a small, noble state heralded for its democratic values and established after the horrors of the Holocaust, Israel’s popularity is declining as global public opinion trends further away from the David and Goliath narrative once commonly attached to the Jewish state. After a fierce, month-long offensive against Hamas that is estimated to have taken the lives of over one thousand civilians in Gaza and decimated the country’s infrastructure, Israel’s public image joins the list of damages. As the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire tenuously holds between Israeli and Palestinian officials representing Hamas, the Gaza Strip is smoldering in ruins and Israel looks more bully than victim. Should these negative sentiments toward Israel continue to fester, U.S.-Israel relations could be substantially weakened. Read more »

Guest Post: A Cold Warrior’s Foreign Policy Advice for Obama

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during an interview with Reuters at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels on August 11, 2014. Rasmussen said he saw a "high probability" that Russia could intervene militarily in eastern Ukraine. (Herman/Courtesy Reuters) NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during an interview with Reuters at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels on August 11, 2014. Rasmussen said he saw a "high probability" that Russia could intervene militarily in eastern Ukraine. (Herman/Courtesy Reuters)

Harry Oppenheimer is a research associate for national security at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The conviction of John Foster Dulles—Secretary of State under Eisenhower in the 1950s, shaper of NATO, and lead architect of Rollback—about the most effective method of maintaining global peace and stability stands in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s foreign policy of remaining flexible and cautious. At the center of Dulles’ strong beliefs, as he remarked in his book War or Peace, was the importance of clear intentions in international affairs. “It is the theory and hope of the proponents of the [NATO] treaty that by thus making clear in advance what we will do in the event of an attack on Western Europe, that attack will not, in fact, occur.” Read more »

Guest Post: What’s Next for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit?

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, President of Djibouti Ismail Omar Gulleh and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia speak to the media after their meeting on situation in South Sudan on gust 5, 2014. (Gripas/Courtesy Reuters) President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, President of Djibouti Ismail Omar Gulleh and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia speak to the media after their meeting on situation in South Sudan on gust 5, 2014. (Gripas/Courtesy Reuters)

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

Guest Post: Jokowi’s Small Victory Over Corruption in Indonesia

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Indonesian presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo attends a rally in Proklamasi Monument Park in Jakarta July 9, 2014. (Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters) Indonesian presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo attends a rally in Proklamasi Monument Park in Jakarta July 9, 2014. (Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters)

This blog post was authored by Timothy F. Higgins, a graduate of the University of St. Andrews with an MA in political philosophy.

The recent presidential victory of Joko Widodo (popularly known as “Jokowi”) has the potential to be a watershed moment in Southeast Asian politics. For the first time in Indonesia’s (albeit short) history as an independent nation, control of its government will pass from one democratically elected leader to another in relative peace. Read more »