The new map of the world

The new map of the world

The New York Times:


IT has been just over 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the last great additions to the world’s list of independent nations. As Russia’s satellite republics staggered onto the global stage, one could be forgiven for thinking that this was it: the end of history, the final major release of static energy in a system now moving very close to equilibrium. A few have joined the club since — Eritrea, East Timor, the former Yugoslavian states, among others — but by the beginning of the 21st century, the world map seemed pretty much complete. …  Now, though, we appear on the brink of yet another nation-state baby boom. This time, the new countries will not be the product of a single political change or conflict, as was the post-Soviet proliferation, nor will they be confined to a specific region. If anything, they are linked by a single, undeniable fact: history chews up borders with the same purposeless determination that geology does, as seaside villas slide off eroding coastal cliffs. Here is a map of what could possibly be the world’s newest international borders.

Greater Azerbaijan

Iran has the potential to dominate the region, but it is also at risk of internal implosion. If the current regime collapses violently, the 20 million ethnic Azeris of northern Iran, centered around Tabriz, could merge with already independent Azerbaijan, creating a new regional power with an even more powerful ally, Turkey (Azeris are ethnic Turks speaking a Turkic language), which would further render Armenia’s grip on the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh untenable.

An Independent Kurdistan

To Iran’s west, Iraq remains on the brink as American forces withdraw and the political center in Baghdad remains fragile. As Syria descends into civil war, the entire post- World War I map of the Middle East may need to be redrawn. Rarely in the Kurds’ 3,000-year history has the possibility of an independent Kurdish homeland been closer than today. The Kurdistan Regional Government of northern Iraq is by far the country’s most stable sector, flying its own flag and cutting energy and infrastructure deals on its own with Exxon and Turkish firms.

Alawites Go Solo

It’s getting harder to predict what Syria will look like once the dust of the civil war has settled. One thing seems certain after months of bloody, sectarian strife: it won’t look like the old Syria. Perhaps it will resemble its erstwhile client state Lebanon: religions exerting squatters’ rights in the empty shell of central government. Or perhaps Syria will revert to the ethnic puzzle laid out by the French: separate states for the Druse and the Alawites, and city-states for Damascus and Aleppo. The Alawite state, home to the dominant sect in Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, would control the fertile, mountainous coastline and is perhaps the most viable contender for separate statehood.



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