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Geo-World: Conflict & Social Unrest - February 2017 Update

By , ,

While ISIS lost ground in Syria and Iraq, Al-Qaeda resumed its offensive operations. Meanwhile, tensions between Russia and Ukraine stabilized after last month’s sharp conflict escalation. Geopolitical tensions in China could intensify as uncertainties regarding the US policy stance in the region remained and North Korea remains testing.


While ISIS lost ground in Syria and Iraq, Al-Qaeda resumed its offensive operations, consolidating its strength during February. Meanwhile, tensions between Russia and Ukraine stabilized after last month’s sharp conflict escalation. Geopolitical tensions in China could intensify as uncertainties regarding the US policy stance in the region remained and North Korea remains testing. Algeria continued to deteriorate while Egypt improved. Social unrest increased in some Latin American countries, while Europe and Asia continued calm with focused and controlled hot spots.

 

Al Qaeda strengthened and the Russian-Ukraine conflict relaxed

Key messages

· The BBVA Research World Conflict Intensity Index eased off during in February

· Important setbacks to ISIS in Syria and Iraq during the month

Approaching to its long-term average (1980-2015).

Pro-regime forces recaptured Palmyra, Turkish-backed militias seized Al-Bab and the SDF advanced in Ar-Raqqa. In Iraq, the ISF continued seizing key areas around Mosul.

· Al Qaeda resumed its offensive in Syria

· Tensions between Russia and Ukraine stabilize after last month’s sharp escalation

As ISIS weakened, Al-Qaeda took the opportunity to consolidate its strength in northern Syria.

Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France reached a deal to de-escalate the conflict, although it is still fragile.

 

BBVA Research world conflict Index 2008-17

(cumulative number of conflicts/ total events)

 

Fuente: BBVA Research and www.gdelt.org

 

The BBVA Research World Conflict Intensity Index[1] eased off during in February, approaching to its long-term average (1980-2015).The main developments during the month were:

- ISIS continued losing ground during the month in Syria and Iraq. Pro-regime forces recaptured Palmyra in Eastern Homs Province, Turkish-backed militias seized the city of Al-Bab and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) advanced in Ar-Raqqa. Meanwhile, in Iraq, the Iraqi Security Forces continued seizing key areas around Mosul. While ISIS weakened, Al Qaeda consolidated its strength and resumed offensive operations against the regime in Syria during February, posing increasing threats in the region. Uncertainties about the Turkey and the US military strategies remain as the US support to the YPG looks to be alive and Turkey’s backed forces directed to Manbij (Northern Syria). The Russian air campaign intensified, conducting heavy waves of airstrikes against critical civilian infrastructure in southern and northern Syria during the month.

- In Eastern Europe, the conflict in Eastern Ukraine stabilized after the sharp increase in violence at the end of January/early February. After two weeks of intense fighting, the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France met in Munich and reached a deal, although the ceasefire remains fragile and the Ukrainian army accused pro-Russia rebels of breaking it just hours after it came into effect.

- The South China Sea tensions continued mounting. North Korea continued to challenge the main powers by launching ballistic missiles, with two of them landing in Japan’s territorial waters. This development raises questions about the potential US responses given the uncertainty surrounding the new Trump Administration’s stance on China. Besides, China has commented against any deploymentof weapons in the region. Also in North Korea, the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the exiled halfbrother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, by poisoning in a crowded Malaysian airport led to a rise in geopolitical tensions between North Korea and Malaysia.

BBVA Research Middle East Conflict Intensity Index 2008-17 BBVA Research North Africa Conflict Intensity Index 2008-17
Number of conflicts / Total events Number of conflicts / Total events

Fuente: BBVA Research and www.gdelt.org Fuente: BBVA Research and www.gdelt.org
BBVA Research Eastern Europe Conflict Intensity Index 2008-17 BBVA Research Asia Conflict Intensity Index 2008-17
Number of conflicts / Total events Number of conflicts / Total events

 

Fuente: BBVA Research and www.gdelt.org Fuente: BBVA Research and www.gdelt.org

 

… while social unrest recorded similar levels than previous month.

The World Protest Index held steady during January (as shown by our BBVA Research World Protest Intensity Index[2]). According to the BBVA Research World Protest Intensity Map, the key takeaway facts were:

In regional terms, demonstrations against Trump’s policies continued in the US. Western Europe remained calm waiting for elections while some political noise persisted in Eastern Europe. The Middle East and North Africa remained in the spotlight. Social unrest increased in some Latin American countries, while easing in Asia:

In the US, protests continued high, mostly against Trump’s immigration policies. They also gave rise to demonstrations in other European countries such as the Netherlands. In Greece, social unrest increased again as a result of the unpopular agricultural reforms.

In Emerging Europe, the social climate in Romania continued to be stressed for the second consecutive month despite the government’s halting its plans to relax corruption legislation. Instability also increased in Montenegro as women protested against welfare cuts; in Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

In North Africa and the Middle East, protests increased demanding political change in Morocco, and in Egypt and Israel given the rockets fired into Israel from Egypt.

In Latin America, mild social tensions worsened in Mexico, while they eased in Brazil, Chile and Argentina. Venezuela remained at extreme levels.

In Asia, protest intensity remitted in Indonesia and Malaysia, while increasing again in Hong Kong amid concerns over Beijing’s growing role in the city.

BBVA Research World Protest Intensity Map Feb 2011 – Feb 2017

 

Number of protests / Total events. Dark Blue: High Intensity

Fuente: BBVA Research and www.gdelt.org

 

Summary

The uncertainties about the new US Administration remain. The long-lasting political instability in North Africa and the Middle East is still alive. The Russian-Ukraine conflict stabilized but it is still unsolved. Instability in some Latin American have revived, but at lower levels than at the end of last year. Europe remained calm, but uncertainties about the several upcoming elections could increase and should be monitored.

 

[1]: Details about methodology can be found in the following link: Methodology, tracking protests and conflicts.

[2]: Details about methodology can be found in the following link: Methodology, tracking protests and conflicts.

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