In September 2012, authors Frank Jacobs and Parag Khanna published an opinion article in The New York Times titled “The New World.” In this thought-provoking piece, they outlined ten countries they believed could potentially emerge in the near future. A decade later, it’s time to revisit these predictions and evaluate their relevance.
Mali’s Azawad: The authors first highlighted the possible breakup of Mali. In 2012, a Tuareg Rebellion in the northern half of Mali led to the declaration of the independence of Azawad. However, this declaration was not accepted by Mali or any foreign entity. The rebellion later renounced its claim for independence, seeking more autonomy instead. While the authors suggested a potential domino effect of Berber nationalism across Western and Northern African countries, there have been no significant developments in the last decade, making it unlikely to occur by 2030.
Pakistan and Afghanistan: The authors also discussed a hypothetical breakup of Pakistan and Afghanistan. They argued that a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could lead to chaos in the region. This chaos might result in the emergence of two new countries, Pashtunistan and Baluchistan, each with its territory. However, given the complexities and dynamics of these two nations, a collapse of both countries and the creation of new states seems improbable.
Arabian Gulf Union: Jacobs and Khanna proposed the formation of an Arabian Gulf Union, led by Saudi Arabia, in response to the rising Iranian threat. They mentioned Saudi Arabia’s military incursion into Bahrain and the influx of Yemeni refugees into Saudi Arabia. However, no such union has materialized, and regional dynamics make it unlikely to happen.
Multiple Congos: The authors argued that the existence of two Congos, divided by arbitrary colonial borders, could lead to the emergence of more Congos as ethnic and regional coherence came into play. They cited the weakness of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as a contributing factor. While border disputes have been ongoing, a significant breakup of the DRC does not seem imminent.
Somaliland: Somaliland was highlighted as one of the most realistic potential new countries. A de facto independent region, Somaliland lacks international recognition. Given the instability in Somalia, the authors’ prediction that Somaliland’s officialization is more likely today remains valid.
Alawite State in Syria: The authors envisioned a potential Alawite State in Syria in the event of regime collapse. However, as of 2023, the Syrian government has maintained control over most of the territory, making this scenario unlikely.
Kurdistan: The authors discussed the possibility of an independent Kurdistan emerging due to the Kurdish role in the region’s conflicts and the fragility of the Iraqi state. While the idea remains possible, the dynamics have shifted, and the creation of Kurdistan may not be as likely as it was a decade ago.
Greater Azerbaijan: Iran’s internal troubles in 2012 led to the authors suggesting a Greater Azerbaijan could emerge. This hypothetical scenario could see ethnic Azeris in Northern Iran seeking independence. Although Iran still experiences internal unrest, a territorial breakup is uncertain.
In retrospect, while some of the scenarios proposed by Jacobs and Khanna a decade ago were intriguing, many factors have shifted, making the creation of these new nations less probable. Failed states, ethnic movements, and regional conflicts, however, continue to shape global dynamics, leaving room for new countries to emerge. The question now is which regions will be the focus of these changes in the next decade.