In May 2003, a month after the termination of the Saddam Hussein regime, Oxford Research Group (ORG) began a series of monthly briefings on international security. These have continued since then, published on the ORG website and emailed to well over 2,000 subscribers. In addition, ORG later began a series of annual international security reports which sought to give an overview of major trends year by year.
These have been published each autumn since 2004 and this is the fifth such report. The report examines international security trends in relation to Iraq, Afghanistan/Pakistan, the al-Qaida movement, East-West relations after the Russian intervention in Georgia, and the probable security impact of the international economic downturn. This analysis is in the context of the US Presidential Election result. While the security situation in Iraq has improved, there remain major problems, many of them centring on the Status of Forces Agreement. An increased pace of US withdrawals combined with greater US regional engagement could be positive trends in the coming year.
In relation to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the al-Qaida movement, the Obama administration may actually reinforce US military commitments in Afghanistan. This is likely to lead to an intensified war, but the attitude of allied states, including Britain, Canada and the Netherlands, may prompt a significant reassessment of US aims and postures. The deterioration in East-West relations in the wake of the Georgian intervention is reversible - Russian economic problems, European caution and a new US administration may all combine to aid this.
The global economic downturn is the biggest single threat to security across the world. On present trends many hundreds of millions of people among the poorest communities across the world will suffer most. This is likely to lead to the rise of radical and violent social movements, which will be controlled by force, further increasing the violence. The intensifying Naxalite rebellion in India and the substantial problems of social unrest in China are early indicators. Responding to the crisis in a manner which places emphasis on improving emancipation and reversing the widening of the global socio-economic divide is the most important task for the next twelve months.