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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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 »

Guest Post: Endgame in Colombia – The Need for a Bilateral Ceasefire

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos talks with Colombian armed forces chief Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez during a presentation of new military leaders at the Jose Maria Cordova military school in Bogota on July 9, 2015. (Vizcaino/Reuters) Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos talks with Colombian armed forces chief Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez during a presentation of new military leaders at the Jose Maria Cordova military school in Bogota on July 9, 2015. (Vizcaino/Reuters)

Patrick Romano is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’s unrelenting opposition to negotiating a bilateral ceasefire with left-wing guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) threatens to derail current peace talks and indefinitely perpetuate the longest conflict in the Western Hemisphere. Though the war began in 1964, over the past fifty years more than 220,000 Colombians—80 percent civilians—have lost their lives and more than five million have been displaced. 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)

Guest Post: Promoting a Ukraine-EU Agenda on Human Trafficking

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko shakes hands with European Council president Donald Tusk before the Eastern Partnership Summit session in Riga, Latvia on May 22, 2015. (Kalnins/Reuters) Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko shakes hands with European Council president Donald Tusk before the Eastern Partnership Summit session in Riga, Latvia on May 22, 2015. (Kalnins/Reuters)

Luke Drabyn is a former intern for global health, economics, and development at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ukraine has one of the highest levels of human trafficking in Europe. Over 120,000 Ukrainian men, women, and children have been exploited for labor and sex since the country became independent in 1991. The Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit in Riga, Latvia provides a valuable forum to discuss collaboration on human trafficking between the European Union (EU) and Ukraine. For Ukraine, successful reform and a display of leadership could instill trust among its disillusioned citizens. For the EU, fulfilling its commitments under the 2012–2016 Strategy Toward the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings could protect it from criticism. Many of the EU’s 90 migration-related projects to non-EU countries since 2012 have included anti-trafficking provisions. However, none address trafficking in Ukraine specifically. At its most basic level, human trafficking—the second most lucrative illicit industry worldwide—is a moral issue that contributes to the collective “deprivation of liberty and denial of freedom of movement” for vulnerable men, women, and children alike. Ukraine-EU collaboration on human trafficking would not only be mutually beneficial, but it is also feasible, and the EaP Summit provides this opportunity. Read more »

Guest Post: The Islamic State’s Water War

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
A general view of Mosul Dam in northern Iraq September 20, 2014.  (Jalal/Reuters) A general view of Mosul Dam in northern Iraq September 20, 2014. (Jalal/Reuters)

Allyson Beach is an intern for energy and environment at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As a requisite resource, water and its infrastructure are decisive targets in the self-declared Islamic State’s (IS) strategy for regional expansion in the Middle East. Although IS has not demonstrated the capacity to operate technologically intensive water infrastructure, it continues to pursue control of dams and water systems in Iraq and Syria that, if acquired and adequately maintained could partially legitimize its rule, or alternatively be exploited as a weapon. Read more »

Highlights of the Worldwide Threats Hearing

by Micah Zenko

Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, “Worldwide Threats,” witnesses: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, February 26, 2015.

CLAPPER:  2014 saw, for the first time, destructive cyberattacks carried out on U.S. soil by nation-state entities, marked first by the Iranian attack against the Las Vegas Sands Casino Corporation a year ago this month and the North Korean attack against Sony in November. Read more »

Guest Post: The Unknown Limits of Synthetic Biology

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
A technician poses for the media with a test tube for testing against pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus in the national reference laboratory at the Robert Koch scientific institute in Berlin on October 2, 2009. (Bensch/Courtesy Reuters) A technician poses for the media with a test tube for testing against pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus in the national reference laboratory at the Robert Koch scientific institute in Berlin on October 2, 2009. (Bensch/Courtesy Reuters)

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

Since 2001, major metropolitan cities have increasingly conducted gas and chemical attack simulations in subway systems. Police departments carry out these exercises with odorless, colorless, and non-toxic gases to determine how to evacuate passengers in the event of an actual biological or chemical attack, and identify safeguards that could be implemented to prevent potentially catastrophic consequences. Read more »

Preventive Priorities Survey for 2015

by Micah Zenko
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), walk toward the Syrian border near Sinjar, Iraq, August 11, 2014. (Rodi Said/Courtesy Reuters) Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), walk toward the Syrian border near Sinjar, Iraq, August 11, 2014. (Rodi Said/Courtesy Reuters)

Today, we at the Center for Preventive Action released our Preventive Priorities Survey (PPS) for 2015. This is the seventh in our annual effort to harness crowd wisdom and foreign policy expertise in order to identify plausible sources of political instability and violence and to rank them into three tiers based on their impact to U.S. interests and likelihood of happening in the upcoming year. The goal of the PPS is to help officials and policymakers focus on the most important conflict prevention demands. Despite all the early warning analysis done in the U.S. government, there is neither a systematic process that does this, nor a routine system for bringing such information to the attention of senior officials. The PPS represents our best effort to provide this once a year and, given the feedback we receive from officials, the survey is highly coveted and widely read. 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 »

Why Secretary Chuck Hagel Resigned

by Micah Zenko
President Barack Obama embraces Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel after announcing Hagel's resignation at the White House on November 24, 2014. (Downing/Courtesy Reuters) President Barack Obama embraces Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel after announcing Hagel's resignation at the White House on November 24, 2014. (Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

Gopal Ratnam, “Picking Up the Pieces at the Pentagon,” ForeignPolicy.com, November 25, 2014.

Although the White House portrayed Hagel’s departure as a usual cabinet change post a midterm election that resulted in Democrats losing their Senate majority, unnamed administration officials have said that Hagel wasn’t up to the task of leading the fight against the militant group also known as ISIS and ISIL that now controls broad parts of Iraq and SyriaRead more »