Peace and Freedom
Expect the unexpected. That is the only mantra that has real value when trying to predict world events and the actions of world leaders. In January of 2006, few would have predicted the nuclear weapon test by North Korea during the year. Of course the terrorr attacks upon the United States in 2001 were almost totally unpredicted and thus, by their devestasting impact and the threat of new actions of a similar kind, they changed the course of history and the focus of many nations and leaders.
Below is a list of hot spots one might expect to see in the news even more in 2007; barring the unexpected taking us all in a new direction.
Thailand: Sadly, one of the most beautiful countries in the world was ravaged by violence in 2006. In southern Thailand, Muslims are attempting to institute a "pure" religious area without undesirables like Buddhists and Christians. Violence has been erupting periodically including on New Years Eve when up to nine bombs tore through Bangkok. The military staged a coup in 2006, because, the generals said, the previous government was unable to quell the violence. It is not at all certain that the new government can do any better.
Somalia: Just last week neighboring Ethiopia tired of the Muslim onslaught from Somalia and declared war. Then Ethiopian troops besieged and captured Mogadishu. The Muslim insurgency will not quickly give up on Somalia. Al Qaeda has a sworn objective to gain a greater toehold in the Horn of Africa region.
Vietnam: Vietnam logged an unprecedented period of economic growth, investor attention and respect from the world community. Though many steps forward on human rights have occurred, there is still a lot of work to do before the Vietnamese government can lay claim to being a full member of the world community. Abuses by the government against religious groups and ethnic minorities continue. Until this trend is reversed, Vietnam will always be under the watchful eye of human rights advocates everywhere.
North Korea: Top analysts like Mr. James Hackett who writes commentary for The Washington Times believe that the regime in North Korea may be showing the signs of strain. They view the 2006 missile and nuclear tests by North Korea as desperate attempts to wring concessions from the west. But what North Korea clearly managed to do in 2006 was to reawaken the sleeping Japanese military giant. Japan is now moving ahead more robustly with its missile defense program and the development of a nuclear deterrent has already been discussed. The region of Northeast Asia will continue to be a focal point in 2007.
Iran: Election in Iraq late in 2006 should have sent a signal to Iran's vocal President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will not likely pay any attention to these elections. He has vowed to wipe Israel from the map and he plans to develop nuclear weapons. Iran is also funding and arming the insurgents in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran also is allied with Syria. If the "Axis of Evil" still has any relevance then Iran is the Numero Uno chartered member. Speculation has swirled that Israel could conduct a pre-emptive air strike upon Iran's nuclear facilities but this seems unlikely. What is certain is that the UN sanctions against Iran to date are all but meaning less and a showdown with the west now seems more likely than ever before.
Pakistan, Afghan Border: Despite an effort by President Bush to host a conference and a dinner for the heads of state from Pakistan and Afghanistan, the two leaders obviously had irreconcilable differences. President Musharaff of Pakistan had been the object of several assassination attempts already. His policies are widely disliked by many within his own country as Musharaff had taken sides with the U.S. on the war Against Terror. In December, 2006, Pakistan began to mine the border with Afghanistan to prevent rebel incursions. Afghanistan and human rights groups protested: but Pakistan isn't known for its warm and fuzzy listening and caring. Pakistan will remain a potential boiling point in 2007.
China: One might have a dimmer view of China right now were it not for one salient fact: China is getting ready to host the 2008 Olympics and the lure of the international stage already has China instituting new freedoms of the press (which commence today, January 1, 2007). But on the downside, just last week China announced a plan to renew and rebuild its armed forces and to significantly beef up its navy. China also continues to be watched closely by human rights activists. Just last week, China arrested nine Catholic priests and holds them without charges or representation, in violation of international norms and law.