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What To Watch For In 2012 Around the Globe

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With just two days into the New Year, there are at least five big global stories to watch out for as the coming days and months unfold.

1. Iran and the bomb. Already in this young year, Iran has test-fired long-range missiles, announced the completion of a nuclear fuel rod, and threatened to shut down the oil-crucial Strait of Hormuz. But the huge questions—perhaps unmatched by any other global security challenge for 2012 are what can or will the world do to stop Iran from acquiring the bomb? Will Israel go after the Iranian nuclear program? And,  if so, what will the White House do?

2. Europe on the brink. How dangerous is Europe’s financial mess? It’s indisputably the continent’s worst crisis since World War II. And for an updated forecast, look no further than German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s New Year’s message. Saying that Europe was facing its “harshest test in decades,” Merkel warned that “next year will no doubt be more difficult than 2011.” Leading economists polled by the BBC see a new recession in Europe in the first half of 2012. And of all the global crises, this is the one most likely to affect President Obama’s reelection chances. It gets that much harder to create American jobs—if and when European demand dries up.

3. Russian “spring”? Will Vladimir Putin roll right over the growing opposition movement in his country? That’s what we all thought a year ago when the leaders in question were Mubarak and Gadhafi. True reform in Russia—or a well-managed succession—would be good news for the U.S. and the rest of the world. A messy or violent transition could of course be hugely destabilizing for Russia, its neighbors and the world.

4. Syria—how will it end? The longest-running and most violent installment of the “Arab Spring” continues to confound the predictions. On the one hand, it’s hard to see how Bashar al-Assad rides out the storm; on the other, it’s very hard to see how a fractured opposition wins a revolution with only tepid support for outside intervention. Christiane Amanpour’s interviews with Mubarak and Gadhafi were the last for those dictators; will Barbara Walters’ interview with Assad be that leader’s last?

5. Pakistan—friend and foe. Want a tidy end to the Afghan war? A regional peace? A bulwark against terrorism? The terrible paradox of Pakistan is that it contributes in each case to both the problem and the solution. And today the relationship with Washington is at a low point. What happens when an attack on a U.S. target is traced to a Pakistan-based group?

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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