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Top 10 Global Issues in 2016 | Adnan Khan

1. Syria – In April 2016 the upris­ing in Syria will offi­cially reach 5 years. No one expected the con­flict in Syria would still be rag­ing in 2016. But there are two trends that will shape Syria in 2016 and beyond. In Octo­ber 2015 at the Vienna con­fer­ence a roadmap was agreed between 17 nations, who all have a stake in the con­flict. This roadmap included cease­fires, nego­ti­a­tions and an elec­tion in 2016. Those groups who do not par­take in the roadmap are to be con­sid­ered extrem­ist groups and will see airstrikes even dur­ing cease­fires. The sec­ond trend is the bleed­ing of the Bashar al-Assad regime. Bashar can only win in the long-term if he has enough reli­able sol­diers and local sup­port. The Syr­ian mil­i­tary is hav­ing prob­lems putting enough men on the bat­tle­field. The struc­tural prob­lems al-Assad faces is replen­ish­ing his armed forces in this bat­tle of attri­tion. Bashar al-Assad’s sup­port base at most is 12% of the pop­u­la­tion, for every sol­dier that defects, dies and loses a limb and there­fore can­not fight needs to be replaced from his extremely small sup­port base. The longer the war goes on this sup­port base will only shrink at a faster rate. As mat­ters stand, there just are not enough to troops to com­ple­ment Assad’s air supe­ri­or­ity and take back ter­ri­tory. This is why it has always needed exter­nal sup­port, and will need this for the fore­see­able future to survive.

Saudi’s deci­sion in 2014 to flood the oil mar­ket with extra crude thereby reduc­ing the price of oil has back­fired and is hurt­ing Riyadh more than the shale oil pro­duc­ers in the US

2. Saudi Ara­bia – Saudi Ara­bia recently announced it will have a bud­get deficit of $87 bil­lion in 2016, after years of turn­ing around sur­pluses of this amount.[1] Through­out much of 2015, rumours con­tin­ued to cir­cu­late of the Saudi monar­chies immi­nent col­lapse and the country’s eco­nomic melt­down. Saudi’s deci­sion in 2014 to flood the oil mar­ket with extra crude thereby reduc­ing the price of oil has back­fired and is hurt­ing Riyadh more than the shale oil pro­duc­ers in the US.[2] If the aim was to choke the US shale indus­try, the Saudis mis­judged badly. Saudi money has been flow­ing out at around $12 bil­lion a month to ward off attempts of real change dur­ing the Arab spring upris­ings and by aggres­sively sup­port­ing regimes across the Arab world like Egypt and Tunisia to stem the rise of polit­i­cal Islam. The inter­fer­ence in Syria and Yemen, con­tin­ued deplet­ing the country’s cash reserves at an alarm­ing rate. These fac­tors com­bined are not only putting huge pres­sure on the fis­cal bud­get but also on the for­eign reserve fund. Despite this grim out­look, King Salman con­tin­ues to spend money at an alarm­ing rate. His coro­na­tion bonus to buy loy­alty amongst his sub­jects amounted to $32 bil­lion. This is caus­ing ten­sion within the royal fam­ily, whose lifestyles are largely sub­sidised with oil wealth.

3. Egypt — Egypt in 2016 faces sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic prob­lems, which the Abdel Fat­tah al-Sisi gov­ern­ment has shown lit­tle apti­tude in solv­ing. After four years of polit­i­cal and eco­nomic tur­moil, the Egypt­ian gov­ern­ment has been work­ing hard to present an image of revival and a coun­try full of invest­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties.The expan­sion of the Suez Canal and the raft of coun­tries invest­ing in Egypt has been pre­sented as eco­nomic suc­cess. But the armies huge pres­ence in the econ­omy, con­sid­ered up to 40% has left many Egyp­tians unem­ployed and with lit­tle busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties. Sisi is using the his pre­de­ces­sors tac­tic of brute force to main­tain his posi­tion, but social insta­bil­ity is brew­ing in Egypt and 2016 could be Sisi’s Mubarak moment.

4. US Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tion – 2016 is elec­tion year for the US and brings to an end Barack Obama’s term. Whilst there was much hope when he emerged vic­to­ri­ous, this sen­ti­ment quickly dis­si­pated as the real­ity of America’s global posi­tion became appar­ent. The two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has con­sumed the USand many Amer­i­cans are pes­simistic about US prospects going for­ward. Once the mania around Don­ald Trump evap­o­rates it is very likely brand Clin­ton will face brand Bush in the Novem­ber 2016 elec­tion. But who­ever emerges vic­to­ri­ous will have to nav­i­gate the US through unprece­dented waters.

5. Afghanistan – Afghanistan is now con­sid­ered one of America’s most promi­nent fail­ures. Whilst the USdestroyed the coun­try very quickly and effi­ciently, it has failed to build the most basic of nation build­ing require­ments – secu­rity and gov­er­nance. But the hand­picked Kabul gov­ern­ments have been fail­ures and have lit­tle power out­side their offices. With town after town falling in North­ern Afghanistan to the Tal­iban, it looks like the US con­structed archi­tec­ture is unrav­el­ling. With nego­ti­a­tions with the Tal­iban stalled, some form of inter­ven­tion by US armed forces may be needed again in 2016

6. Oil prices – The actions of Saudi Ara­bia and the US to increase oil pro­duc­tion is now hurt­ing both  nations as oil prices have fallen well below what both nations expected. Saudi Ara­bia needs oil prices of over $90 a bar­rel for its national bud­get to break-even, whilst for the US the high costs of shale energy require oil prices of above $60 a bar­rel. Oil pro­duc­ers are mak­ing losses due to their actions, but this is also affect­ing a whole host of other pro­duc­ers and con­sumers. The polit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions of both Saudi Ara­bia and the US is what is keep­ing oil prices so low, but this is not sus­tain­able and 2016 will be an impor­tant year for nations that are depen­dent on oil rev­enues, who are cur­rently mak­ing huge losses. Rus­sia is in eco­nomic cri­sis due to low oil prices.


7. China – China is cur­rently attempt­ing a colos­sal tran­si­tion away from its low wage, aggres­sive export eco­nomic model to inter­nal con­sump­tion. But this was nearly thrown off course when its stock mar­kets crashed in 2015. China effec­tively needs to shift its eco­nomic dri­vers, wealth and progress to its vast inte­rior which has been a bystander in China’s three decades of devel­op­ment. For China to play an effec­tive role in its region and beyond, inter­nal sta­bil­ity is cru­cial. The out­come of this tran­si­tion will also impact its mil­i­tary, as China attempts to mod­ernise and develop indige­nous mil­i­tary plat­forms and become self-sufficient. China has many grand plans within its region and beyond, but all these are pred­i­cated on its econ­omy sup­port­ing such aims.

8. Europe – The Euro­pean Union is fac­ing mul­ti­ple unprece­dented chal­lenges, which will only get worse in 2016. The Euro­pean sov­er­eign debt cri­sis still con­tin­ues unabated and Ger­many con­tin­ues to use it to force other EU nations to make changes to their national bud­gets, bank­ing prac­tices and debt repay­ments. The influx of refugees will con­tinue to grow in 2016 which is caus­ing more EU nations to chal­lenge EU rules on bor­ders, migra­tion and wel­fare pay­ments. The British ref­er­en­dum on EU mem­ber­ship is expected in late 2016 or early 2017. The Tory gov­ern­ment has attempted to deal with this through var­i­ous pro­pos­als for EUreform. But a vote to remain in the EU dur­ing trou­bled eco­nomic and polit­i­cal times is the real prob­lem, and how other mem­bers state react to this will be inter­est­ing to watch.

9. Ten­sions in South-East Asia – The mil­i­tary build-up con­tin­ued in 2015, with China lay­ing claim to the South China Sea through occu­py­ing reefs and atolls and build­ing arti­fi­cial islands. China built a num­ber of arti­fi­cial islands, with land­ing strips in order to lay claim to the sur­round­ing oceans. The US chal­lenged this in Sep­tem­ber 2015 when one of its destroy­ers passed extremely close and within China’s claimed ter­ri­tory. The US claimed the rights to inter­na­tional mar­itime waters and China then began using civil­ian freight and fish­ing ships to block routes into the dis­puted waters. Ever since the US declared the pacific as its major focus back in 2012, more inci­dents are occur­ring and all it takes is one event for mat­ters to boil over into an inci­dent. In 2016 this region will remain a major inter­na­tional flash point.

10. Russia-West Stand-off — The stand­off between Rus­sia and the West has been cen­tral to the global bal­ance of power over the last few years. Whilst the Ukraine con­flict was largely frozen in 2015, in 2016, the level of con­flict and poten­tial coop­er­a­tion will wax and wane from issue to issue. The war in east­ern Ukraine is likely to turn into a long-term frozen con­flict, with fight­ing less intense than that seen in 2015. The US and the EU are almost guar­an­teed to keep sanc­tions against Rus­sia in place in 2016, unless Moscow relin­quishes access to and con­trol of the bor­der between Rus­sia and the sep­a­ratist ter­ri­to­ries in Ukraine. Rus­sia is attempt­ing to use its entry into Syria to also bar­gain over Ukraine, but for the moment this has not worked. In 2016, fast-paced mil­i­tary exer­cises and weapons buildups focused on the Euro­pean bor­der­lands will con­tinue.  Despite agree­ments over Syria, this does not mean Rus­sia and the West agree on other inter­na­tional issues, and these flash­points will be impor­tant to watch in 2016.

Source: http://www.revolutionobserver.com/2016/01/top-10-global-issues-in-2016.html

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