In the southwest, Israel could view Iran-backed militias operating on and near the Golan Heights as a direct threat and take military action to push them back. Whether Moscow can prevent any Iranian or Hezbollah presence there, as it has pledged to do, is unclear.
Israel may take matters into its own hands, striking Iran-allied forces. That pattern — prodding by Iran, pushback by Israel — could last for some time. But a wider confrontation is only one miscalculation away and could quickly spread beyond Syria, to Lebanon. Regime and allied forces appear to have shifted some attention from the east to those areas, placing that deal under stress. A regime offensive in the northwest could provoke massive destruction and displacement.
Weak states across the Sahel region are struggling to manage an overlapping mix of intercommunal conflict, jihadi violence, and fighting over smuggling routes. The instability has opened a rich vein for jihadis, who piggyback on intercommunal conflict or use Islam to frame struggles against traditional authorities. As the situation has degenerated, the regional and international response has focused excessively on military solutions. Europeans in particular view the region as a threat to their own safety and a source of migration and terrorism.
Special Forces, and U. It lacks a clear definition of the enemy, instead envisaging operations against an array of jihadis, traffickers, and other criminals. Disrupting smuggling in regions where that business represents the backbone of local economies could alienate communities.
Regional leaders also appear likely to misuse military aid to shore up their own power. To avoid further deterioration, military efforts must be accompanied by a political strategy that rests on winning the support of local populations and defusing rather than aggravating local disputes. Opening or restoring lines of communication with some militant leaders should not be ruled out, if doing so can help diminish violence.
At the end of , the Saint Sylvester agreement appeared to offer a way out, requiring elections by the end of , after which Kabila would leave power his second and, according to the Congolese Constitution, final term in office should have ended December The most likely course in is gradual deterioration.
But there are worse scenarios. As the regime clamps down, fails to secure parts of the country, and stokes instability in others, the risk of a steeper descent into chaos remains — with grave regional implications. There are already troubling signs. Popular discontent raises the risk of unrest in urban centers; in recent days, the violent dispersal of protesters in Kinshasa and other towns has left several people dead.
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Elsewhere, local militias plague several provinces. International engagement has been lackluster.
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Only more active, forceful, and united diplomacy — and ideally a more engaged Congolese opposition — stand a chance of nudging Kabila toward a peaceful transition. The Saint Sylvester principles credible elections, no third term for Kabila, an opening of political space, and respect for human rights still offer the best route out of the crisis. The conflict in eastern Ukraine has claimed over 10, lives and constitutes a grave ongoing humanitarian crisis.
While it persists, relations between Russia and the West are unlikely to improve. Separatist-held areas are dysfunctional and dependent on Moscow. Both sides continue to exchange fire across the line dividing Ukrainian troops from separatist and Russian forces. Yet the east is not the whole story. The Ukrainian state remains fragile even outside areas where Moscow interferes directly. Many Ukrainians are losing faith in laws, institutions, and elites.
Anger at the Minsk agreement, which Ukrainians see as a concession to separatists and Moscow, is growing, even among reformists. Security Council resolution proposing peacekeepers for Ukraine in September came as a surprise. Despite the high costs of its entanglement, little suggests it intends to loosen its grip on eastern Ukraine. The lightly armed force it proposed, whose mandate would include only providing security to Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitors, would more likely freeze the conflict than resolve it. They should, however, factor in growing animosity toward the Minsk agreement.
The opposition has imploded. Prospects for a peaceful restoration of democracy appear ever slimmer. Expect the humanitarian crisis to deepen in as GDP continues to contract. In late November, Venezuela defaulted on part of its international debt. Sanctions will make debt restructuring nearly impossible.
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Increasing Russian support is unlikely to suffice, while China appears reluctant to bail Maduro out. Subsequent polls for state governors and mayors led to major opposition losses amid disputes over whether to participate. But food shortages, a collapsed health system, and spiraling violent crime mean conditions for unrest persist.
While opposition politicians look to the presidential vote, due by late , as an opportunity and entry point for foreign engagement, the government is unlikely to permit a credible vote. It might call early polls, catch its opponents unprepared, and deploy the same voter suppression tactics it has used to win local and regional elections.
If the opposition begins to show signs of recovery, Maduro might seek to avoid elections altogether by claiming that external threats warrant a state of emergency. A less probable scenario is that the ruling party splits over who will succeed Maduro; without a formal mechanism, the military would be the likely arbiter. The prognosis for is further deterioration, humanitarian emergency, and an increased exodus of Venezuelans.
Sustained domestic and international pressure — as well as guarantees of future immunity — will be required to push the government toward credible presidential elections. Originally published in Foreign Policy. The world is entering its most dangerous chapter in decades. The sharp uptick in war over recent years is outstripping our ability to cope with the consequences.
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From the global refugee crisis to the spread of terrorism, our collective failure to resolve conflict is giving birth to new threats and emergencies. Even in peaceful societies, the politics of fear is leading to dangerous polarization and demagoguery. It is against this backdrop that Donald Trump was elected the next president of the United States — unquestionably the most important event of last year and one with far-reaching geopolitical implications for the future.
But one thing we do know is that uncertainty itself can be profoundly destabilizing, especially when it involves the most powerful actor on the global stage. Will he cut a deal with Russia over the heads of Europeans?
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Will he try to undo the Iran nuclear accord? The last 60 years have suffered their share of crises, from Vietnam to Rwanda to the Iraq War. But the vision of a cooperative international order that emerged after World War II, championed and led by the United States, has structured relations between major powers since the end of the Cold War. That order was in flux even before Trump won the election.
But Obama worked to shore up international institutions to fill the gap. In Europe, uncertainty over the new U. Nationalist forces have gained strength, and upcoming elections in France, Germany, and the Netherlands will test the future of the European project. The potential unraveling of the European Union is one of the greatest challenges we face today — a fact that is lost amid the many other alarming developments competing for attention. Exacerbated regional rivalries are also transforming the landscape, as is particularly evident in the competition between Iran and the Persian Gulf countries for influence in the Middle East.
The resulting proxy wars have had devastating consequences from Syria to Iraq to Yemen. Many world leaders claim that the way out of deepening divisions is to unite around the shared goal of fighting terrorism. But that is an illusion: Terrorism is just a tactic, and fighting a tactic cannot define a strategy. Jihadi groups exploit wars and state collapse to consolidate power, and they thrive on chaos. In the end, what the international system really needs is a strategy of conflict prevention that shores up, in an inclusive way, the states that are its building blocks.