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.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Military Operations"

Guest Post: Setting the Boundaries in the South China Sea

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
A crewman from the Vietnamese coastguard ship 8003 looks out at sea as Chinese coastguard vessels give chase to Vietnamese ships that came close to the Haiyang Shiyou 981, known in Vietnam as HD-981, oil rig in the South China Sea July 15, 2014. (Petty/Reuters) A crewman from the Vietnamese coastguard ship 8003 looks out at sea as Chinese coastguard vessels give chase to Vietnamese ships that came close to the Haiyang Shiyou 981, known in Vietnam as HD-981, oil rig in the South China Sea July 15, 2014. (Petty/Reuters)

Bogdan Belei is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Tensions between China and Vietnam over the South China Sea are rising and a miscalculation or miscommunication risks an outbreak of hostilities. Earlier this month, satellite imagery revealed that China is constructing its third airstrip in the disputed Spratly Islands, an archipelago of 750 reefs, cays, and islands claimed—in whole or in part—by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. This news follows a tense summer, during which China deployed oil rigs in disputed waters and naval standoffs between China and Vietnam culminated in a ship ramming. Beijing’s construction establishes a permanent Chinese base in disputed waters, with airstrips that could be used to launch military missions against regional rivals. China has so far only used them to conduct surveillance missions, but this alone has increased tensions and resulted in political disagreements with the United States. As the intensity and frequency of disputes over territory in the South China Sea increase, the situation has the potential to escalate into militarized conflict. Read more »

Guest Post: Closing the Rhetoric-Reality Gap on R2P

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Migrants from Syria walk along a road in the village of Miratovac near the town of Presevo, Serbia on August 24, 2015. (Djurica/Reuters) Migrants from Syria walk along a road in the village of Miratovac near the town of Presevo, Serbia on August 24, 2015. (Djurica/Reuters)

Bruce W. Jentleson is a professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and the 2015-16 Kissinger chair at the Kluge Center in the Library of Congress.

Jenna Karp is a Duke University senior studying public policy and global health and an intern in the State Department Foreign Service Internship Program. Read more »

Obama’s War of Choice: Supporting the Saudi-led Air War in Yemen

by Micah Zenko
A man who lost his relatives in a Saudi-led air strike cries at the site of the strike in Yemen's capital Sanaa on September 21, 2015. (Abdullah/Reuters) A man who lost his relatives in a Saudi-led air strike cries at the site of the strike in Yemen's capital Sanaa on September 21, 2015. (Abdullah/Reuters)

Six months ago today, the White House announced U.S. support for the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen via press release: “President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council]-led military operations.” As is true for all interventions, U.S. officials offered a buffet of justifications and objectives for backing the GCC side in Yemen’s chaotic civil war. In an earlier piece, I counted seven. Unsurprisingly, these are no longer mentioned by officials. Rather, they call upon all parties in the conflict to halt their fighting, failing to mention that the United States military is one of the parties by providing material support, without which the GCC would not be able sustain airstrikes over Yemen for any period of time. When pushed by reporters about U.S. responsibilities, they reply “we continue to discuss with Saudi authorities….We’re in constant and close communication with them,” or simply deflect, “I would refer you to the Saudis.” Read more »

Cooked Islamic State Intelligence and Red Teams

by Micah Zenko
U.S. President Barack Obama sits next to Commander of Central Command Gen. Lloyd Austin III during in a briefing from top military leaders while at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida on September 17, 2014. (Downing/Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama sits next to Commander of Central Command Gen. Lloyd Austin III during in a briefing from top military leaders while at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida on September 17, 2014. (Downing/Reuters)

The New York Times has an article that sheds further light upon what is apparently a disagreement within U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) about how successful the U.S.-led war, which is intended to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” the self-declared Islamic State, is progressing. Building upon earlier reporting by the Times and The Daily Beast, today’s article explicitly names the senior Iraq intelligence analyst at CENTCOM, Gregory Hooker, and reiterates the opposition of Hooker’s team to the Obama administration’s generally optimistic portrayal of progress in Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR). Read more »

The Realities of Using Force to Protect Civilians in Syria

by Micah Zenko
A man holds a girl who survived what activists said was heavy shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus on June 16, 2015. (Khabieh/Reuters) A man holds a girl who survived what activists said was heavy shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus on June 16, 2015. (Khabieh/Reuters)

Yesterday, the New York Times published an infographic, “Death in Syria,” that presents the more than 200,000 combatants and noncombatants who have been killed in the four-and-a-half-year Syrian civil war. The Times’ website relies upon estimates “provided by the Violations Documentation Center [VDC] and are as of Sept. 9, 2015.” This non-governmental organization (NGO) claims to use a three-stage process for gathering and documenting information from within Syria, and verifying its accuracy to the best extent possible. The VDC notes that it strives for “conveying the truth as it is on the condition that those data and information are being regularly reviewed, checked and revised.” Read more »

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 »

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 »

Guest Post: Reevaluating U.S. Targeting Assistance to the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
A man stands in front of a house destroyed by a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's western city of Mokha on July 26, 2015. The strike killed at least fifty-five people and left tens injured. (Stringer/Reuters) A man stands in front of a house destroyed by a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's western city of Mokha on July 26, 2015. The strike killed at least fifty-five people and left tens injured. (Stringer/Reuters)

Samantha Andrews is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As the United States provides targeting assistance to the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council in Yemen, it should consider that its allies’ standards for target selection may be less rigorous. However, the United States is still partially responsible for airstrikes enabled with its intelligence. Contrary to the official U.S. position that it remains in a “non-combat advisory and coordinating role to the Saudi-led campaign,” this enabling support makes the United States a combatant in the Yemen air campaign. Even if the United States is not pulling the trigger, the “live intelligence feeds from surveillance flights over Yemen” that “help Saudi Arabia decide what and where to bomb” are indispensable for the launch of airstrikes against Houthi rebels. 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 »