Trends and trouble spots in 2019

Robert Malley, President of the International Crisis Group, outlines key global trends and 10 ongoing or incipient conflicts to watch in 2019. See: 10 Conflicts to Watch in 2019 (, 28 December 2018).

The international order as we know it is unravelling, with no clear sense of what will come in its wake. The danger may well lie less in the ultimate destination than in the process of getting there.

Yemen is the first conflict he examines, one with a shameful Canadian component — as Canada declines to follow the example of Germany, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland, all of whom have stopped their arms shipments to Saudi Arabia, the leader of the coalition decimating the Middle East’s poorest country. Malley writes:

If one place has borne the brunt of international lawlessness over the past year it is Yemen. The humanitarian crisis there — the world’s worst — could deteriorate further in 2019 if the key players do not seize the opportunity created over the past weeks by UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in achieving a partial ceasefire and encouraging a series of confidence-building steps.

We can only hope that the new democratically controlled U.S. Congress will support actions already taken by the U.S. Senate to rein in American military support for Saudi Arabia, which prompts the question, is that what it will take for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to do the same?

Turning next to Afghanistan, many who have not been closely following this conflict will be unsettled to learn that 2018 saw its most deadly fighting in 17 years.  On the positive side, peace negotiations seem to be gaining traction, but they have been potentially undermined by Trump’s unilateral and precipitous announcement of American troop withdrawal.

The rashness of Trump’s decision risks outweighing any potential silver lining. Its timing appeared to catch everyone … off guard.… In Kabul, the sense of betrayal was palpable.

In addition to ongoing conflicts in Syria, South Sudan and Ukraine, Malley also examines other points of tension that could escalate into armed violence, notably Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Israel versus Iran.

One can only hope this [Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives] leads to stronger U.S. pressure on Riyadh to end the war in Yemen and to greater congressional scrutiny of U.S. and Saudi escalatory policies toward Iran.

Originally published in Foreign Policy, the full article can also be accessed here: 10 Conflicts to Watch in 2019 (Robert Malley,, 28 December 2018).

For a useful companion article on what the numbers tell us, see: U.S. decline: a military calculus (Prof Paul Rogers,, 3 January 2019).

For a made-in-Canada list see: 10 world events to watch in 2019 (Stefan Labbé,, 2 Jan 2019).

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Tags: Afghanistan, Cameroon, Canadian arms exports to Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, Israel, Jamal Khashoggi, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Syria, U.S. Congress, UAE, Ukraine, UN, USA, Venezuela, Yemen