There are a number of countries that may be focus of wars in the world, including Syria, Palestine, Israel, Iran and North Korea. Syria is today the epicenter of a battle that brings together various actors: the great enemy regional powers (Iran and Saudi Arabia) and historical allies (the United States allies of Saudi Arabia and Iran’s allied Russia). The Syrian conflict began when President Bachar Al Assad launched an offensive against the rebels of the Syrian Free Army. Meanwhile, other actors have stepped inside the rebel movement, followed by extremists from the Islamic State (ISIS) and the Kurds. It has become clear that the geopolitical interests of the parties involved are very different.
It can be said that Syria has a fundamental strategic importance because it is the last stone of geopolitical chess in the region whose fall of Bachar Al Assad would lead to the siege of Iran, enabling the Western allies to reach the territory of this country by the Mediterranean Sea and Iraq which would guarantee passage for Allied troops to reach Iranian borders. Syria, which borders Israel, has always been important in the Middle East and, especially today, is part of a very delicate geopolitical chess because it is an allied country of Iran, along with those who sponsor extremely aggressive terrorist movements such as Hezbollah and Hamas in opposition to the State of Israel.
The US-led attack by US President Donald Trump on a Bashar al-Assad air base in Syria on 4/4/2017 has widened the already deadlock between the United States and Russia over the civil war, with both sides promising a resurgence in the use of force. The tone adopted by the two nuclear powers was a threat, raising the tension between Washington and Moscow at a level similar to that experienced in the Cold War. The Kremlin called the US action “aggression” and “violation of international law” and said it would suspend the channel of communication with United States forces used to prevent the two countries from attacking each other in Syria, since both operate in the country. With indications that there was in fact a recent chemical attack on civilians in Syria, Washington and allies are considering carrying out an air offensive against the Assad regime. “Prepare, the missiles will arrive,” Trump tells Russia. Russia, for its part, promises to shoot down all missiles against Syria. It is a situation that puts at risk the possibility of a conflict between the two major powers on the planet.
Palestine and Israel are the focus of a new world war because they have been in conflict since the end of World War I when Zionist Jews expressed the desire to create a modern state in their ancestral land and began to create settlements in the region, still controlled by the Empire Ottoman. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim their share of the land based on history, religion and culture. The great victorious powers of World War I decided the destiny of Palestine in favor of the Jews, being used for this of the League of Nations, thus configuring the arrogance that have always characterized international relations throughout history. The Palestinians saw in the patronage they gave first to Britain and then the League of Nations to the Zionist project of creating the national Jewish home in Palestine denial of their right to independence.
Since then, there has been much violence and controversy surrounding the issue, as well as several processes of peace negotiations during the twentieth century. The State of Israel was founded in 1948, following the UN’s Sharing Plan, which divided the region, then under British rule, into Arab and Jewish states. After World War II, there were several conflicts between Palestinians and neighboring Arab nations that did not agree with the territorial division of the former Palestinian lands. Since the creation of the State of Israel, the conflict that has set it against the Palestinians has been the epicenter of a conflict between Israel and all Arab countries, with strong repercussions worldwide. There were wars with Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, but without the tension in the region diminishing. During this period, Israel occupied the Sinai peninsula, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon. The State of Israel has sovereignty over much of the territory that was conquered after the defeat of the Arabs in two wars – the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1948 and the 1967 Six-Day War.
In 1993, the Oslo Agreement was signed, which initiated the peace process with the Palestinians. Under the agreement, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank would become a territory administered by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). In 2005, Israel withdrew its Jewish troops and settlers – under their protests – from the Gaza Strip. Despite the devolution of the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank to Palestinian control, a final agreement still needed to be established. To do so, it would be necessary to resolve the main points of contention, which are the status of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlements. It is unlikely that the conflict between Palestinians and Jews will be solved today because existing international institutions are not able to build a negotiated way out of the conflict between these two peoples and among Israel and the Arab countries.
Iran is also focus of a new world war when it decided a few years ago to possess nuclear weapons and become a regional power – rooted in both Persian nationalism and Shia Islam – to end its fear of being the victim of aggression American and / or Israeli war. The Iranian government has convinced itself that only the true possession of weapons of mass destruction can free it from an external attack. 40 years ago, restrictions were imposed by the major powers that developed nuclear weapons to other non-nuclear countries, including Iran, limiting the use of nuclear energy to peaceful purposes, and preventing it from being used for military purposes. This was done through the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which legitimized the possession of nuclear weapons by the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China and tried to prevent other restricting their access to technology. Nuclear agreement with Iran was concluded in July 2015 after nearly 20 months of negotiations between the government of the Islamic Republic and a group of international powers led by the United States. The five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany agreed to terminate sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program in return for its dismantling. The pact came into force in October 2015 and was actually implemented in January 2016 after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found that Iran’s nuclear program was for peaceful purposes. The government of Donald Trump works, however, to prevent the agreement with Iran by restoring a conflict that seemed to have been remedied.
North Korea may be the focus of a new world war because tension between the United States and North Korea has existed for many years but has intensified since Donald Trump took over the White House. Donald Trump threatens to attack the Asian country if the Pyongyang regime continues with its military tests. It should be noted that between 1950 and 1953 occurred the Korean War that was part of the geopolitical dispute between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was the first armed conflict of the Cold War, causing worldwide apprehension because there was an imminent risk of a nuclear war due to the direct involvement between the two military superpowers of the time. It should be noted that after the end of World War II with the surrender and withdrawal of Japanese troops, the north became an ally of the Soviets and Chinese, while the south came under US influence.
The United States entered the war alongside South Korea, while China (Soviet ally) sent troops into the conflict zone to support North Korea. In 1953, South Korea, backed by the United States and other capitalist countries, won several military victories. In 1953, the US government threatened to use nuclear weapons against North Korea and China if the war was not ended with the North Korean surrender. On March 28, 1953, North Korea and China accepted the United Nations peace proposal. With the end of the war, the two Koreas remained divided and the geopolitical conflicts continued, although they were no longer for the military area. North Korea currently remains with the communist regime, while South Korea remains in the capitalist system. At the present time, the United States and North Korea are one step away from the war whose conflict can start at any moment.
In addition to the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France, India, North Korea, Pakistan and Israel have nuclear weapons. Israel does not confirm or deny the reports of experts who accuse it of having a large nuclear arsenal estimated at more than 100 warheads, thus being the only country with such weapons in the Middle East. In turn, Iran and Syria was accused of having secret nuclear weapons programs. To date, 187 countries have ratified the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and none have withdrawn from the pact except North Korea, which did so in 2003. A number of countries have criticized the perpetual nuclear monopoly imposed by the treaty on legitimizing existing arms and does not admit that other countries have them. Iran is a signatory to the NPT that prevents the country from developing nuclear weapons, but grants the right to use and develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. The United States with Donald Trump considers that Iran’s nuclear energy program aims at producing nuclear weapons and is not for peaceful purposes as claimed by the Iranian government.
In the contemporary era, international geopolitical chess points to the existence of three major players: the United States, China and Russia. The future confrontation between these three great military powers may result in alternative scenarios to the current one that is currently characterized by the decline of US hegemony on the world. Based on the three main protagonists of contemporary international geopolitical chess, it can be said that the United States aims to recover its global hegemony in the economic and military spheres. To achieve this goal, the US government’s strategies basically consist of the following: 1) to bar the rise of China as the future hegemonic power of the planet; and (2) to prevent Russia from rising to the status of a great world power. In practice, the US government wants to avoid facing the future of two giants: China as a hegemonic power and Russia reinvigorated.
Two major nuclear powers, Russia and India, could act to strengthen the position of China and the United States, respectively. Russia’s military strategy foresees Army and Navy rearmament with the use of conventional and nuclear weapons in response to an attack on the country [QUADROS, Bruno et alli. A nova doutrina militar da Rússia: mais do mesmo? (The New Military Doctrine of Russia: More even?). Published on the website < http://www.enciclopedia.com.pt/news.php?readmore=181>]. NATO’s expansion into Russian borders is the main external danger to the country. Russia would tend to support China in a conflict with the United States. India is investing in the armed forces to deal with its powerful neighbors, China and Pakistan, and internal security issues [See article Índia é o maior importador de armas do mundo (India is the largest importer of weapons in the world) published on the website < http://www.forte.jor.br/2011/03/24/india-e-o-maior-importador-de-armas-do-mundo/>). India could come to support US intervention in the region in the confrontation with China.
To stop China’s rise as the hegemonic power of the planet, the US military strategy is centered in the Asia-Pacific region, without neglecting the Middle East to fight against terrorism, to defend Israel, safeguard its oil interests and face the threat of Iran. As an ally of the United States, Japan is collaborating with US strategy of “siege” of China to strengthen its military power by 2020 [See article Japão reforça estratégia militar para reagir à China (Japan reinforces military strategy to react to China) posted on the website < http://www.portugues.rfi.fr/geral/20101217-japao-reforca-estrategia-militar-para-reagir-china >]. Another goal of the US military strategy is also to pressure Russia’s alliance with China by developing NATO’s actions in Europe and strengthening its military bases in Japan, South Korea, and Diego Garcia and the Pacific Fleet (FAGET, Ruiz Pereyra. Nueva estrategia militar global de Estados Unidos (New Global Military Strategy of the United States). Published in the < http://port.pravda.ru/mundo/11-01-2012/32735-estrategia_eua-0/> website).
It is important to note that the strategic objectives of Russia are: 1) to defend itself against the threat to its territory represented by the United States and NATO forces; 2) strengthen its position as supplier of natural gas to the countries of the European Union; and, 3) to attain the status of world power lost with the end of the Soviet Union. It is important to note that, after the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the socialist system of Eastern Europe, the project of the United States was the occupation of the border territories of Russia, which had been under Soviet influence until 1991 [MAZAT, Numa and SERRANO, Franklin. A Geopolítica das Relações entre a Federação Russa e os EUA: da “Cooperação” ao Conflito (Geopolitics of Relations between the Russian Federation and the US: from “Cooperation” to the Conflict). Published on the website <http://www.revistaoikos.org/seer/index.php/oikos/article/view/293>).
Faced with the impossibility of an imperial state, balanced powers and a hegemonic power to ensure world peace, the time has come for humanity to equip itself with the most urgently possible instruments necessary to build world peace and control its destiny. In order to achieve these goals, it is urgent to implement a democratic government of the world which is the only means of survival of the human species capable of building a world in which every woman, every man of today and tomorrow has the same rights and the same duties, in which all forms of life and future generations are finally taken into account, in which all sources of growth are used in an ecologically and socially durable way.
The time has come for humanity to equip itself as urgently as possible with the tools necessary to build a world of peace. The UN that was founded after World War II has been inoperative throughout its history. It has not been successful in building a world of peace. There is an urgent need to restructure the UN and the international system so that it can exercise global governance that enables it to mediate international conflicts and ensure world peace. World governance to be pursued by the UN would aim at defending the planet’s general interests, ensuring that each nation state respects the rights of every citizen of the world and seeks to prevent the spread of global systemic risks. It would avoid the empire of one and the anarchy of all. With world governance, it will be possible to fight against the war and end the bloodbath that has characterized the humanity throughout history. The monuments of War must be replaced by monuments of Peace from the constitution of a world government. To be democratic, the world government must be representative of all the peoples of the world. The survival of mankind will depend on the ability to celebrate a Planetary Social Contract representative of the will of the majority of the planet’s population.
* Fernando Alcoforado, 78, member of the Bahia Academy of Education, engineer and doctor in Territorial Planning and Regional Development by the University of Barcelona, university professor and consultant in the areas of strategic planning, business planning, regional planning and planning of energy systems, is the author of 13 books addressing issues such as Globalization and Development, Brazilian Economy, Global Warming and Climate Change, The Factors that Condition Economic and Social Development, Energy in the world and The Great Scientific, Economic, and Social Revolutions that Changed the World.