Honorable Mention: Libya and Brazil
- Venezuela– Venezuela is staring directly at the largest political, economic, and humanitarian catastrophe in its history. Instead of fixing the issue, the government of Nicolas Maduro is doubling down on the policies that has brought his nation to the edge of the abyss.
- Iraq– Government forces are preparing to launch an offensive aimed at liberating Mosul from IS control. While this is happening, Iraqi Defense Minister Kahled al-Obeidi was removed from power amid allegations of corruption. And then there is the matter of the 100,000 Iran-backed fighters currently inside of Iraq and what the future holds for them.
- Yemen– The conflict between Iranian-supported Houthi rebels and a coalition of Gulf nations drags on without an end in sight. The US and Saudi Arabia have unveiled a plan to resume talks to bring an end to the fighting. The number of civilian casualties has been horrifically high. Saudi airstrikes in August have resulted in a particularly high number of casualties, but the Houthis are just as much to blame. On 26 August the Houthis claimed to have launched a missile that successfully struck a Saudi Aramco oil facility.
- Baltic States/Eastern Europe– An area relatively quiet for at moment, but there is a large amount of nervous tension just below the surface. The Baltic States are concerned that they are next on Putin’s list once he finishes with Ukraine. Many in Poland and Romania feel the same.
- Turkey– Erdogan’s actions and behavior post-coup attempt indicate that paranoia and vindictiveness are driving him, at least in the short term. Turkey’s warming relations with Russia and moves against Kurdish rebels on the other side of the border with Syria hint at a very different Turkey emerging in the future.
- Ukraine– Following a period of relative inactivity, Ukraine became a flashpoint once more in August. Russian accusations of alleged Ukrainian efforts to provoke a conflict, border incidents, the resupply of pro-Russian forces in the Donbas region, large Russian military exercises in and around the Black Sea have combined to put Ukraine on edge. Putin has a plan set in motion and many Ukrainians are worried it includes Russian tanks rolling into Kiev.
- Strait of Hormuz/Persian Gulf– Iran has gone back to its old ways and begun aggressively shadowing US Navy ships in the region. Twice in the past week US warships have been forced to fire warning shots at Iranian vessels that have come too close. The influx of money that Iran is experiencing, coupled with its warming relations with Russia appear to be emboldening Tehran to exert its status as a regional power.
- North Korea– North Korea is at it again too. Another test firing of a ballistic missile as US-ROK military exercises get underway. North Korea’s latest test comes as a protest against the exercises as well as the future deployment of THAAD batteries to the Republic of Korea. There are rumors of a underground nuclear test set for some point in the near future as well. If it weren’t for the fact that North Korea has nuclear weapons, it would be ranked at #4 or #5. As it stands though, the unstable nation-state does possess nuclear weapons and needs to be watched carefully.
- South China Sea/Westpac– Following last month’s legal decision in The Hague, China continues to fortify its position over maritime claims. Beijing claims that the decision contains no bearing on its rights and claims in the South China Sea. Construction on Fiery Cross Reef has continued and even been ramped up. Satellite photographs plainly show that preparations are military in nature. Joint Chinese-Russian naval exercises are also scheduled to take place in the SCS in September. With the G20 summit coming to China next month, the South China Sea will be a topic of discussion and a flashpoint for the foreseeable future. In the East China Sea, the Senkaku Islands dispute is deteriorating relations between China and Japan.
- Syria-There is no disputing that Syria is the hottest flashpoint in the world right now. The Syrian War is no longer purely a civil war between the regime of Bashar al-Assad and its opponents. Regional and world powers are both directly and indirectly involved in the fighting. Russia and the US both have military forces on the ground. There are a host of competing mini-conflicts going on in this war. Russia vs ISIS, Russia vs Pro-West opposition groups, the US vs ISIS, Assad vs everyone but Russia and Iran, and now Turkey vs ISIS and the Kurdish rebels. Syria is a veritable powder keg at the moment. If it explodes, it will take the entire region and perhaps more down with it.