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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Showing posts for "U.S. Foreign Policy"

End to Euphrates Shield, but Not to U.S.-Turkey Tensions

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Syrian Democratic Forces fighters gather during an offensive against self-proclaimed Islamic State militants in northern Raqqa province, Syria, February 8, 2017 (Reuters/Rodi Said).

Caroline O’Leary is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced the end of Operation Euphrates Shield, deeming the military campaign, which began in August of 2016, a success. The operation brought an armored battalion and supporting ground forces across the border into Syria, the first direct Turkish military intervention into the country. The campaign had two declared objectives: to remove self-proclaimed Islamic State forces from towns along the Turkish-Syrian border towns and to prevent armed Kurdish groups from advancing. Achieving the former clearly helped bring the United States closer to its own goal to “demolish and destroy ISIS.” Turkey’s efforts to stunt Kurdish progress, however, significantly complicate U.S. interests in the region. Read more »

Obama’s Worst Foreign Policy Decision, Two Years Later

by Micah Zenko
People look through a hole caused by a Saudi-led air strike on a bridge in Yemen's capital Sana'a March 23, 2016 (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah).

You probably missed it, but Saturday was the second anniversary of President Barack Obama’s worst and most indefensible foreign policy decision. Late on the evening of March 25, 2015, the White House posted a statement from National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on its website: “President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council]-led military operations. While U.S. forces are not taking direct military action in Yemen in support of this effort, we are establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate U.S. military and intelligence support.” Read more »

A New U.S. Strategy for Russia? A Conversation with Kimberly Marten

by Micah Zenko
Putin talks to servicemen Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to servicemen during a training exercise at the Donguz testing range in Orenburg region, Russia, September 19, 2015 (Reuters/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/Pool).

While policymakers continued to struggle with investigating Russian interference in the U.S. election, I sat down with Professor Kimberly Marten to talk about how the Trump administration can effectively manage the increasingly tense relationship with Russia. Marten is the Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, a faculty member of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University, and director of the Program on U.S.-Russia Relations at Columbia’s Harriman Institute. She is also the author of a recent Center for Preventive Action Council Special Report, Reducing Tensions Between Russia and NATO. Read more »

Rethinking the U.S. Approach in Northern Syria: A Conversation with Aaron Stein

by Micah Zenko
Kurdish fighters gesture while carrying their parties' flags in Tel Abyad of Raqqa governorate after they said they took control of the area June 15, 2015 (Reuters/Rodi Said).

Yesterday I spoke with Aaron Stein, resident senior fellow in the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council and author of the new Center for Preventive Action paper, “Reconciling U.S.-Turkish Interests in Northern Syria.” We discussed developments on the ground in northern Syria and the many complex and competing interests among the armed groups there. Stein also reviewed the strategic options for the United States going forward and made recommendations for the Donald J. Trump administration to strengthen the U.S.-Turkish relationship while pursuing the U.S. counterterrorism objectives in Syria. Though a young scholar himself, Stein also provides some great advice for professionals just entering the field. Read more »

Ending the South Sudan Civil War: A Conversation with Kate Almquist Knopf

by Micah Zenko

Kate Almquist Knopf, director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, is the author of a recent Center for Preventive Action report on Ending South Sudan’s Civil War. We discussed the crisis in South Sudan and her outside-the-box proposal to address it, which involves establishing an international transitional administration for the country. She also offered some near-term recommendations for the Trump administration. Read more »

Why Trump’s Foreign Policy Appointments Matter: A (Second) Conversation with Elizabeth Saunders

by Micah Zenko
President-Elect Donald Trump, then Republican presidential nominee, speaks along side retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn during a campaign town hall meeting, September 6, 2016 (Reuters/ Segar).

I was lucky enough to again be joined by the brilliant Elizabeth Saunders, assistant professor of political science and international affairs at the George Washington University, and currently a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. We discussed the role that President-Elect Donald Trump’s advisers will play in shaping his approach to foreign policy and response to international crises. Professor Saunders also talks about two of her recent articles published on the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage, “What a President Trump Means for Foreign Policy” and “How Much Power Will Trump’s Foreign Policy Advisers Have?” Follow her on Twitter @ProfSaunders and, if you haven’t already, listen to the conversation we had back in March, “Presidents and Foreign Policy.” Read more »

What Conflicts Should the Trump Administration Watch in 2017?

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
The Center for Preventive Action's annual Preventive Priorities Survey (PPS) evaluates ongoing and potential conflicts based on their likelihood of occurring in the coming year and their impact on U.S. interests

Helia Ighani is the assistant director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Center for Preventive Action.

Today President-elect Donald J. Trump announced his nomination for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. Tillerson’s nomination, like others that Trump has made to fill national security positions, have garnered controversy and could face contentious Senate confirmation hearings. Yet, whoever leads the State Department, Pentagon, and intelligence agencies, foreign policy professionals across the government will be confronted with numerous unanticipated global crises in Trump’s first year in office. To help policymakers plan for these contingencies, the Center for Preventive Action conducts an annual Preventive Priorities Survey (PPS) to highlight the top thirty potential conflicts that could affect U.S. interests in 2017. Read more »

Five Ways Trump’s Foreign Policy Would Be a Disaster

by Micah Zenko
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton finish their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 19, 2016. (Blake/Reuters)

I have a new column today on Foreign Policy—“Trump Is Less Hawkish Than Hillary. Who Cares?”—which summarizes my evaluation of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s foreign-policy positions. I have published a number of pieces focusing on both candidates, from Clinton’s call for a no-fly zone in Syria, to Trump’s convenient amnesia about strongly endorsing a U.S. ground intervention in Libya in February 2011. This campaign has been marked more by perceptions of the candidates’ behavior, temperaments, and familial or professional connections than actual policies. Read more »

What Threats or Conflicts Will Emerge or Escalate in 2017?

by Micah Zenko
A boy walks past damaged buildings in the northern Syrian rebel-held town of al-Waqf, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, October 9, 2016. (Ashawi/Reuters)

In last night’s presidential debate, it took little time for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to bring up the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Responding to moderator Anderson Cooper’s question about a leaked recording of Trump bragging about groping women, Trump promised that he would “knock the hell out of ISIS.” For the amount of time spent by both candidates talking about defeating terrorists, viewers might think that they pose the greatest threat to the United States. Read more »

A Literal Cold War: The EU-Russian Struggle Over Energy Security

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
An employee walks at Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom's Sudzha pumping station, January 13, 2009 (Sinyakov/Reuters).

Niall Henderson is an Interdepartmental Program Assistant at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On September 14, Ukraine initiated arbitration against the Russian Federation for violations of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, with specific reference to access of energy resources off the coast of Ukraine and Russian-annexed Crimea. This development follows the Russian seizure of Crimean oil rigs in the Black Sea in late 2015, and the installation of rigs bearing Russian flags in the area more recently. Regardless of the outcome of the litigation, the escalation of Russian-Ukrainian tensions has serious consequences for European energy security. Ukraine lies at a critical juncture between Europe and Russia, and therefore its ability to resist Russian energy securitization has widespread implications for the European Union (EU) as well as for U.S. strategic options in the region. Read more »