Gateway to 2012

31 12 2011

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.

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8 responses

1 01 2012
Sam

Very interesting Analysis.

2 01 2012
Mohammed Mahmood

I’m delighted to read your very enlightening blog.
I’m afraid India in due course will get sucked up in the US alliance system. Pakistan will likely come back home and Pakistani military’s dependence on US support will continue as ever .
So far as the ME is concerned, instead of saber-rattling the US and allies must work for “vote to the people” in both Syria and Iran. Egypt is a traditional ally of the US. No danger for continued US-Egyptian relationship is visualized. But the imperceptible danger is escalation of conflict between the civilians and the military which has declared beforehand that it will control the political institutions and the political process. The US will have to choose between democracy and hegemony of the armed forces.

2 01 2012
Jeff Winters

Interesting thoughts, Hayat, to ring in the New Year. I noticed; however, that you didn’t address Israel-Palestine…

Do you envision direct talks resuming between the Israelis and Palestinians in 2012, or is the situation in Syria (with anticipated spillover into Lebanon thru Hezbollah) a convenient excuse to avoid meaningful and progressive dialog?

2 01 2012
drhayat

Thanks Jeff, great observations. I don’t see any progress in 2012 in the Israeli-Palestinian talks. There might be cosmetic attempts, but nothing substantive, in my view. I also don’t see Syria/Lebanon/Hezbollah as much as an excuse (although it might be cited as one), as the reality that the leadership in Israel and Palestine do not manifest the vision and political will necessary for realizing a just and lasting peace between them. The Palestinians are politically divided, and so are the Israelis, both respectively facing profound internal problems and crises. For this peace track to be effective, leadership along the lines of Mandela-DeKlerk is needed. No sign of that on the horizon in Israel or Autonomous Palestine!

2 01 2012
Atiq Alvi

Hayat:

Congratulations on a great blog and good luck!

2 01 2012
drhayat

Thanks Atiq!

3 01 2012
Nikolas Gvosdev

Hi Hayat,

It will be a tense year, that is for sure. What is interesting is to factor in how other major powers may react. Prolonged instability in the region that drives energy prices upwards, for instance, is very much in Russia’s interests–both for the income it generates but also because it will lessen pressure on the government for change. China certainly has an interest in keeping U.S. attention and effort on the region–in part because this will prevent the long-awaited “shift to Asia”.

4 01 2012
Ismail B.

There are lots of uncertainties all over the world than ever. Unrests against current dictatorial regimes, Democratic Elections, Large Scale Natural Disasters that we have to encounter, International Terrorism, proliferation and spread of Nuclear weapons, Unpredictable Regimes etc. make it hard to foresee 2012. These are some uncertainties that we will face this year:
• Arab spring (developments in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen, Algeria)
• Presidential Elections in the US, Russia, France, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Mexico and some other countries
• Economic Crisis in the US and Europe (Does the mutual dependence born of globalization create a threat to countries)
• Nuclear capability of Iran
• North Korea’s new leader’s vision
• Turmoil in Syria (How long will Assad regime resist to uprising and how Iran and Russia will support Assad?)
• International and Regional Conflicts (Philistine- Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somali, Caucasus)
• International Terrorism and Piracy at sea
• Famine
• Increasing Natural disasters such as Earthquakes, Drought and Tsunamis all over the world
• Limited natural resources
• Global Climate change and environmental pollution and unwillingness of overcoming their effects.

Let’s look at the world by taking into account above;
• Syria: Uprising in Syria is still on going. Up to now about 6000 people killed by the régime. It is for sure that Assad Regime will collapse. It is a matter of time regardless of Iranian or Russian support to the current regime. The problem is how long will it take and especially how Russia and Iran support the regime. This support may increase the tension and may cause an unpredictable turmoil in the region. Another question at which level International community will involve this conflict. After cold war Russia did not involve a conflict against USA and western system by using force. We need to answer this question “how much important is Assad Regime for Russia?” the answer is related to another question. – Does Russia feel itself strong enough to test its power after cold war? Another question is about Iran. Is Iran ready to lose its natural ally? And what can Iran do despite international community and majority of Syrian people?

– Russia; I think Russia will use its soft power in UN Security Council and will test Western response by sending its Naval ships since Tartus is the only base that Russia can use the benefit. But I do not foresee Russia will go further if the Syrian insurgents will be powerful enough.

– Iran; Given the international pressure Iran may support Assad regime just by means of logistic and military aid through Iraq (by using its influence in Iraq)

• Tunisia and Egypt: Some people believe that democratic preference of the people of region may not result administration as West wishes. But I think new administration have to deliver more prosperity to their society. And this requires their policies being more transparent and should promise liberal policies. It means that they will try to integrate their system into Western system. But Israel policies of these countries will not be as it used to be since they have to be transparent and response their societies’ political wills unlike old dictatorial leaders. It means Israel will have to take into account the new situation unlike before. We can foresee that Tunisia will have strong ties with EU and Egypt strong ties with the United States. Both countries will have more economic cooperation with Turkey unlike in the past.

• Yemen, Jordan and Algeria: We will see effects of Arab Spring in these countries. It is a matter of time. In Algeria unrest may be in 2012 or in 2013. France will support the government as it did before. When it will realize that it cannot stop uprising it may again bomb Algerian army as it did in Libya.

• Israel: Despite unlimited US support Israel will continue to be leaved alone due to its the unlawful practices in the region and the effects of the Arab Spring.

• Iran Relations with US and Israel: Despite the collective efforts regarding the conflict in Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf oil prices won’t increase too much unless a hot war. Israel and Iran owe each other for their allies’ supports to continue. Launching a missile to opposite or bombing nuclear facilities in Iran will help their regime to strengthen their regime/current government against their society and allies. When Iran feels itself powerful enough against the US (When US enemies want to test US power) Iran may hit a US unit (aircraft or Naval unit) in the Gulf claiming US units to violate its territorial water or air space. The US response may aim Iranian nuclear capabilities by a limited air strike.

• Russia: Putin tries to strengthen his and his country’s power since cold war. Russia is consolidating its military and economic power by producing huge amount of oil. It will try to find a way to test its power against international community when it feels it is big enough. We may see Russia’s new attempts with its old Soviet countries and especially Collective Security Treaty Organization countries.

• Iraq: After withdrawing Us troops Iraq has become more vulnerable to a civil war within the country. Pro-Iran Prime Minister and Shia majority in Iraq are encouraged by Iran. We will see Sunni and Kurds to close each other and both to close Turkey ironically. Turkey will become an important actor whether or not it wants to protectthese communities’ right because of its cultural and historical ties with the region.

• Pakistan: Despite all efforts Pakistan is under threat of being a fall state. Turmoil in the country will continue.

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