As South Sudan, the world's newest country, veers dangerously close to ethnic civil war, we're already getting a glimpse of the international crises that could greet us in the new year. Now the Center for Preventive Action, an affiliate of the Council on Foreign Relations, has presented a more comprehensive view, releasing its annual forecast of the conflicts that could pose the greatest threat to the United States in 2014.
The survey, which asked more than 1,200 U.S. government officials, academics, and experts to assess the impact and likelihood of 30 scenarios, divides the results into three tiers of risk. And some of the findings are alarming. Beyond the familiar flashpoints—military intervention in Syria's civil war, strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities—the report raises concerns about overlooked threats ranging from turmoil in Jordan to civil war in Iraq to a border clash between China and India. The study is also notable for the risks it downplays, including armed confrontation between China and its neighbors over territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.
The most threatening and most likely conflicts (in red) include some you might expect: limited military intervention in Syria's deteriorating civil war; a cyberattack on critical infrastructure in the U.S.; military strikes against Iran if nuclear talks fail or Tehran advances its nuclear program; a North Korean crisis sparked by military provocation or internal political instability; a major terrorist attack on the U.S. or an ally; and greater turmoil in Afghanistan and Pakistan as U.S. troops withdraw from the region and Afghanistan holds elections.