Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2009 Predictions

Egypt: Is this the year Mubarak steps off the scene? It doesn't matter much. Egypt will not end up with leadership that is unacceptable to either the United States or Israel. One of these years will be the year. It could be this year, but it could be four years from now. Egypt will continue its hostility towards Hamas/Gaza - not because of Egyptian considerations but because Mubarak's family pockets part of the US Camp David payments. It's that simple and that disgusting but it is an arrangement that will be stable for the next year.

Gaza: Right now a lot of things are in flux in Gaza. My best prediction is that next year Hamas will still run Gaza. We'll see about the crossings but if there is a blockade there will be some form of resistance. I can't predict at this point what form it will take, but rockets like now are a good bet along with increased hostility against Fatah in the West Bank.

Israel: Netanyahu is ahead in the polls right now. Hillary was ahead in the polls last year at this time. Olmert/Kadima may just hang on. I'll predict a right coalition though. The stooges - Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia - will complain about Israel's rightward swing, but I'm no longer able to say their policies will reflect their complaints in any tangible way.

West Bank: The US is feverishly working to keep Abbas in power and protected from Palestine's voters. The US opposition to democracy in the Middle East - which follows necessarily from its support for Israel - is the US' most egregious departure from its founding ideals. Unfortunately, I predict that Abbas will still be in power, propped by US resources, this time next year.

Lebanon: I'm going to predict a slow year. Hezbollah will do well in the elections. Bush would react with a Gaza-type collective punishment on the Lebanese for voting wrong. I don't see Obama doing that, but Obama really is a wild card right now.

Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia: Slow year

Iraq: The US has no intention of fully withdrawing, but can't stay without Iraqi and Iranian cooperation. This will not be easy to solve but I expect that by this time next year there will be open discussions about a long-term US presence in Iraq - which means that Iran will have to have been bought off. It is clearer than ever that the Kurds can expect no further US help in their hopes for independence.

Iran: Iran will certainly be enriching uranium this time next year. Possibly, if there is a deal, it will be enriching at a slower pace than now, along with a relaxation of some sanctions and a torrent of complaints from Israel and Israel's supporters in the US.

Pakistan: Impossible to guess where things will be there. Hopefully there will not be much life-costing chaos in that country.

Afghanistan: Obama is planning on bringing more troops to Afghanistan, as if he thinks he can defeat the Taliban, which he clearly cannot. Like the surge of troops into Iraq, this looks like an honorable way for the US to pay the Taliban to join the government - which can work. As with Iraq, it also would work without the extra troops, but the US likes to pretend it is defeating people for some reason. Fine, it's the US' money at stake here.


Ziad said...

Good to have you back.

The Egyptian regime will eventually fall but it's hard to say when and at any given moment it is more likely to survive than be toppled. The problem is that there is no opposition leadership. Anyone that emerges will be arrested. In the case of the Shaw, Khomeini had a large following, was very charismatic, and the Shaw had limits to what he could do to the Shiite clergy. Also, Khomeini could live in the west without fear. If there were an Egyptian leader of that stature living, abroad today (and there isn't) I think they would find a reason to arrest him.

In Egypt, the Al-Azhar clergy is part of the problem, being bought by the regime.

The only risk to the Regime is worldwide economic collapse hurting Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood might be able to take advantage of that.

Abbas is in much worse position than Mubarak. I'm convinced he is a dead man walking. His only chance for survival is to embrace Hamas and in essence beg their forgiveness (though I sure as hell wouldn't give it to him)

As for Gaza, there was some talk on Haaretz, that the E.U. was prepared to recognize a Palestinian unity government that included Hamas. Don't know how that will work, but if it happened, it would be a huge breakthrough.

Hope you keep posting,

Peter said...

Good to see you posting again. I was wondering about this part: "Egypt will continue its hostility towards Hamas/Gaza - not because of Egyptian considerations but because Mubarak's family pockets part of the US Camp David payments. It's that simple and that disgusting"

But what about Hamas's links with Egypt's own Muslim Brotherhood? Isn't that also an important reason for Mubarak's hostility?

Arnold Evans said...

I don't count that as an "Egyptian consideration", because "Egypt" is not threatened by either Hamas or Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which is as patriotic as any political camp in Egypt.

Considerations related entirely to keeping Mubarak in power despite his unpopular foreign policy and the widely seen corruption that incentives him to pursue an unpopular foreign policy are different.

To understand why Egypt does not open Rafah, the simple first order explanation is that the US, on behalf of Israel, pays Mubarak to keep it closed. (Against the nearly unanimous preferences of the people he rules.)

That is the simple, but also most direct and accurate explanation. Western commentators generally find the direct explanation uncomfortable. I'm not sure how many, through cognitive dissonance avoidance mechanisms, actually are able to block that explanation from their own conscious minds.

More complex explanations, Mubarak want to hurt Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood by allowing Gazans to starve under Hamas - are directly wrong. The Muslim Brotherhood is held in check by the secret police who capture, imprison and torture prominent members of the organization. If Gaza has any effect at all, it angers non-political Egyptians, making the Muslim Brotherhood seem more reasonable, and thereby helping the Muslim Brotherhood a little.

That particular explanation advanced by Western commentators may be more psychologically comforting, but it is exactly backwards. It could not be more factually wrong.

Another comfortable explanation, Egypt wants to oppose Iranian initiatives, is not exactly backwards in the same way the Hamas opposition explanation is.

But is this what an elected Egyptian government would do? Is this what Mubarak would do if the US stopped its payments?

Mubarak's interests and Egypt's interests are entirely unrelated. Western commentators really have trouble comprehending this fact. Western commentators generally do a very poor job trying to understand the motivations of Middle East non-Jewish actors.