Monday, December 31, 2012

Predictions, 2013

Year’s end prediction columns are always problematic: my last one wasn’t all that accurate, as it turned out. I was dead wrong on the Big One — war with Iran, to which I assigned a 65 percent probability. This year, however, it looks as if the issue — like a huge, festering boil — is coming to a head. Others seem to agree. One reason I’ve been pushing the nomination of Chuck Hagel to head up the Pentagon is that this trial balloon is clearly a signal of President Obama’s reluctance to start yet another war in the Middle East — one that could easily morph into a regional conflict, or even a world war. The economic consequences of bombing Iran would be a deterrent to any President, especially one trying to dig us out of the economic hole his domestic policies have exacerbated. Related to this is the ongoing civil war in Syria, which is in reality a proxy war between America’s allies in the Gulf and Tehran. Here it looks like Bashar al-Assad’s days are numbered, and it’s only a matter of time — and not much time, at that — before the Ba’athist regime falls. The likely result: the Lebanon-ization of the country, which means the de facto break-up of the Syrian state, with the country’s many ethnic and religious factions each establishing their own enclaves. Which means: continued fighting, and the increased possibility of increased Iranian intervention on behalf of their beleaguered allies. This will set up a tripwire for open conflict between Iran and the West. What’s interesting about this is how the “international community” will respond. My prediction: some kind of international force, under UN auspices, will “police” the remnants of the old Syria, possibly including Turkish, Jordanian, and Qatari forces (no Americans, however). The big change, I believe, will come about in regard to Israel: everyone can see the Israelis are moving rapidly in the direction of an ugly ultra-nationalism, and the Israeli government that comes out of the elections at the end of January will no doubt be the most right-wing to date. Read the entire article