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Crystal Ball 2005

12/29/2004

Last year, editors of Mideastweb and other experts made a series of predictions for 2004. Eleven of the fourteen were correct.

This year, four of our editors participated in the MEW Crystal Ball. We all agreed that this was a year of uncertainty and change. The Iraq elections and insurgency, Israeli disengagement, changes in Palestinian government, Iranian nuclear development, US-Syrian tension and Saudi unrest are some of the issues that will set the tone for Middle East events this year. Here are our predictions, but be prepared for surprises.

1. Israeli PM Ariel Sharon will remain in office until the end of the year barring ill health or assassination

2. A Labor-Likud Unity government will be formed and will remain in power until the end of 2005

3. Israel will evacuate the Gaza settlements despite right-wing protests and controversy.

4. A broader disengagement plan ("Disengagement II") will be floated and will be the subject of much controversy. It will not be carried out in 2005.

5. Mahmoud Abbas will be elected Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority and will remain in power during 2005 barring ill health or assassination

6. There will be a continuing power struggle in the PNA and Abbas will not necessarily be an undisputed leader.

7. In Israel and the Palestinian areas, terror attacks will not stop entirely, but will be greatly reduced. There will be a qualitative change for the better in Israeli-Palestinian relations and day to day life, triggered by the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, less stringent security and reduction of violence. One editor believes that non-violent civil disobedience, including actions that cause peope to be arrested, may become popular, both among Gaza settlers and later among Palestinians.

8. Final Status negotiations between Israel and Palestinians may begin, but even if they do, everyone agrees they will not lead to any decisive conclusions and no Palestinian state will be declared. One panelist is certain there will be no negotiations at all.

9. Iraqi elections will be held on time, but will not be orderly. They may be accompanied by a great deal of violence. Many parties may boycott the elections and significant numbers of people may not be able to vote.

10. Iraqi elections will be considered a success by US, but the results will not be respected by many or most Iraqis.

11. The new Iraqi government will cooperate with the US, though Iyad Allawi will probably not be the Prime Minister.

12. The security situation in Iraq will worsen; US forces will still be in Iraq at the end of 2005,

13. USA will pressure Syria and will possibly launch limited military raids along the eastern border to discourage infiltration.

14. The US will not invade Syria.

15. Syria may make cosmetic withdrawals from Lebanon, but will continue to control the Lebanese government, regardless of whether or not it maintains an overt military presence.

16. Syria will continue to shelter and aid Iraqi insurgents. and will continue to shelter anti-Israel terror groups.

17. There will be one or more Al-Qaeda attacks outside Iraq of scope similar to or greater
than the attacks in Madrid, but not necessarily connected directly with Osama Bin Laden.

18. Iran will continue its nuclear program by fits and starts, and US and Europe will continue to pressure Iran to comply with nonproliferation requirements, though the IAEA may give Iran a clean bill of health.

19. Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons in 2005.

20. Israel will not attack Iranian nuclear facilities directly. The Iranian nuclear program is too distributed and the risks of retaliation are too great. However, Israel will continue to threaten to attack Iran, and may try to sabotage Iranian nuclear facilities.

21. There will be terror attacks in Saudi Arabia, for which Osama Bin Laden may take credit, though his organization may not be directly involved. There also may be more civil unrest, such as the demonstration that was suppressed recently.

Next year this at time, compare our forecasts with those of prestigious thintanks who have predicted that Bashar Assad will resign, that Iran will encourage suicide bombing in Israel and that Israel will attack Iran.

[updated Dec. 30, 2004]
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/00000323.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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