As we enter into the year 2018, we carry forward threats to world peace which manifested in 2017 or the earlier years. Terrorism remains the most deadly threat to the world at the beginning of the new year. Internal disturbances in Iran are a grave threat to balance of power in the Middle East and may enhance the Shi’a-Sunni entangle further. China’s hegemonic actions in the South China Sea and strengthening of String of Pearls in the Indian Ocean is an ongoing threat to the sovereignty of littoral states in South and South East Asia. Recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has sparked off a fresh wave of violence in Israeli- Palestinian ongoing crisis.

The threats that loom large in front of the world are increased chances of use of nuclear arms by North Korea and certain other rogue states like Pakistan and non-state actors like ISIS and Al Qaida. Climate changes and the lack of seriousness that the US treats it with is another threat. Large scale migrations from troubled spots of Syria, Yemen and Libya to Europe are increasing security concern for the western countries. Closer to home the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh is threatening peace in South Asia. Human and drug trafficking go on unabated inspite of stringent measures being imposed by member states. Potential cyber attacks and rogue use of artificial intelligence is one of the biggest emerging threat.

Though ISIS has been defeated decisively in Iraq and Syria, the remnant cadres are the greatest threat to world peace in 2018, as they are going to launch desperate attempts to spread violence in western world as a vengeance for their defeat. Ongoing battle fields of the world in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya ; may witness renewed incidents of violence since varying sides, after the defeat of ISISI will attempt to increase their areas of influence and fill the vacuum in the strategic space.

2017 has been a defining year in international relations due to being the first year of the Great Trump Uncertainty Show. Based on the advice from his confidants, President Trump has polarised the world further; by clearly stating that North Korea, Pakistan, Iran and other Shia controlled countries including Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, Russia and China are the bad guys whereas Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni controlled countries are the good guys. South Korea, Japan, Australia and India are friendly countries as per Trump, but must pay more for their security and take on collective security measures against the increasing influence of China.

The three world leaders whose actions need to be watched closely this year are Kim Jong Un, Donald Trump and Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud, in that order. Kim Jong has in his new year message stated that the nuclear button is on his desk thereby deterring US to take any direct or indirect action through South Korea. The ongoing talks between the Government officials of two Korean states is a thaw in the otherwise volatile situation. Matching each and every action of the dictator, Donald Trump has declared that he has a bigger switch and he has also taken the credit for the beginning of the talks between North and South Koreas. The lack of matured and weighed statements on both side is strikingly visible.

Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud of Saudi Arabia has systematically placed himself in a position of eminence and seems to be a young leader in a hurry. As the Defence Minister, he has failed to bring peace to Yemen and has only pushed one of the poorest countries in the region into a humanitarian and security crisis. The next crop of global terrorists are going to be based mainly in Yemen and less in Syria, Iraq or Libya. The purge that he has affected amongst the royal family in a bid to eradicate corruption may lead to unrest within the country. He has been quite on the announcement of Jerusalem as capital by Trump and has pushed Qatar into an economic quagmire which may not augur well for the already stressed Saudi economy.

The countries that are likely to threaten and influence world peace in 2018 are North Korea, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, US, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Turkey. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Bashar Al Assad, Benjamin Netanyahu, Modi and Hassan Rouhani are the other leaders who will impact the security situation in the world in the ensuing year. Conflict resolution remains a distant dream in 2018 as right wing governments and leaders continue to cause serious threats to world peace.

( This is the first of a series of three articles on the threats to world peace).



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Maj Gen Murali Gopalakrishnan
Maj Gen Murali Gopalakrishnan

While the reasoning of the article is specific in identifying threats, the larger issue in my opinion is the way a defeated organisation like ISIS will manifest itself. There will be no conflict resolution because everyone is rigid in his chosen path. One has to constantly be pro active in imagining new forms of threat than the threat itself. Just as you can’t time the markets, you can’t eliminate threats.