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Middle East The biggest conflict is clearly in Iran, where the tension is escalating by the day. Intercepted spy drones, nuclear researchers assassinated, bombings, nuclear developments—things are not good in this part of the world, as usual. In Lebanon and Gaza things continue to be the same, while people keep fighting their governments in Syria and Yemen.
Central and Southern Asia Afganistan is the worst point in this part of the world, for obvious reasons. Other than the never-ending Taliban conflict there, there are the usual border problems between India and Pakistan and India and China, like usual, with insurgency in Nepal, Kashmir and Pakistan.
Eastern Europe In Kosovo, the ethnic conflict is ramping up. And of course, Russia keeps the same attitude towards many of its neighbors, grumbling about borders.
Africa On the North, change of regime in two huge countries. God only knows where that would end. Somalia keeps being the biggest cluster# of the region, however, followed by Uganda. And of course, Somalian pirates trying to hunt prey while half of the navies of the world try to hunt them down.
East Asia and Oceania Four words: Korea. There has been a change of dictator on the North while the South keeps being as suspicious as always (and rightly so). In the Straits of Malacca, the piracy is rampant.
Americas Lots of drugs and narco-terrorism in the American continent, from North to South. Things have calmed down between Venezuela and Colombia but the latter still has a bad terrorism problem.
Will 2012 bring as many unexpected events as 2011? Changing orders in the Islamic world add more unpredictability, because nobody is sure where the new leadership will fall on the scales of idealism and pragmatism or on the role of Islamic law in society.
Certainly, nobody a year ago anticipated an all-air NATO campaign against Libya. The single biggest flashpoint as 2012 opens is the unresolved conflict between the U.S., Israel and Iran, over Tehran’s determination to join the nuclear club, coupled with the apocalyptic threats of its leaders. The crash of a U.S. stealth drone in December—claimed unconvincingly as a shootdown—shows how important intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance has become, but underlines the difficulties of managing relations with a closed society.
And the more we learn about the Stuxnet virus, the more we realize that cyberwarfare is real and upon us. Naval forces, meanwhile, find themselves in roles that seemed to be outgrown and roles that are new, or at least new to anyone born in the last 200 years. Chasing smugglers is one thing—but smugglers in submarines? In 2011, too, the war on piracy continued, and the Royal Navy engaged land targets in Libya with gunfire.