As South Sudan, the world’s newest country, veers dangerously close to ethnic civil war, we’re already getting a glimpse of the international crises that could greet us in the new year. Now the Center for Preventive Action, an affiliate of the Council on Foreign Relations, has presented a more comprehensive view, releasing its annual forecast of the conflicts that could pose the greatest threat to the United States in 2014.
The survey, which asked more than 1,200 U.S. government officials, academics, and experts to assess the impact and likelihood of 30 scenarios, divides the results into three tiers of risk. And some of the findings are alarming. Beyond the familiar flashpoints—military intervention in Syria’s civil war, strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities—the report raises concerns about overlooked threats ranging from turmoil in Jordan to civil war in Iraq to a border clash between China and India. The study is also notable for the risks it downplays, including armed confrontation between China and its neighbors over territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.
The most threatening and most likely conflicts (in red) include some you might expect: limited military intervention in Syria’s deteriorating civil war; a cyberattack on critical infrastructure in the U.S.; military strikes against Iran if nuclear talks fail or Tehran advances its nuclear program; a North Korean crisis sparked by military provocation or internal political instability; a major terrorist attack on the U.S. or an ally; and greater turmoil in Afghanistan and Pakistan as U.S. troops withdraw from the region and Afghanistan holds elections.
Read more. [Image: Center For Preventive Action/Council on Foreign Relations]
Farmers in Brazil are more likely to invade each others’ land in years that are particularly wet or unusually dry. Americans honk their horns more at other cars when it’s hot outside. Countries in the tropics are more likely to have civil wars in years that are especially hot or dry.
They may seem random, but actually, these events are all connected. New research from Princeton University and UC Berkeley published today in Science reveals a link between big shifts in climate and precipitation and a rise in interpersonal violence, institutional breakdown, and especially inter-group violence, such as war. Not only does the paper shed light on past bouts of global conflict, it also offers a warning about the future. The world is expected to warm by at least 2 degrees Celsius over the next few decades, unless governments do something drastic, and the researchers say that increased bloodshed could be a serious side-effect of that trend.
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
Two weeks ago, the French military launched Operation Serval, intervening in a complicated, months-old conflict in northern Mali. A year earlier, Tuareg rebels had attacked government positions throughout northern Mali, temporarily seizing control of a large area and declaring it a new state named Azawad. The rebels soon lost control though, displaced by several Islamist groups, including elements of Al Qaeda, intent on imposing Sharia law in the region and possibly establishing a base for terrorist activity. Those militant groups began pushing south recently, prompting a planned U.N. action, but France felt compelled to act sooner than anticipated, to prevent further damaging gains. More than 2,000 French troops are now involved in Mali, pursuing and attacking anti-government forces from the air and ground, with support from nine other western countries and several neighboring African nations.
See more. [Images: AP, Getty, Reuters]