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Crystal Ball: What will happen in 2004

12/25/2003

Last year, yours truly made ten predictions for 2003 - Eight out of ten were mostly correct.

This year, editors of MidEastWeb and other Middle East experts were asked to rate the probability of a larger number of events and to add their own predictions. This is our forecast for 2004

1. One or more serious Al Qaeda terror operations in the coming year though not necessarily any spectacular ones like 9-11. Everyone agreed that Al-Qaeda is still with us.

2. George Bush will be reelected. All but one panelist was certain of this; one said "too close to call."

3. The US will not succeed in pacifying Iraq completely, but the situation will not go out of control. US will reduce its presence and perhaps declare "success."

4. Ariel Sharon will still be in power at the end of the year, despite corruption charges and a possible cabinet reshuffle due to his unilateral peace plan or evacuation of outposts.

5. There will be no real change or breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian situation, though terror incidents may taper off somewhat. Two panelists believe a change could come about only if Yasser Arafat dies or is removed from office.

6. Israel will continue to build the security barrier/fence. The Hague court, if it rules on the issue this year, might force some route changes, but the fence or barrier will be built.

7. Yasser Arafat will remain President of the Palestinian Authority and Chairman of the PLO Most panelists believed Arafat will lose power only if he dies of natural causes.

8. Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons in 2004. Three of four panelists were certain of this, one said "maybe." Iran is anxious not to upset the US while there is a large US presence in Iraq and George Bush is in power. Preparations for developing a bomb will require several years. The Bushehr reactor will not be online before 2005.

9. Israel will not attack Iran. Everyone agreed about that. Israel will not make trouble for the US in an election year, the attack would be risky and there is no hurry.

10. There will be no revolution in Iran. With the US so close, it is unlikely that dissenters will want to force a change.

11. There might be trouble in Saudi Arabia One panelist believes there could be a revolution in Saudi Arabia, which has been rocked by demands for reform from both democratic and Islamist forces, and has been the target of several terrorist attacks. A revolution in Saudi Arabia, a major oil exporter, could have major effects on world economic recovery.

12. No peace between Israel and Syria All but one panelist agreed there would not be a treaty, and most believe there will not be peace talks, despite the call of Bashir Assad for renewal of talks.

13. The situation in Afghanistan could go out of control. Several panelists thought the situation could get much worse, absorbing more and more troops, and perhaps leading to a loss of control in Kabul.

14. Russia's war in Chechnya will continue. All panelists seem to agree there would be no change.

Some possibilities raised by one or more panelists:

If Egyptian president Mubarrak dies, there will be an orderly transition to his son. Mubarak is rumored to be in poor health, but natural events are hard to predict.

President Pervez Musharaf of Pakistan will be assassinated, but will be replaced by someone with similar pro-west politics. There have been two attempts on Musharaf's life. One attempt took place today, one day after this prediction was made.

Mad cow disease in USA could seriously slow US economic recovery

Ariel Sharon will not be in a hurry to implement his "unilateral separation plan" because of right-wing opposition to evacuating settlements.

That's all for now. Check next year to see how good our predictions were.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000144.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 4 comments

The new year will not bring any changes at all on the Palestinian - Israeli track. I agree that Arafat will remain in power, but Abu Ala will probably not. He will either resign or be dismissed by Arafat. The Palestinian Authority will limp along and Israel will still suffer from Palestinian terror. The Separation Fence will be completed and Israel, under Arik Sharon, will not unilateraly withdraw from any settlements in the occupied West Bank. At most, Sharon will forbid further building of isolated one or two family settlements. Any withdrawal will be so cosmetic that it will hardly be noticed.

The Israeli economy will get even worse and organised crime will increase. In fact, all in all, Israelis will be doled up the same fare as they had in 2003 and Netanyahu will find more ingenious ways to hit at the weaker sections of society in his desperate bid to fill the State coffers.There will probably be a number of "storm in a teacup" coalition crises, but the government will not fall as it weathers the mini-storms of its own creation.

Posted by Shimon Z.Klein @ 12/27/2003 02:58 PM CST

Israel will become the 52nd US state. They will tear down the security fence to make it easier for American troops to invade the Palestinian territories in order to wipe out the PLO and it's infrastructure, capture Arafat in order to bring him to trial for war crimes, and the people in the street will greet the US troops with flowers and candy.

Posted by mike levine @ 12/28/2003 04:02 AM CST

Although the US will not end up with a jewish president, it will continue ceding budgetary and financial control to Isreal. Isreal will of course approve itself increased "loans" and related funding for the fence, etc., while furthering secularization within the 50 "states" through the ACLU, NY Times, etc etc. In other words, 2004 will be much of the same.

Posted by Ruben Smith @ 12/29/2003 06:58 PM CST

My prediction for 04. Yassir Arafat will expire;(kick the bucket) this year, no hero or martyr's death. Just plain old age and advanced heart disease. I know, but medically the little troll has to have one to live. But old age and his murderous crap lifestyle have taken their toll and it is fast catching up with him. COPD will take him out, no heroe's death for the number 1 terrorist. Arafat, you Egyptian born, murdering terrorist bastard, you won't be missed.

Posted by David @ 01/02/2004 03:02 AM CST


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