Here are a few guesses about what may be in store for international news in 2016. It’s not all bad, but much of it is, particularly in the Middle East, which seems unable to pull itself out of its swamp of religious and ethnic divisions.
In 2015 the migrants and refugees flooded into Europe and are still traveling there. It was a shock. Germany opened its doors. But Europe’s doors are closing. In 2016 this profound change will to settle in. There may be anger and resistance to the demographic changes and more xenophobia, which of course helps ISIS; and it may not be just happening in Europe.
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Russia, the U.S., Iran, Europe, and pretty much every one on the planet everyone agrees ISIS is a universal threat, yet there is no united approach to fight the group although coordination is clearly needed. The year ahead may be when nations realize they can actually degrade and defeat ISIS if they work together.
I hope it doesn’t happen, but the husband and wife team of Muslim fanatics in San Bernardino proved how easy it was to get high-powered guns in the United States and attract a lot of attention for a cause. It’s hard to stop this kind of violence. Copycats might try again, especially in an election year.
U.S. involvement in Iraq and Syria has been steadily ramping up. U.S. policy shifted from advisers in Iraq, to airstrikes in Syria to American special forces in Syria. It seems the U.S. is an event away from a big increase.
The region isn’t out of it its mire of yet. Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Turks, Arabs, Persians still see more differences than commonalities. Next year may be the culmination of this mess before new leaders emerge offering other ways forward.
The Iran nuclear deal comes into effect in 2016. Money should start pouring into Tehran. There are elections in 2016 as well. Will the money help the reformers who signed the deal, or the hardliners who want the cash but no change? The answer could shape Iran’s future.
China has had its first code red day, when people were told it was actually a threat to their lives to breathe. No regime can survive if its people don’t have the freedom to breathe, a human right so basic no one thought to include it on the Bill of Rights. China seems to have woken up and is investing big in solar, realizing clean energy can be profitable. India, however, seems to believe it needs to do what China did: pollute more now to pull its masses from poverty.
First Cuba, Venezuela next? Political changes are underway in Venezuela that could see the end of the failed system put in place by the late Hugo Chavez. Could it mean better relations with Washington across the region, a new page?
Turkey is the main pathway for ISIS fighters flowing in Syria and refugees flooding out. Turkey controls, or has the potential to control, both of those vital taps. Turkey was prominent in 2015; it could be pivotal in 2016.
Richard Engel has been NBC News' chief foreign correspondent since 2008.