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GEAB 141

The monthly bulletin of LEAP (European Laboratory of Political Anticipation) - 15 Jan 2020

Geopolitics: 2020, a year under the sign of Mars

A non-exhaustive review of global risk by continents/regions

Geopolitical tensions will dominate the year 2020. From the most structural to the most cyclical, the reasons are:

  • The multipolar world is no longer content just doing business and now wishes to defend its trade routes and hunting grounds (Europe, China, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran and Russia are now fully fledged geopolitical players alongside the United States – i.e. defending their own interests abroad).
  • At the heart of this multipolar world there is growing strategic rivalry between the US and China.
  • In a context of multiplying battlegrounds and budgetary difficulties, the United States is being forced to rethink its priorities, leading to two disrupting developments:

Firstly, the resolution of past conflicts with a view to withdrawal (Middle East, Europe), creating two paths of disruption: resolution (action and concomitant risk-taking) and withdrawal (concerns and uncertainties linked to the disappearance of the American peacekeeper).

Secondly, US redeployment/reinforcement towards new strategic interests (Arctic, China, South America), creating obvious friction.

  • Internal disagreements on strategy in the US, exacerbated by the context of an election campaign where two visions of America (old and new) are at loggerheads and where some are putting fuel on the fire with China in an attempt to derail the US-China trade agreement being negotiated by others.
  • The growing prospect of a new International Monetary System that will inevitably challenge the central role of the US dollar raises an infinite number of questions about the risks to the US, forces it to restructure its economy and radicalises a camp determined to prevent such a development.

In such a context, however legitimate and forward-looking some of the pursued strategies may be, the risk of disaster is significant. In particular, a whole host of those with hidden agendas will try to take advantage of the movement of troops to advance their own pawns, helping to create inextricable and explosive situations (e.g. the electoral strategy of the Democrats, or a temptation of the newly re-elected President of Taiwan to propose a referendum on the independence of the island…). Based on this understanding of the intersecting trends in 2020, let us now review the risks, region by region.

Middle East: Experimental area in the multipolar world

Iran: The year started with a bang with a controlled (it is to be hoped) domino effect, triggered by the assassination in Iraq of the commander of the Al-Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Contrary to what everyone says, this was not an attack against Iran (a democratic state led by a moderate government) but against the state within the state – i.e. the Revolutionary Guards,[1] decreed a terrorist organisation by D. Trump in spring 2019.[2]  

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