SYRIA: Civil War Spills Across Border
Syria’s civil war escalated in 2012, boiling over into neighboring Turkey. A civilian death toll of about 40,000, and suspicions that President Bashar al-Assad may use chemical weapons (or already has), has drawn international concern. Foreign intervention is becoming increasingly likely. The United States and some European and Middle Eastern powers officially endorsed the rebel National Syrian Coalition on Dec. 12. If foreign powers arm rebels, the concern is that extremists may get ahold of the weapons.
ISRAEL: Hamas Gaining Might, Remains Limited
Hundreds of missiles flew between Hamas and Israel in November, showing Hamas’s increased military capability. With the help of Iran, Hamas is now able to reach some parts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Several Israelis died, while Palestinian casualties exceeded 100. Israel was able to intercept many Hamas missiles. Hamas’s allies have gained some strength in the region: the Muslim Brotherhood controls Egypt; Iran continues its nuclear program; civil war in Syria could see the rise of extremist power. The approval of 3,000 new housing units to be build in existing settlements by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who will run for re-election in 2013, will continue to increase tensions in 2013.
UNITED KINGDOM: A New Heir to the Throne
A new heir to the British throne will arrive in 2013. The pregnancy of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, was announced in December after weeks of speculation. While under common law for the past 300 years the first son was designated heir, changes to the regulations accepted in 2011 gave sons and daughters equal rights to the throne. Just like their marriage, Kate’s pregnancy has already been and will continue to be followed closely by the press in the U.K. and abroad.
ITALY: Berlusconi’s Political Comeback?
Silvio Berlusconi, 76, who was sentenced to four years in jail by a Milan court in October for tax evasion, shocked Italians in December by announcing that he will run for re-election. Berlusconi’s re-election bid will not only shake up Italian politics, but impact European politics and economic concerns. While outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti was able to stabilize the Italian economy to a certain extent, Berlusconi already indicated he would undo Monti’s austerity measures.
Next: CANADA: Oil Sands Fuels Debate
CANADA: Oil Sands Fuel Debate
As Canada moves to further develop its oil sands, concerns surrounding pipeline construction, environmental regulations, Aboriginal rights, and investment from Chinese state-owned oil companies, have persistently grabbed headlines. Canada’s current Conservative government has been a staunch supporter of oil sands development, hoping the resource can buoy a relatively stable economy amid global uncertainty. The government recently barred future takeovers of Canadian oil firms by foreign state-owned companies.
MEXICO: New President, New Focus
Enrique Peña Nieto was elected president in 2012 with a hope for change. While his predecessor, Felipe Calderón, had a strong focus on the “war on drugs,” Peña Nieto is expected to focus on jobs, trade, and economic growth in 2013. He will try to leave behind Mexico’s image as a land of violence and drug cartels. He is expected to establish a national corruption commission and open up the state-owned oil company, Pemex, to private investment. He will still tackle drug-related problems in Mexico, but will focus on the violence. At least 180 protesters were arrested on Peña Nieto’s inauguration day; Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolution Party (PRI) was known for corruption in its decades-long rule ending in 2000.
BRAZIL: Natives Occupy Dam Site in Amazon
Several times this year, a group of indigenous tribes in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest occupied the construction site of a massive dam project on the Xingu River that they say would threaten their livelihood. The occupations caused work to halt on multiple occasions. The dam is expected to be finished by 2019. It is estimated that it will flood an area of 300 square miles near the Xingu River, displacing some 16,000 people. In 2013, Amazonian natives will likely maintain pressure on Belo Monte, the consortium behind the project.
NEXT: AFGHANISTAN: Coalition Troops Withdraw
AFGHANISTAN: Coalition Troops Withdraw
After fighting against the Taliban for more than a decade in Afghanistan, 2013 will see most coalition troops withdraw. In 2013, Afghanistan and the United States are also expected to form an agreement on the number of troops that will stay in 2014. Expectations are that up to 10,000 troops will remain, down from 66,000 at present. While Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly said he believes Afghan security forces will be able to maintain control in 2014, fears are that hard-won gains will be lost once the coalition troops leave.
MALI: Islamists Take Over
Until this year, Mali was considered a relatively stable, democratic country. In late March, however, a mid-level officer carried out a coup and ousted the president. The coup collapsed and Islamist extremist forces took control of the northern part of the country. Cheikh Modibo Diarra, interim prime minister, was arrested and allegedly forced to resign in December. He tried to rally a West African force to enter the north and regain power. The United States decried Diarra’s arrest as a setback for democracy in the region. On Dec. 20, the U.N. Security Council approved an African-led International Support Mission.
EGYPT: President Faces Great Opposition, Protest
Egypt elected President Mohamed Morsi this year, wresting power away from the military, which had taken the reigns after the Arab Spring uprising of 2011. In November, Morsi gave himself judicial impunity with a presidential decree. Widespread protest erupted and Morsi scrapped the decree. But, in December he gave the military the power to arrest people leading up to a referendum on his draft constitution. Though the draft faced liberal opposition, it won the vote.
NEXT: NORTH KOREA: Nuclear Test May Follow Launch
NORTH KOREA: Nuclear Test May Follow Launch
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s regime conducted two rocket tests in 2012: one failed miserably and the other was deemed a success, sending a satellite into orbit. In the prior rocket launches, North Korea has usually followed up with a nuclear test. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace associate James Schoff told AFP last week that the launch “bolsters their credibility” and as a result, the rest of the world has to take them seriously. The capability to launch the rocket indicates an increased ability to target long-range missiles.
JAPAN: Largest Aging Population in World
In 2013, Japan’s elderly (aged 65 or older) are expected to comprise 25 percent of its population. Life expectancy in Japan is the longest in the world—80 for men and 86 for women. The aging population will have a great impact on Japanese society and its economy. In Japan, the elderly receive a pension and are guaranteed insurance. The large number of nonworking adults could hamper Japan’s economic expansion.
AUSTRALIA: Stringent Carbon Tax Could Be Dumped
Australia imposed a carbon tax in July that charges corporate polluters more than twice as much as the European Union’s carbon tax. In Australia, businesses must pay around $23 (US$24) per ton of carbon emissions; in Europe, the price is about 8 euros (US$11). If opposition leader Tony Abbott becomes prime minister in Australia’s federal election next year, he has promised to scrap the carbon tax. Prime Minister Julia Gillard estimated the tax would produce an effect over the next decade equal to taking 45 million cars off the road.
CHINA: Tibet Burns
In 2012, scores more Tibetans set themselves on fire to protest the harsh rule by the Chinese Communist Party. Since February 2009, at least 94 Tibetans have set themselves alight, but most of those incidents took place mid-to-late 2012. The Chinese regime responded by passing new laws against immolators and increasing security in Tibetan areas.
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