Friday, April 13, 2007

Three Mistakes

Three of my predictions on this site have been proven wrong. I want to look at them more closely.

1 - I predicted that in Lebanon, the government would lurch against the US without any attempt by Hezbollah to overturn it.

2 - I predicted that sanctions against Iran would stay limited to enrichment

3 - I expected Iran to hold the British sailors for a long period of confrontation, maybe turning them over to a post-Blair government after negotiations

As to the first prediction, polls show that the population certainly did lurch against the West after the 2006 summer war. The politicians didn't follow the population. This mistake is the result of a lack of understanding on my part, at the time, that politicians in small countries can be and often really are more beholden to the embassies of rich countries like the US than they are to their own constituents. My political instincts are not set for politics in countries like Lebanon, or at least they were not.

On the second prediction, Condoleeza Rice outperformed my expectations. A lot of pressure has been put onto China and Russia and they have gone along. Colin Powell said last year that the amount of pressure the Security Council would be willing to put on Iran is something Iran is willing to tolerate rather than give up on enrichment. I still think Powell was right but the amount of pressure the Security Council is willing to bring is more than I thought - though it is still far less than what would be required to get a suspension. I actually don't think Hussein/Iraq-level sanctions would get a suspension. But my prediction had been wrong. I think China was told that this vote was necessary for Korea's assets to be unfrozen and Russia is told that this vote is tied to missile defense in Europe. Both of these are higher priorities for their respective countries than the principle that the NPT is to be applied in a non-discriminatory manner.

The third prediction, Iran released the sailors. I think this is a reflection of current Iranian thinking on the first hostage crisis in 1979-80. If that crisis had ended this way, the US would still be hostile to Iran, but the trauma the US faced has been used to rally Americans against Iran where otherwise some of those Americans wouldn't have really cared. The US would still be hostile, because Iran is hostile to Israel, but the US would be less hostile because Israel's proponents would not have the crisis as a talking point.

While the first hostage crisis was an extreme statement against the US, it really didn't help Iran in the long run. I think Iran's leadership changed its view of that crisis before I did. Leading to a wrong prediction on my part.

Maybe I've made other predictions that have turned out wrong. So far the one prediction I am most proud of is that in October 2006, reading a speech by the Saudi Ambassador to the US, I predicted that by October 2007 the Saudis would sound and act a lot more like the Iranians with respect to Israel and the United States.

1 comment:

Ziad said...

I wouldn't be too hard on myself. On Iran sanctions you were essentially right. Sanctions my be a bit more extensive than predicted but only a very small bit. A ban on Iranian weapons exports?? Anyone buying Iranian weapons is probably not concerned with the rules of the UNSC. A travel ban on nuclear officials? Russia's interpretation seems very restrictive. Notice there was no ban on weapons IMPORTS.

Your prediction on Saudi Arabia is the key one to watch. If it turns out to be true, America's influence in the region would collapse like a house of cards in a hurricane. Which means the U.S. will do all it can to protect its Saudi relations...and Iran will do whatever it can to woo the Saudis away, as will China and Russia.