Major world events have made headlines throughout 2015, but not all of them were expected. ISIS, unsurprisingly, continued to wreak havoc in the Middle East. China continued to assert dominance in the South China Sea, literally creating islands where once there was nothing but water. Vladimir Putin continued to run roughshod over Ukraine, with little push-back from the U.S. or NATO. News junkies and think-tank experts alike were probably not surprised by these stories.
However, for every expected world event in 2015, there has been something completely unexpected accompanying it. Here are nine of the most unexpected national security and foreign affairs events of the year
1. ISIS goes international, attacks targets in the West
As the caliphate made its rise last year, it appeared that ISIS was going to be unique compared to other terrorist organizations in that the group appeared more interested in establishing a Middle Eastern fiefdom than it did engaging in international jihad. The attacks in Paris that took the lives of 130 washed away any doubt as to whether or not ISIS had international ambitions. According to one report, ISIS has killed as many as 800 people abroad in 2015.
2. (Still) no coherent anti-ISIS coalition
Speaking of ISIS, remember that international coalition of over 50 nations that was supposed to defeat ISIS last year? It certainly was touted by the Obama administration and State Department throughout the year, yet we haven’t seen much out of it. After ISIS burned a Jordanian pilot alive in a cage last year, it was fair to expect a massive retaliation from Jordan and the other Arab coalition members. Unfortunately, there has yet to be any serious commitment from the coalition partners, especially in terms of a ground force.
3. Russia ups the ante, attacks targets in Syria and Iraq
Vladimir Putin’s expeditions into Ukraine were nothing new in 2015, but few would have guessed he would engage in a massive bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq. In just a few months, Russia has become a major factor in the region, for better or worse.
4. Voters consider national security a top concern for government
Threats posed by ISIS and other jihadists such as the San Bernardino shooters have skyrocketed voters’ concerns on national security issues. A poll conducted in December shows that 40% of Americans see national security as the top priority, with 60% of voters putting as a top two concern, a massive increase from the 39% seen 8 months ago.
5. Turkey takes a jab at Putin by shooting down a Russian plane
Turkey’s President Erdogan has been difficult to predict throughout 2015, however the shooting down of a Russian jet was something that had some experts saying Turkey was on the brink of starting World War 3.
6. Turkey and Israel have a diplomatic ‘kiss and make up’
Israel’s predominantly Muslim neighbors have been loathe to recognize the Jewish state diplomatically for some time. In typical fashion, Erdogan once again threw a diplomatic curve ball and re-established relations with Israel after a five year hiatus.
7. Chavismo era ends as Socialists lose power in Venezuela after 17 years in control
Venezuela had a monumental political shake up in December’s election which saw former President Hugo Chavez’s socialist party lose 99 seats to opposition in the country’s 167-seat legislature, ending a nearly two decade rule.
8. Obama administration warms up to the idea of keeping Assad in power
Secretary of State Kerry, once ridiculed for being a ‘waffler’, seems to have done it again. In mid-December, Kerry told reporters that the U.S. was “not seeking so-called regime change” in Syria, backtracking on months of policy saying just the opposite.
9. The Iran Deal: Worse Than Expected
The nuclear agreement struck with Iran this summer has been worse than expected, according to some experts. Since the deal was finalized, Iran hasengaged in multiple ballistic missile tests, harassed a U.S. aircraft carrier with rocket fire and has essentially solidified a massive influence in Iraq.