Top 10 Important World News Stories of January 2013


As a new feature for TopTenz, this list recaps the ten more important developments in world news from the past month that all world citizens really need to be aware of. This list will countdown the top ten key international developments in a concise manner so that readers understand the key points of what happened and why these events are important. Think of this list as something of a study guide of the history of this past month and what it means for the coming year. This list will focus on historically significant events (no, getting duped in an online girlfriend hoax does not really have long-term ramifications as the entries on this list does!). For each entry on this list, I have provided a recommended external link where you can further educate yourself on the topic and why it is significant. You may notice that I selected articles for a variety of news sources. As a historian, I prefer to review multiple sources rather than any one source when writing and researching a topic. I encourage you to do the same so as to avoid reading only one biased account of things. It is good to understand the world from the perspective of people with different cultural, gender, and religions backgrounds than ourselves.

10. Queen Beatrix announced that after over thirty years as queen she will abdicate the Dutch throne at the end of April.


Netherlands’ Queen Beatrix, left, and Crown Prince Willem Alexander, right, are seen on stage during Queen’s Day celebrations in Rhenen, Netherlands on April 30, 2012. (Pool Photo by Robin Utrecht)

While modern constitutionalist European monarchs may seem largely politically impotent compared to the absolutist monarchs of the early modern era, they do represent long traditions that have been with humanity for generations. The Dutch monarchy dates back to 16 March 1815, although a Napoleonic Kingdom of Holland also existed earlier from 1806 to 1810. At its height, the Kingdom of Netherlands had colonies around the world and as such, it has established tremendous cultural influences well beyond Europe. Although the Dutch have lost many of their colonies, they still retain Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. As such, the resignation of Queen Beatrix is a changing of the guard if you will in one of history’s most influential civilizations that still has political, economic, and cultural influence in Europe and the Caribbean. For more information on this important story, please see source.

9. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office urged British nationals to leave the Libyan city of Benghazi immediately due to a “specific and imminent” threat to Westerners.


As we saw last year with the death of an American diplomat in Libya, the ouster of the self-proclaimed King of Kings of Africa (you know who I mean!) did not result in all roses and sunshine in Libya. Factional fighting has continued for the past year and has cost over a thousand lives. This conflict has already resulted in foreign deaths, including of four Americans and continues to burn in an already war torn region. North Africa has been in a state of almost non-stop crisis since the Arab Spring began and now we have continuing violence in Mali, Libya, and Egypt, while in the nearby Middle East the Syrian Civil War has finally caused Israel to act with a military strike. As such, we are looking at a potential strip of the world stretching from Mali in West Africa all the way to Pakistan in Asia in which Islamist militants of different ideologies threaten to engulf this massive region of the world in a broad and diverse conflict with no immediate end in sight. The longer these conflicts persist, the more lives lost, the greater cultural treasures destroyed, the increased likelihood of an economic toll, and the further risk to the lives of Americans, Europeans, and others attempting diplomacy or even military intervention into these conflicts. For more information on this important story, please see source.

8. At least 24 militants were killed in clashes between the Tehrik-e-Taliban and Ansarul Islam in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, while a suicide bombing at a market in the Afghan city of Kunduz killed at least ten people and wounded up to twenty others.


Yes, despite the death of Osama bin Laden, the war in Afghanistan and neighboring North-West Pakistan still rages. This conflict has continued since 2001 and has resulted in close to 15,000 civilian casualties, nearly 15,000 coalition casualties, and an unknown but sizable number of Taliban and its terrorist allies killed and wounded as well. The war is one of America’s longest and represents yet another era of bloody conflict for that long-war torn region of the world. Moreover, that it involves nuclear armed Pakistan and that Afghanistan borders American’s critic Iran, it just serves as yet another potential source for further disasters to come. Just keep in mind that at the same time while this conflict continues involving Islamic terrorists and America, tensions between Israel and Syria as well as Israel and Iran remain incredibly intense and as such if a major war broke out that pitted Israel against Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran and it extended to include the United States, one would have to think America having forces in Iran’s neighbor Afghanistan would certainly come into play. For more information on this important story, please see source.

7. Two people were killed in clashes between protesters and police on the edge of Cairo’s Tahrir Square.


The Egyptian Revolution did not simply end with the fall of former president Mubarak. In fact, not many revolutions just end with one man’s deposition. England faced serious violent problems well after Charles I’s beheading as did France after the execution of Louis XVI. Thus, in these various Arab Spring countries, ongoing violence remains a critical concern and a threat for further destabilizing in strategically and culturally important locales. Egypt has many historic treasures that can be damaged in any ongoing instability, not to mention that it is the host country of the Suez Canal and borders former enemy Israel. A situation spiraling out of control in Egypt therefore threatens the border between Asia and Africa. For more information on this important story, please see source.

6. French troops took over Timbuktu Airport as they entered the city without any resistance from the Islamists.


A photo released on January 29, 2013 by French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows French troops enter with Malian soldiers the histotic city of Timbuktu, north Mali on January 28, 2013.

Egypt is not the only crisis zone in Africa. The fleeing Islamists set on fire the Timbuktu library containing the Timbuktu Manuscripts. The extent of the damage is still unknown. Yet, from videos, such as those seen at it is clear that the Islamists in Mali are brutalizing both people and historic archives as well. These developments are important for a variety of reasons. First, the book burning deprives us of our knowledge of history. Second, the French intervention in one of its former colonies reflects continued French military influence on the world stage. Third, the ongoing and increasingly disturbing tensions are exactly the kinds of things that could draw in further intervention by other countries (see below). For more information on this important story, please see source.

Meanwhile, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland announced it will deploy 330 military personnel to Mali and other West African countries in support of French forces operating in the area. Indeed, as expected, France’s ally Britain is indeed coming to help in this expanding crisis. The fact that two major European powers are intervening could be indicative of things to come in the sense that other countries, such as the United States of America might be drawn into the crisis. The conflict already involves a host of other countries beyond France and Britain and has resulted in hundreds of deaths, including spilling over into neighboring Algeria where a hostage crisis ended with 11 militants and 7 hostages killed. This even therefore has the potential to become more than just a civil war as it draws in intervention from other world powers and causes violence in bordering countries as well. For more information on this aspect of this important story, please see source.

5. Prime Minister Shinz? Abe of Japan vowed to defend the Senkaku Islands “at all costs” in a speech aimed at the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

The above headline refers to the The Senkaku Islands dispute between China, Taiwan, and Japan. China and Taiwan claim that Japan seized these islands during the 1895 Sino-Japanese War as an illegal act of military imperialism. Japan, however, claims that they have had these islands for over a hundred years and formally purchased them from their private owner in September 2012. Since mid-January, Japan and China have had considerable diplomatic tensions over the islands and although things seemed to cool later in January, just this past week, we had the Prime Minister issue the above statement. Obviously, an actual confrontation between the world’s most populous country that is also a nuclear power to boot (China) versus one of the most economically significant countries in the world (Japan) would have cataclysmic consequences for the world. There is no way that a war involving China, Japan, and/or Taiwan would not have ripples for just about the entire world’s economies, let alone the threat of escalation. I am not sure how likely an actual war is here versus in the Middle East which is why I did not rank it higher, but if a war did break out, it has the potential to be something we would shudder to imagine. Please see such articles as for a sense of why this dispute over essentially uninhabited islands matters!

4. Iran’s state news agency announced that the Iranian Space Agency successfully sent a monkey into space aboard the Pishgam rocket.

Iran’s Space Monkey

An image of a monkey Iran claims to have sent into space this week, in a screenshot from an Iranian state news organization.

Yes, the monkey reportedly came back okay. What makes this development worth knowing is simply that someone capable of launching a rocket into space can arguably send rockets against other countries. Iran of course is not exactly a friend of the nearby country Israel nor of American forces in Afghanistan. As such, as they continue to develop rocket technology, both Israelis and Americans alike are become increasingly concerned with what they might do with their rockets. 2012 was a year filled with talks of possible Israeli or even American strikes on suspected nuclear sites in Iran. Advances in Iranian technology could further encourage such preemptive strikes or conversely could mean that in an Iranian attack against Israeli or American forces the Iranians may have the means to do an unfortunate amount of damage. If we are lucky, it could just represent another advancement in humanity’s efforts to explore space, but we should not be so optimistic as to be naïve. For more information on this important story, please see source.

3. South Korean media reports claim that North Korea has been placed under martial law with another nuclear test considered to be imminent.

USS-San Franciso

ON CALL: The USS San Francisco is anchored in North Korea’s neighbourhood at Jinhae naval base in South Korea.

Obviously, any time Koreans rattle their sabers, the world gasps. Both halves of the Korean Peninsula have been rivals for decades now and fears on another Korean War seem to always loom over that particular peninsula. Only this time, the North now possesses at least a few nuclear weapons. The danger here is of course yet another case of potential escalation and a possible foreshadowing of the horrors to come. If nothing else, a nuclear test by the North would be another reminder of just how dangerous that largely isolated country is and what a second Korean War might entail, namely it potentially being a nuclear war. Few manmade things could have more consequences for humanity than a nuclear war. For more information on this important story, please see source.

2. Israeli forces attacked an arms convoy on the Lebanon–Syria border overnight destined from Syria to Hezbollah.


Here we see another potential powder key that is arguably already burning. Any time Israel and any of its Arab neighbors exchange even a small amount of gunfire it has the potential to escalate into something with regional if not global significance due to the importance of Middle Eastern oil and the interest of three major world religions on holy sites in the region. The Syrian Civil War has been raging since the Arab Spring destabilized the region over a year ago. Tens of thousands have died in the conflict and it keeps threatening to involve its various neighbors from Turkey to Iraq and perhaps most critically to Israel. After Israel struck the convoy to prevent Hezbollah terrorists from acquiring weapons, both Syria and Iran have threatened retaliatory strikes on Israel. Should they follow up on those threats, we could have a major regional war on our hands that once again could also draw in the United States. A major war involving Iran will almost assuredly spike up oil prices and cost numerous lives on both sides of the conflict. For more information on this important story, please see source.

1. The United States Senate confirmed John Kerry to become United States Secretary of State by a vote of 94–3.

Kerry succeeds outgoing Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton on February 1 and will inherit the various international crises mentioned above. Given America’s prominent position in the world, the country’s leading diplomat plays a fundamental role in negotiating with other world powers and as such Mr. Kerry will have to contend with a host of political, military, and economic crises currently plaguing our world. The role the United States will play in any of the above mentioned crisis zone whether they be in the Middle East, North Africa, or East Asia. As such, Kerry has a chance to influence the outcome of many of the other above indicated events and accordingly is ranked first for the month of most significant world events. For more information on this important story, please see source.

By Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS and the author of  Meteors That Enlighten the Earth: Napoleon and the Cult of Great Me.

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  1. Danielle Thorpe on

    #4, That monkey looks very unhappy lol,
    It’s amazing to see how much technology is improving everyday, like sending a monkey to space. Although, it is scary to think of it being used for military force especially against us.

  2. Clifford Vickery on

    All very notable events, most of these events are like to have effects that reach globally. As for us hopefully China and Japan can reach an agreement with as little involvement as possible from the US. I wont be holding my breath.

  3. That monkey looks so sad! It doesn’t know what’s going on, tested mess up. But about this Korean nuclear weapon, whoa. They are already super dangerous and is hate to be on their list! I didn’t realize all the events we were getting involved in, not that I’m totally shocked because the US it’s always getting in to other country’s stuff. I am a little concerned on what’s to come in my lifetime.

  4. This list was one of my favorites that you have posted thus far as some of these stories I had not yet heard or had never actually hit the news (only minor stories in newspapers). It actually saddened me that a monkey was sent to space as it seems cruel to them and makes me think of all of the reasons animals should not be tested on/ used as Guinea pigs 🙁 …anyway, there was a lot of valuable information here, some that I had not even thought to research more fully. In particular, my interest in Cairo conflicts with Tahir Square had waned quite significantly as there had been less and less major news coverage of it. Once you posted this though, I once again started researching and following the reports more closely as there is still a vast amount of conflict in the country. Keep on posting!

    Rachel Kirsch

    • Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS on

      Dear Rachel,

      Well, I have submitted one on the Top 10 Important World News Stories of February 2013, so there should be more where this list came from! 🙂



  5. I enjoyed reading this collection of news stories because it reminded me of what is going on outside of my immediate area. I am familiar with many of the stories, but I have a tendency to forget about the big picture. The conflict in the Middle East is always something I have tried to keep my eye on because it can have such tremendous consequences if things explode into an all out war. Whether or not it was a hoax, the news story about Iran sending a monkey into space on a rocket renews ongoing concerns that may have taken a back seat to other world affairs. When it comes to Iran, there is a huge reason to worry about what technological developments they are making. I for one, am hoping that we never have to enter into a direct conflict with them because I can only imagine the effects it would have on the world. The same thing goes for North Korea. When I hear the stories about developing rockets and nuclear weapons, I shudder to think of the possible nuclear war that may erupt.

  6. I wonder what kind of impact the removal of US troops from Afghanistan will have on Pakistan. Considering the increase in attacks on Pakistan by radical Islamist groups from the northern borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the situation will much likely get much worse when there are no US troops involved in Afghanistan, and the security of the nation is left up to a government that barely controls Kabul, and not much else. The radical Islamist groups will surely target Pakistan more frequently, and could send the region into even further turmoil, this is an incredibly scary thought for Pakistan is armed with nuclear weapons and a very corrupt military and intelligence agency, as scary as it is, it would not be foolish to say that the US military involvement in Pakistan/ Afghanistan is not going to be over any time soon, although there may be no troops in Afghanistan. This viscious cycle of violence will not likely end anytime soon, in fact things look as though they may get much worse.

  7. Likewise, Article number 4 wins the most interesting article here because it involves the United States. Iran has successfully sent a rocket into space and it brings up the cause for concern on how they can develop this technology and make a weapon out of it. If they can send rockets into space with minor ease, what holds them back from using it against a potential enemy or threat, hopefully America wont have to find out. Another interesting note to add is the caption in the monkey’s photo says Iran “claims” the monkey returned from space which definitely draws a red flag on the fact of whether the monkey was ever involved. Probably not too big a concern but definitely something to point out.

  8. Wow, I’m surprised some of these stories weren’t publicized as much as they probably should’ve been. The 4th article is the most interesting to me because it gets me thinking how simple it is almost now to be sending rockets into space that the same country could send rockets to nearby countries. It appears to be a possible issue in the near future too, only time will tell.

  9. To comment I would like to speak more about NorthKorea. I mean I know they might have nuclear weapons now and they are scary country to mess with. But i think honestly they are like a spider, most people are scared of them, and don’t want to mess with them because they look scary and have a bite. But in reality this spider is making itself look big and bad because it itself is really scared. Since it is scared it will do nothing but try and make itself look scarier such as North Korea. North Korea has to be smart enough to know it shouldn’t mess with anybody

  10. Michael Giaimo on

    Number three for me seemed very interesting. North Korea has just tried out its third nuclear test and I feel like this is an event worrying the minds of those all over the country. Countries like China are too desiring to impose ever harsher sanctions on North Korea to stop them from further developing harmful weapons. It’s unknown whats going to happen with North Korea but this even has made everyone tremble and wonder whats really to come.

    • Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS on

      Actually, I’m thinking of including that in my next month version of the article, i.e. Top 10 Important World News Stories of February 2013! 😉

  11. It will be very interesting to see what John Kerry will do with the Secretary of State position and if he can influence some major events around the world.

  12. I think that the United States should stay out of Africa. With an increasing debt and being a country dealing with the tolls of two wars, I don’t think it would be a good idea.

  13. Make up Assignment :

    Although each of these top ten events have a big impact in their own way to society, the events that took place during the 1600s were a bit more moving. From the beheadings to the wars and leaders, events during the 1600s make an impression on mankind that will forever change society. Many of the events that took place in the 1600s lead us to the life we live in today. Leaders have learned from previous leaders mistakes as well as gaining knowledge from their success. The 1600s have set up the foundation of our future today.

  14. I feel kind of both ways about whether or not the crises were more serious back then or now. As far as medical attention back then there were not so advanced but as far as discovering new things and using modern technologies it can make or break us today

  15. It’s pretty scary to read how we can potentially become involved in more wars. What’s even more scary is that this is probably the case all of the time and we (the uninformed) don’t even realize it as we go on about our lives day to day.

  16. Caribbean Shipping on

    This is a great informative information with picture/video..a morning of walking around the ship was filled with similarly enticing views. It’s a great way to wake up.

  17. Kerry certainly has big shoes to fill with Clinton leaving; I must admit I was surprised at the univeral support — at first — but, once I saw how involved he has been since the 2004 election, it makes more sense.

  18. I found number four rather sad because I feels it’s kinda rude. WHY monkeys though why not cats or dogs? I know monkeys are used to test thing s but space REALLLY

  19. informative top 10 ! Amazing how much can occur in just a month. Each of these events in some way or the other connect to our future here in the states. With up and coming advance technology, to government changes and war, 2013 most certainly has its work cut out for itself. By far my favorite article was Iran’s choice to ship a poor monkey off to space in a rocket. Pretty sure that classifies as animal cruelty if you ask me. But hey, every man for himself right. Or shall I say monkey. Great article !

    • Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS on

      Dear Kayla,

      Thank you for your kind words! I am pleased you enjoyed it! 🙂



  20. It’s hard to imagine that half of didn’t even make big news stories with their importance. Very interesting though and made good pass-time reading!

  21. When Iran were showing off pictures of the monkey they sent into space they released pictures of 2 different monkeys. The said it was an accident and that one of them was a backup monkey. I find that hilarious. Though maybe not completely calling into question the validity of their claim it has to be said it’s a bit of an embarrassment

  22. The post that grabbed my attention most was the monkey being sent into space via rocket. This kind of news appeared to be more along the lines of entertaining, but it turned into something very informative. I wouldn’t have thought to link the concern between Iranians and the dangers of having more improved technology on the enemy’s side, such as a rocket. This article was a good example of how we should take the information given and apply it to potential situations of the future.

  23. Tick tock! If the U.S. begins to get involved in any of the world events mentioned above, which we will probably have to (especially with Japan and China as per our WWII agreement with them) then our nation could be stretched too thin, too fast. If you consider that we are already involved in Afghanistan, then we have one war already. If tensions between Japan and China go hot, now it’s two, and, of course, we will become embroiled with France and Britain’s affairs. What kind of neighbors would we be if we didn’t help? Three. Now we’re stretched too thin and some nation sees it and decides to attack us. Four, and we fall. Now the world economies begin to follow with us because of the global dependence on one another and because of our propping most of the European nations up economically after WWII. The way I see it, it’s only a matter of time.

      • Seriously, I would like to know this myself. I base my theory on historical facts. Do we not have an agreement with Japan dating back to WWII to protect them if they are attacked by other nations? If not, then my history teacher taught me wrong. This being the case, is it not also possible for China, a nation that is growing quickly and, last time I checked, willing to shake its Communist fist at the world. Not to mention, China and Japan have gone to war with each other in the past, so there is a history there.
        As for Britain working with France, have we not been on good relations with Britain in the past (with the exception of the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War)? Did Winston Churchill ask FDR for assistance during WWII, and did we not supply them with weapons and, when Japan attacked, our soldiers? In fact, we may have supplied a few before Japan attacking, but I am unsure about that. All this being said, why would it be considered a wrong assumption to assume that we would help out our British, and French, neighbors across the pond; especially, if I remember correctly, both are a part of NATO.
        Need some backing for the world economy statement. After WWII we helped the world rebuild. The U.S.A. sent money to all the impoverished nations that had suffered the ravages of war, which was most of Europe and their subsidiaries. This being the case, it means that our money is everywhere and has remained so because of the global market. This makes every nation intertwined with the economies of the others. If one falls, they all fall. Now, unless my history teachers have been lying to me, and my own research over the years has been nothing but lies, then how can any of this not be legitimate up to this point?
        The only piece that can be construed as remotely illegitimate is the idea that a fourth nation would actually attack us while we are stretched too thin, and, if you would like a list of our enemies, start with the Communist nations and slowly begin working your way to Muslim nations because, the last I saw the news or was given a history lesson, these were the nations that were most likely willing to see us fall to ruin (Soviet Russia as an example).
        The one good thing in your claim is that you have pointed out that I forgot to say that it was my theory and not reality; otherwise, I respectfully request some facts to back up your own claim. As you can see, I have provided mine and, by all means, I would love to be proven wrong because I would love to know that my nation will be around for a while longer, but until then, every nation, like every business, needs a Devil’s advocate per se.

  24. Out of all the significant events, I found number 4 very interesting because in the past I have always heard people say send the monkeys to space. After reading Iranian sent a monkey to space successfully; I was in shock and was very intrigued.

  25. David L. Morrisnewell on

    I always look forward to this class. Plus I learn so much from it. Best class of this semester.