The euro crisis, political instability in Saudi Arabia and conflict with Pakistan have emerged as top potential threats facing the US next year, an influential think tank said on Friday.
The Council on Foreign Relation’s Center for Preventive Action anonymously surveyed US officials and experts to compile an annual list of the most plausible conflicts for the US in the new year.
Next year’s list elevated several contingencies to the top tier of risks: an intensified euro crisis, which could plunge the US back into recession; Saudi instability, which would threaten global oil supplies; and a US conflict with Pakistan prompted by an attack or counter-terrorism operation.
Threats that remained at the top of the list from last year included a potential incident between the US and China, internal instability in Pakistan, intensified nuclear crises with either Iran or North Korea, and a spillover of drug--related violence from Mexico.
Micah Zenko, a fellow at the council who focuses on conflict resolution, said that the survey was designed to fill a gap because the US government has a poor record of forecasting future instability and conflict.
“It is a perennial problem to get policymakers to focus on -future challenges when dealing with the tyranny of the inbox,” Zenko said, referring to the overwhelming flow of messages.
“But in an age of austerity, it has never been more important to forecast, prevent or mitigate plausible contingencies that could result in an expensive and long-lasting US military involvement,” he said.
The survey also added Bahrain as a “tier-two” risk to the US, citing fears that growing instability in the Sunni-ruled kingdom could spur fresh military action by Saudi Arabia or Iran.
The survey elevated the risk of conflict with Pakistan amid high tensions this year following the US operation that killed former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
However, the think tank removed the potential for military escalation between Pakistan and archrival India from the top tier of risks.
Other risks that were downgraded or removed from last year included:
‧ Intensified military conflict between Sudan and South Sudan.
‧ Renewed military conflict between Russia and Georgia.
‧ Violent instability in Thailand or Myanmar.
‧ A succession crisis in Zimbabwe.