Does the crisis in North Africa represent the start of a new wave of geopolitical instability?

Riccardo Fabiani

The struggle for control of Mali, which spurred the French to intervene, as well as the hostage crisis in Algeria underscores the growing instability in North Africa. In the past few years, the security environment in these areas has steadily deteriorated, as criminal networks, terrorist groups, and insurgencies exploited power vacuums. Porous borders, chronic underdevelopment, weak states, and rising frustration with political and social conditions have fuelled insecurity, leaving the area vulnerable. In this context, the conflict in Mali – which can be considered collateral damage from the Libyan civil war – is only the latest in a long series of crises that is unlikely to end soon. In the short term, as highlighted by the kidnappings in Algeria, the turmoil in Mali is likely to raise security risks for all countries that support the French military incursion, and for Western assets and personnel in the region as well.

Riccardo Fabiani is a North Africa analyst at the Eurasia Group.

Michael Denison

You could be forgiven for looking to 2013 with trepidation. The global economy is fragile, and an arc of instability stretches across North Africa and the Middle East to Pakistan. Iran is also defiant. But there are reasons to be sanguine. The euro will remain intact. Even the Eurozone’s weakest links are bottoming out, blunting the edge of protests in Europe. After long wars, peace in Colombia and the Philippines may become a reality. Cartel violence in Mexico has peaked. Latin America and South East Asia are more geopolitically stable too. Piracy is declining, as is transnational terrorism, due to better interdiction and relentless drone strikes. China and Japan trade insults, but both realise escalation is counterproductive. Finally, a deal with Iran is unlikely, but Israel will stay its hand on a military strike, calculating that the benefits are uncertain and the possible blowback considerable.

Michael Denison is a research director at Control Risks.