5 Places World War III Could Start in 2020

Robert Farley

As the United States enters an election year, prospects for global stability remain uncertain.  President Trump’s foreign policy stood at odds with those of his predecessor, and will likely a central point of contestation in the election.  At this point, several crises might emerge that would not only turn the election, but potentially bring about a wider global conflict.

Here are the five most likely flashpoints for world war in 2020 (See my World War III lists from back in 20172018 and 2019).

None are particularly likely, but only one needs to catch fire. Let the wars begin! 

Iran-Israel: 

Iran and Israel are already waging low-intensity war across the Middle East. Iran supports anti-Israel proxies in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere, while Israel feels comfortable in striking Iranian forces across the region. Israel has taken steps to quietly build a broad anti-Iran coalition at the diplomatic level, while Iran has invested deeply in cultivating ties with militias and other non-state actors. 

It is hardly difficult to imagine scenarios that might bring on a wider, more intense war. If Iran determines to re-embark on its nuclear program, or decides to discipline Saudi Arabia more thoroughly, Israel might feel the temptation to engage in broader strikes, or in strikes directly against the Iranian homeland. Such a conflict could easily have wider implications, threatening global oil supplies and potentially tempting the United States or Russia to intervene. 

Turkey:

Strains between Turkey and the United States have only grown over the past year. Tensions increased dramatically when the United States unexpectedly gave Turkey a green light to clear Syrian border areas of U.S.-supported Kurds, then immediately issued an about-face and threatened Ankara with sanctions. All the while, an arsenal of US nuclear weapons, by all accounts, remains at Incirlik Air Force base. Certain statements by President Erdogan suggested that he has immense aspirations for Turkey, aspirations which might include nuclear ambitions.

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