The prospect of war on the Korean peninsula, nuclear uncertainty in Iran and the scheduled U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq make for a complicated 2011. And that’s just for starters in a year that could see the world’s population hit 7 billion.
Are the Koreas headed for war?
The North’s artillery barrage of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in November raised tensions between the two countries. With each new military exercise by the South, which vows to be ready for any future attacks, the likelihood of another Pyongyang strike increases. World powers such as the United States, China and Russia must decide what role they will play if war erupts.
Will U.S. troop pullouts go as planned?
The United States is set to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July, a process that will last into 2014. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the pace of the pullout may not be entirely decided until just before it starts. Meanwhile, in Iraq, all forces are expected to be withdrawn by the end of the year.
Will the Palestinians and Israelis reach a peace deal?
The Obama administration made no headway in 2010 with its efforts to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, but the U.S. is not willing to throw in the towel despite many skeptics.
Israel’s foreign minister said last month that an agreement was not possible under current conditions. And some observers believe the Palestinians are stalling until they have the infrastructure and international backing in place to declare statehood, possibly this summer.
Will Iran curb its nuclear program?
Nuclear talks between Iran and world powers in December only produced an agreement for a second round of negotiations later this month in Istanbul, Turkey.
How serious Iran is about ending its uranium enrichment program remains to be seen. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he is open to submitting to international regulation if the U.N. drops its sanctions against Iran.
Is the world ready for 7 billion people?
The world’s population is on pace to hit 7 billion in late 2011. Not only is the growing population raising environmental concerns, it is exacerbating poverty in underdeveloped countries.