2016 is likely to be a dangerous and violent year
Multiple geopolitical threats risk destabilising the world, causing death and destruction over the coming 12 months.
From fresh Iran-Saudi Arabia tensions to the proliferation of Islamic State (ISIS) in Afghanistan and Libya, the task of restoring peace and security to the planet in 2016 appears bigger than ever.
Tom Wilson, a Middle East analyst at the Henry Jackson Society think tank, told Express.co.uk that "if 2016 follows the pattern of the last few years then this year will certainly be more dangerous than last".
He said: "Obviously there is the ongoing war with Islamic State and the danger posed from other Islamist terror groups. We can also expect to see an intensification of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, there's always the risk that could flare up badly.
"And we shouldn't forget that with Russian and American forces now both active in Syria, there is the ever present concern of accidents or mistakes being made; that could then lead to an unintended escalation."
Here – in no particular order – Express.co.uk details some of the greatest threats for 2016.
Fighting continues to rage between government troops and rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. Clashes between rival groups and ISIS militants claimed more than 55,000 lives in 2015, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
There appears to be no end to the bloodshed and the death toll in 2016 could exceed last year's total.
While US defence officials this week declared that ISIS had lost around 20 per cent of its territory in Syria, tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, who are key players in peace talks, threatens to undermine efforts at restoring stability in the war-torn country.
Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia dipped to a record low in the first few days of 2016. The execution of a prominent Shia cleric angered Tehran, sparking a chain of violence, protests and boycotts that has seen diplomacy in the region slump considerably.
Claims that Saudi warplanes struck the Iranian embassy in Yemen will only add to the instability infecting the region.
The Republican firebrand remains right-wing America's first choice for the next president of the United States, while opinion polls show Donald Trump could well pip Hillary Clinton to replace Barack Obama.
His election to the highest office in America in November could trigger a string of diplomatic crises.
Proposing a ban on all Muslims entering the US would spark global outrage, denting America's relations with countries around the world.
Commentators also fear his lack of experience and self-confessed love of guns could spark wars around the world.
But Mr Trump disagrees, telling Esquire magazine that the current president poses the greatest threat to world peace: "With Obama, we'll end up in World War III, because the guy is not respected."
And Mr Wilson added: "Obama's poor strategy has led to a lack of American and Western leadership and the world has become increasingly unstable as other regimes attempt to fill the vacuum."
ISIS has proliferated in Libya and parts of central Asia
ISIS jihadis have expanded their territory east through central Asia and west through north and central Africa.
Recent gains in Afghanistan and Libya suggest the terror group is on the ascendency, despite claims from US military chiefs that the group has lost 30 per cent of its territory in Iraq and Syria.
But the extremist network opened up a new frontier in 2015 – suicide attacks on the West. The Paris massacre in November gave the world a taste of how ISIS plan to spread their message in the coming months.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
Pyongyang made its nuclear intentions clear this week with another round of nuclear testing. North Korea experts say the country currently possesses missiles with a maximum range of 1,000km (621miles).
But its military has plans for a long-range rocket programme that could propel a nuclear warhead as far as the US west coast.
In retaliation, South Korea has resumed propaganda broadcasts that the North considers to be an act of war. The coming year could push tensions between the neighbouring countries to their limits.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual end of year news conference in Moscow
PUTIN AND RUSSIA
Russia's expansionist president Vladimir Putin made a land grab in Ukraine in 2014 and stationed troops and military equipment in western Syria last year.
In 2016, Putin is likely to want to expand his reach further still. His provocative rhetoric – including branding Nato a threat to Russia – also has the potential to cause new flareups with the West.
CHINA AND THE PACIFIC
Tensions between China and the US are mounting over Beijing's massive naval building programme in disputed international waters.
The Asian powerhouse is building airfields and other military facilities on man-made islands that have seemingly emerged from nowhere in the South China Sea.
It could trigger new diplomatic fallouts across the region, sucking Taiwan, which already has a troubled relationship with China, into the dispute.
THE GLOBAL ECONOMY
Chancellor George Osborne warned today that the economy faced a "dangerous cocktail" of threats from abroad, including stock market falls around the world, the slowdown in China and problems in Brazil and in Russia.
China is the second biggest economy in the world, but growth has stalled and a slowing economy could trigger another global financial crisis.
2016 looks set to be a tumultuous year for British politics, too, with a looming referendum on the country's membership of the European Union (EU) promising to be a defining moment.
The disintegration of the Labour party and fresh warnings of a push for Scotland's independence from the UK by the Scottish National Party will only add to the uncertainty.