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 "United Nations"

Syria Civil War Total Fatalities

by Micah Zenko
Shiite fighters chant anti- al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and anti-Free Syrian Army (FSA) slogans at the Sayeda Zainab area in Damascus, February 10, 2014. (Alaa Al-Marjani/Courtesy Reuters) Shiite fighters chant anti- al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and anti-Free Syrian Army (FSA) slogans at the Sayeda Zainab area in Damascus, February 10, 2014. (Alaa Al-Marjani/Courtesy Reuters)

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

Estimates released today by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) portray a different picture of the civil war in Syria than U.S. policymakers and media convey. SOHR’s estimated death toll reinforces the point made in an article published on ForeignPolicy.com in September 2013, when they last released updated data: most of the reported deaths in Syria have not been committed by forces under Bashar al-Assad’s command. Additionally, the involvement of various individuals and groups in the conflict has broadened greatly since SOHR’s September 2013 estimate. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Ukraine, Rep. Mike Rogers, and Drones

by Micah Zenko

Jeanne Whalen and Alan Cullison, “Ukraine Battles to Rebuild a Depleted Military,” Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2014.

In recent weeks Mr. Yarema has turned to Washington and NATO for help, but with little luck so far. Ukraine’s military lacks much of an air force, and if fighting breaks out he expects that Russia would be able to pound Ukrainian ground troops with impunity. In meetings with U.S. senators and Western diplomats, he says he asked for help establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors so that his troops could at least count on some zones of safetyRead 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 »

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 »

Would the Syria Deal Be a Coercive Diplomacy Success?

by Micah Zenko
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad Syrian president Bashar al-Assad during an interview with French daily Le Figaro in Damascus on September 2, 2013 (SANA news agency/Courtesy Reuters).

In the past three days, the Syrian government made an unprecedented acknowledgment that it possesses a chemical weapons program, and that it will place them under the supervision of United Nations (UN) inspectors. As Syrian foreign minister Walid Moallem stated on Monday: “We are ready to reveal the locations of the chemical weapon sites and to stop producing chemical weapons and make these sites available for inspection by representatives of Russia, other countries and the United Nations.” This remarkable shift occurred after President Obama declared on August 31 that he would conduct limited strikes against Syrian regime targets, after receiving congressional authorization. Subsequently, the Obama administration has repeatedly claimed that it was only the credible threat of force that compelled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to reportedly agree to the initiative that had been discussed between American and Russian diplomats for months. Read more »

Don’t Gut the Foreign Operations Budget

by Micah Zenko
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets Syrian refugees U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets a group of Syrian refugees during a joint meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at the Zaatari refugee camp near the Jordanian city of Mafraq on July 18, 2013 (Ngan/Courtesy Reuters).

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

In what is becoming an annual practice, congressional appropriators are once again trying to reduce America’s $16.7 trillion gross federal debt by slashing President Obama’s $52 billion foreign operations budget request. The budget includes everything from embassy security to protect diplomats, vaccination programs to prevent new incidents of polio and measles, humanitarian aid for victims of war and natural disasters, and United Nations (UN) peacekeepers. All of this, and more, for an amount that is roughly a mere 8% of the $615 billion that the White House has requested for the Pentagon. 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 »

Giving Peacekeepers Their Due

by Micah Zenko

* co-authored with my research associate, Rebecca R. Friedman

With NATO operations in Libya entering their third month and no conclusion in sight, it is improbable that the civil war will resolve decisively in either side’s favor. Most likely, any ceasefire or stalemate will be tenuous and easily combustible; it will require monitoring, if not enforcement, by an international force capable of serving as an honest broker. In Libya, as in most conflicts since the end of World War II, the United Nations will be the only viable option to keep the peace. Read more »