Mexico City, Mexico. One does not normally think of Mexico as a war zone, with its friendly tourist trade and warm climate, but numbers don’t lie and if it continues, Mexico is set to replace the middle east as a war zone of death.

The number of fatalities from the expanding war among Mexico’s criminal cartels grew to 23,000 in 2016, compared with 17,000 in Afghanistan and 16,000 in Iraq, according to the annual Armed Conflict Survey by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Mexico has surpassed Iraq and Afghanistan to become the world’s second-most deadly conflict zone after Syria, according to a study of wars around the globe.That level of bloodshed was all the more surprising, because Mexico is a conflict marked by the absence of artillery, tanks or combat aviation. Virtually all of those deaths were caused by small arms.

Most fatalities occurred in Mexican states that have become “key battlegrounds for control between competing, increasingly fragmented cartels,” he said, with violence flaring as gangs try to clear areas of rivals so they can monopolize drug trafficking routes.

The Middle East in general and Syria in particular remained the most lethal regions on earth, with the nearly six-year-old-Syrian conflict claiming a further 50,000 lives. That brings the total number of deaths during the civil and proxy war to an estimated 290,000, almost three times the number killed in Bosnia, in the early 1990s.

Further cause for concern is that even though the Islamic State terrorist organization lost a quarter of its territory and a higher proportion of its fighters last year, the toll on civilians is likely to increase as the group returns to more traditional insurgent tactics, rather than try to hold territory as a conventional army, a rebirth of patisan warfare as it were.

The main tool available for the international community to try to reduce bloodshed is the United Nations peace-keeping forces, which are increasingly overstretched and ineffectual.

Peacekeeping has become overly ambitious, focused on preventing civilian casualties and peacemaking since the genocides in Rwanda and Srebrenica in the 1990s, rather than just policing ceasefires and political settlements. The UN is also by its nature too politically riven to carry out effective military operations. Words to the wise as Minsk negotiators constantly suggest putting UN forces in Donbass to end the genocide there that has topped the 100,000 deaths mark, from 2014 -present.

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