The expectation of a peaceful world after the end of the Cold War was frustrated. The new complexities have generated economic multipolarities and new centers of power in the world.
Although still occurring, inter-state wars are no longer the prevailing type of armed confrontation in the world today. In turn, internal conflicts have proliferated , such as violent civil wars of an ethnic, religious or political nature, as well as acts and attacks by groups linked to terrorism .
In addition to not bringing peace, the end of the Cold War also did not result in disarmament. On the contrary, several countries of the old Soviet orbit began to act more intensely in the world arms trade. In this context, the relative position of the United States , eventually challenged by Russia , has been reinforced – both still have gigantic nuclear and conventional arsenals. They are also the two largest arms dealers on the planet.
Research and development in the war industry has led to the sophistication of armaments and equipment, now associated with notable advances in information technology and telecommunications – placed at the service of both armies and larger states and various extremist groups.
Recent global conflicts:
- Islamic state
- Arab Spring
- Middle East Conflicts
- Arab-Israeli Conflict
- Conflicts of Afghanistan
- Ira and Eta
- War in Iraq
- War of Afghanistan
- War in Syria
- Second Gulf War
- Korean War
- Kosovo War
- Gulf War
- Vietnam War
- Conflicts in Africa
- Geopolitics of Oil and the Middle East
A GEOGRAPHY OF TERROR
Attacks and other violent actions by terror organizations are increasingly common in today’s world. One landmark in this type of action was the September 2001 bombing of the Twin Towers in New York, USA.
At that time, passenger planes were dominated and launched against the buildings. On the same day and in the same country, Pentagon military intelligence facilities in Washington were also attacked.
Both actions were claimed by al-Qaeda , an organization commanded at the time by Osama bin Laden – a Saudi Wahhabite (sect that purports to purify Islam, returning to the roots of religion). Bin Laden fought against the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet troops, side by side with local and United States soldiers.
The attack on the Twin Towers left nearly 3,000 dead, mostly civilians, and triggered a US-led offensive, then ruled by George W. Bush, with bombings of suspected terrorist bases in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Another group is the Boko Haram , operating in northwestern Nigeria, on the African continent. Its name means “non-Islamic education is sinful” in the Hausa language, spoken in that region. Claiming to be an arm of al-Qaeda in West Africa, the most notable action was the kidnapping in 2014 of approximately 200 teenagers who the group said received “western” education.
The attacks are steady in clashes and internal strife, such as those in Pakistan and Iraq, in conflicts in the Caucasus or in the historic clash between Israelis and Palestinians. Part of these attacks is a result of the jihadist action (which comes from the expression jihad , which means holy war against the enemies of Islam), who are Islamic extremists attacking various targets in both the West and the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
As in the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001, other actions by terror groups are turned against Western values and icons, such as newspapers, subway stations and commercial establishments, and even symbols of civilizations of antiquity, such as the destruction of Assyrian statues in Iraq promoted by members of the Islamic State (EI) in 2015.
Among the actions of great violence or high numbers of dead and injured are those at a train station in Madrid (Spain) in 2004 , and the simultaneous attacks on concert halls, restaurant and soccer stadium in Paris in November 2015.
The actions of these groups have been strongly condemned by religious and Islamist leaderships, who counteract the violence of the attacks with the message of peace contained in the sacred books of the Muslim religion. Therefore, although many want to disseminate this image, there is no direct relationship between Islam and terrorism.
An important point to consider is that terror groups have spatial strategies that make it harder to combat their actions. In general, they use fractions from various territories for military training or to allocate militants without links to governments or political leaders.
They use modern telecommunications, typical of globalization, to recruit followers or to plan and organize actions. In this way, small and agile groups are formed, that act in geographic networks – fought by military forces of territorial base. And, not infrequently, with innocuous answers.
CONFLICTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The Middle East , a region of Asia that encompasses the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf and territories bordering the Mediterranean and Central Asia, is a cradle of millennial cultures and the three great monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism). It has already been the scene of countless territorial conquests and domination of empires and caliphates.
Disputes over large oil reserves and cultural and religious dissent (especially those opposed by Shi’ites and Sunnis ) make the region one of the most troubled in the world today, with different conflicts, attacks, refugee exodus and loss of life.
The presence of troops, military bases and financial aid from Western powers and Russia reinforce the strategic importance of the Middle East.
THE WAR IN SYRIA AND THE ISLAMIC STATE
The emergence of the Islamic State (EI) group is associated with both Shia and Sunni divisions as well as recent episodes in the Arab-Muslim world.
In 2010 a fruit seller in Tunisia set fire to his body to protest against extortion practiced by police. It was the fuse of the Arab Spring , a movement marked by intense demonstrations and popular revolts that shook North Africa and the Middle East.
Demonstrators have brought down leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. They also reached Algeria, Morocco, Bahrain, Oman and Syria and, to a lesser extent, also Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait.
In Syria, the riots triggered a civil war from 2011, opposing insurgents and the Bashar-Al-Assad government. According to the UN, more than 400,000 people have already been killed and another 4.5 million have immigrated to European countries as refugees.
The former were formed from a range of factions supported by Saudi Arabia and the West and, in an unusual alliance, counting on activists linked to Al Qaeda.
Assad’s regime was supported by the Alawite Shi’ite-leaning Shi’ite movement, which includes the ruler’s family, Christian minorities, and countries like Russia, China and Iran. Religious divisions help explain the fact that Saudis and the Syrian government are on opposite sides.
The Syrian civil war and the weaknesses of Iraq, wracked by wars, by the US presence and attacks and aggressions between Sunnis and Shiites, formed the ideal scenario for the emergence of the Islamic State . Composed of Sunni extremists of various backgrounds, militias and former combatants of different nationalities, and young Europeans newly converted to Islam, the group quickly conquered fractions of the territories of Iraq and Syria.
They occupied important cities, such as Raqa and Palmira (Syria), and Mosul (Iraq). They proclaimed a caliphate (succession, in Arabic), regime commanded by a caliph, head of the nation and raised the successor of the prophet Muhammad . In this modern caliphate of the EI, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was appointed “caliph of all Muslims”.
At some point, especially in 2014, the EI has incorporated more than 20,000 foreigners from more than 50 countries into its ranks.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2015 data show that 4 million Syrians left the country because of the conflicts. Plots went to neighboring countries; others tried to reach Europe on very risky routes and crossings. Another 7.6 million Syrians moved within the country, living in precarious conditions. We will return to this point later.
Beginning in 2015, the EI gradually loses territory, especially in Iraq – which has come to rely on the help of US air strikes. The same happened with the advance of the Syrian troops, with Russian support . On the northern borders, the losses were due to attacks from Turkey, which combined fighting the EI with attacks on Kurdish minority groups.
An agreement for a ceasefire between Bashar al-Assad’s troops and the opposition groups imposed by the United States and Russia in September 2016 can concentrate efforts to combat the EI in Syria.
THE CONFLICT BETWEEN PALESTINIANS AND ISRAELENS
In order to understand the difficult Palestinian question, it must be remembered that the region where the State of Israel and the Palestinian nation are now in the Christian era was under the control of the Romans, who expelled the Jewish people who dispersed in various countries, mainly European. After the Roman occupation, this region, called Palestine, was occupied by people of Arab origin, who became known as Palestinians.
At the end of century XIX, began to form the Zionist movement, that had like main objective the creation of a Jewish State. After the holocaust, when Nazis exterminated millions of Jews, Jewish communities began to organize in an attempt to create a state in a territory that would protect them. From this demand was born the Jewish state of Israel, which would be the British colony in the Middle East, called Palestine.
The United Nations (UN) was created in 1945, after World War II, which ended the British mandate in the region and proposed, in 1947, a plan to share the region in two states: one for the Jewish people and another to the Palestinian. On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was created.
The sharing plan was not accepted by the Arab countries of the region, which reacted immediately, triggering the first of the numerous wars to come. It was the first Arab-Israeli War or War of Independence , from 1948 to 1949, which ended with the victory of Israeli forces, provoking a large number of Palestinian refugees who sheltered in the Arab countries of the region, arousing a unity around these countries against the State of Israel.
From this, the region of Palestine happened to be the scene of bloody wars and numerous agreements not fulfilled between these towns.
The Palestinian question is complex because both Jews and Palestinians believe they have historical rights in the region. The Jews had the concretization of their state. The same has not happened with the Palestinians, who since 1948 have fought for the creation of a national state.
Countless factors put off this achievement, including the difficulty of defining the boundaries of the Palestinian territory, since Israel gives them the entirety of the Gaza Strip, but not the whole of the West Bank, where the Jordan River is the main source of water for the Israeli settlements, in addition to the presence of settlements of Jewish settlers.
Another case to consider is that of Jerusalem : in the eastern part the Arabs live, and in the West the Jews. The city is considered sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews, hence the difficulty in negotiations, as both Jews and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.
THE DRAMA OF REFUGEES
Data from Acnur register 12.5 million new refugees and displaced people in the world in 2015 alone. Of this total, 8.6 million were moving in the country itself. By the end of 2017, the total estimated number of forced displacement victims was 65.6 million .
It is not difficult to imagine the origin of these new contingents: 54% were from Syria (4.5 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million) and Somalia (1.1 million). Many of them sought refuge in countries and others sought destinations that are not difficult to imagine: Europe, especially Germany.
New conflicts around the world and the consequent increase in the number of refugees have required rapid responses and decisions, but it is possible to observe mixed resistance alongside xenophobia and various intolerances – especially in rich countries (USA and part of Western Europe). On the other hand, developing countries are the most sheltered refugees; for this reason, request financial support from the rich world.
Among the refugees most affected by the conflict are Turkey (2.5 million people), Pakistan (1.6 million), Lebanon and Iran (both have received about 1 million people). There were also about 2 million asylum applications in 2015, especially in countries such as Germany, the United States, Sweden and Russia.
OTHER CONFLICTS AND CHALLENGES IN THE CURRENT WORLD
The end of the Cold War, as we have seen so far, did not represent the end of political tensions and conflicts, territorial disputes and armed confrontations. Indeed, the new millennium has brought many challenges for the community of nations and for multilateral organizations such as the UN.
Challenges include conflict, hostilities or armed action in countries in Africa such as Mali, Somalia, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Sudan and the still dramatic case of the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Learn more in: Conflicts in Africa ).
Similarly, the question of recognition of Kosovo as a sovereign nation, conflict resolution in the Caucasus (civil wars, separatism and ethnic-national conflicts in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and various autonomous regions and communities) remains, and more decisive actions for the control of terror in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.
Separatism and national issues still need to be settled in Quebec (Canada), Catalonia (Spain), Basque Country (Spain / France), Scotland (United Kingdom) and the complex situation of Tibet (occupied by China in 1950).
Particular attention is paid to the situation in Ukraine , which is facing protests and attempts at territorial scission of Russian minorities supported by the government of the Russian Federation.
Illegal circuits and networks also call for decisive actions and policies of national states and the international community. Dramatic violence associated with drug trafficking has been reported in Mexico, Afghanistan, Brazil and the United States. This great power also faces the challenge of containing the social violence allowed by the possession of firearms , which are the basis of serial killings and murders in schools and other public spaces.
The illegal arms trade and trafficking in human beings still require more concerted action between countries and regional cooperation organizations. One case that draws attention is the trafficking of women from Eastern Europe to Western Europe and from Latin American countries also to Western Europe.