NOTE: Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views.
As we enter 2012, I will dare to make some predictions about the Middle East, South Asia, and US foreign policy. This is dangerous, of course, because those of us who are Middle East scholars and political scientists know very well that making predictions is risky business. But, I will take the opportunity of New Year’s Eve, reflecting on the amazing, tumultuous, and unimaginable events of 2011, and analyze the possible directions they will take in 2012.
The epicenter in 2012 will be Syria and Iran, although the post-uprising dust will still be settling in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, and as Robert Fisk has predicted, will continue to do so for years to come.
Yemen might descend into civil war, as if it isn’t already showing signs.
Pakistan’s internal crises will continue to metamorphose into various forms, one often triggering another. Although the military contends that it will not carry out a coup, anything can happen. Anything is possible. US-Pakistan relations will continue to be frayed, while some attempts for reconciliation will continue. Negotiations over resuming US foreign aid to the Pakistani military will be priority #1 for Pakistan. That will offer some leverage to the US to extract some concessions from Pakistan.
Afghanistan will be status quo for the most part, although backdoor negotiations with the Taliban will continue. And, while that happens, ironically, the Taliban and other militant groups will continue their attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The critical events in 2012 will involve Iran and Syria. US and other Western powers’ and GCC states’ foreign policies relative to Syria are a means to sever and undermine Syrian-Iranian ties, which are very strong (i.e., between the Assad regime and Iran’s regime). So, in reality, the stance against the Assad regime has more to do with Iran than really taking a stand against the Syrian regime, as seen with the extremely pathetic Arab League “observer” delegation’s government-controlled sweep of Syria.
Syria is likely to descend into a brutal, bloody civil war (and I really hope I am wrong about this, but that’s what the facts on the ground indicate). This will potentially destabilize Lebanon, and could suck Iraq, Turkey, and Jordan directly or indirectly into the conflict. It can even drag Israel into the battle. This whole scenario would be a disaster for the region, setting it back even more decades than it already is lagging behind. In the fog of this scenario, there will be attempts to undermine Iran, as well as to destroy or disrupt progress in Iran’s nuclear program. This is all speculation, but as an analyst / expert of the region, it is informed speculation nonetheless.
So, as we enter through the gates of 2012, there is reason to shudder when considering the Middle East, and what’s happening in Syria. Clearly, Assad will not go quietly, and it will come at the expense of terrible bloodshed.
On the plus side, despite all the difficulties and struggles that the protesters in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt continue to endure, at least the snake’s head has been removed there. Now, and in the years ahead, the task of getting rid of the snake’s body is before them. They are up to the task. Never lose hope.