Aleppo residents walk among the rubble of former  apartment buildings. Syria, January 20, 2017. (Hassan Ammar/Associated Press)

Aleppo residents walk among the rubble of former apartment buildings. Syria, January 20, 2017. (Hassan Ammar/Associated Press)

The devastating conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen have killed and displaced countless tens of thousands of people. They will continue to be this year’s primary points of concern for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which remains beset by political, security, and socioeconomic complexities and challenges.

Governments in Libya and Egypt will also face unique challenges as they chart dangerous courses toward unifying disparate polities, while the Palestinian-Israeli conflict looks set to become even more complicated as a new United States president seeks to set a new agenda in this volatile region over the next 12 months.

The Syrian conflict will likely persist through 2017 despite attempts at a lasting ceasefire and indications that Russia is seeking to draw down its operational footprint in the country following its role in securing Damascus and Aleppo. Non-state armed groups linked to the West, Turkey, or acting independently remain in place across the north, northeast, east, and south. Attempts at negotiating a settlement, possibly in return for the resignation of Bashar al-Assad, remain a possibility at talks slated to begin later in January in Kazakhstan; however, groups not part of the ceasefire, including the Islamic State, will remain spoilers. ISIS, for its part, will surely not negotiate and will continue to fight despite incurring significant losses in Iraq in 2016. ISIS may be repulsed from Mosul, its final major stronghold in Iraq, by the third quarter of 2017, but it will be undeterred in agitating for its ultimate goal of the establishment of its caliphate. Whatever remains of the group in the second half of the year will likely go to ground and seek to reignite an insurgency in predominantly Sunni regions across the Arab world. Read more