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The Global Conflicts to Watch in 2016

Concerns about the Middle East, and especially Syria, have displaced other threats.

In the summer of 2012—around the time that the Islamic State’s inchoate plans for a caliphate merited a mere footnote in a U.S. congressional report on the year-old Syrian conflict—Robert Satloff argued that a civil war was taking shape in Syria, and that its terrible consequences would extend far beyond Syrians; Americans, too, would soon be acquainted with the horror.

Among the plausible scenarios, he reasoned in the New Republic, were a revived Kurdish insurgency in Turkey and thousands of jihadists “descending on Syria to fight the apostate Alawite regime, transforming this large Eastern Mediterranean country into the global nexus of violent Islamist terrorists.”

“None of this is fantasy,” Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, assured his readers.

Today, they need no convincing. In the three years since Satloff issued his warning, the Syrian Civil War has steadily metastasized as a perceived threat to U.S. national security, nurturingISIS, bludgeoning Iraq, and radiating refugees in the Middle East and Europe. Consider, for example, the results of a new survey of American foreign-policy experts and practitioners by the Council on Foreign Relations’ Center for Preventive Action. Nearly 500 respondents estimated the likelihood and impact on U.S. interests of 30 potential conflicts in 2016. These conflicts were then sorted into three tiers of risk to America.

A deepening of the Syrian conflict “resulting from increased external support for warring parties, including military intervention by outside powers” was rated both highly likely and high-impact—the only “contingency” in the study to be ranked so gravely.

The countries in red below represent all conflicts that were assessed as either highly likely to occur/intensify or high-impact, meaning the contingency could threaten the U.S. mainland, spark U.S. military involvement because of mutual-defense treaty commitments, or endanger the supply of strategic U.S. resources. (The annual CFR report focuses on political- or security-related scenarios rather than economic crises, extreme-weather events, and other types of disasters; you can find the results of previous surveys here and here.)

The findings are perhaps less a forecast of things to come than a reflection of the primary concerns among experts heading into 2016. The map doesn’t necessarily depict where fighting, instability, or humanitarian suffering will be most acute; instead, it offers a sense what U.S.policymakers and crisis-managers might see when they look out onto the world, weigh America’s strategic interests, and decide how to allocate their finite time and resources in the coming year.

President Obama may believe America’s future lies in Asia, but the Middle East endures as the capital of American preoccupation. As Paul Stares, the report’s lead author, writes, “Of the eleven contingencies classified as Tier 1 priorities, all but three are related to events unfolding” in the Mideast. Several stem from the Syrian Civil War.


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The World Economy in 2016: Watch China

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The Top Ten Stories in South Asia, 2015

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Britain’s exit from Europe: 28 days later


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We must remember EU’s brutal history
EU border guard proposal wins wide support
Europe will stumble first
Highlights from Hindsight Capital’s year (How many of 2015’s best bets did you see coming?)
What were the best trades of 2015?
Why oil price could be higher in 2016
The oil price in 2016 — how low is the ceiling?
Top economies’ recoveries differ widely
Eurozone economists’ survey 2016: Refugees
A year of strife leaves the world on edge
Inside Isis Inc
Year in a word: Isis
Lucy Kellaway and Mike Skapinker review 2015
FT person of the year – Angela Merkel
The ebbing of Latin America’s ‘pink tide’
China overshadows global outlook for 2016
The FT’s US newsroom wraps up the year, looks ahead
A year in a word: Trans
A year in a word: Oxi

The Stories That Held You the Longest in 2015

The Year of the Toilet

Cracks in the Liberal Order

The state of the union, for better or worse, in 10 charts. — @SteveRattner

The Year in Pictures 2015 in The New York Times 

The world in 2015 review: a year of living dangerously

The world in 2015: how much do you know? – quiz

Africa in 2015, the pessimist’s take: war, terror and… Cecil the lion

Africa in 2015, the optimist’s take: bye bye Ebola, hello democracy

Open thread: what is the best book you read in 2015?

Impunity in conflict has cast a dark shadow over aid work in 2015

2016 will be a year of living dangerously for the global economy

Oil price falls to 11-year low with global glut expected to deepen in 2016

Recession, retrenchment, revolution? Impact of low crude prices on oil powers

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Five Questions: The World in 2035 →

The year ahead promises a number of shifts throughout Latin America. Will we see government changes in Brazil and Venezuela? Is Obama finally visiting Cuba? In short, what will be some of the top issues shaping the region in 2016? The Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center has come up with answers to what may be the top questions for the year ahead. But we also want to hear from you. Vote in the poll to cast your answers and find out what we think about these ten important issues. (LINK TO REPORT)

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2016 Presidential Election

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2015 según CIDOB

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Key events in Latin America in 2015

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Los eventos del 2015 después de los cuales el mundo no será como antes → 

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