MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
As is our yearly custom, below is a review of our Crystal Ball predictions for 2006. The correct ones are in bold, the errors are in italics, and those that are half and half are in bold and italics. Overall, by my reckoning, about 26 of the 37 (70%) predictions we made last year were approximately correct. There were also some nasty surprises. We did not predict the election of Hamas or the war in Lebanon and bombardment of northern Israel (failures we share with Israeli Military Intelligence and Mossad) or the subsequent face off in Beirut that is still ongoing.
The Israeli peace offer that was part of the platform of the Kadima party seemed like the surest bet among all the predictions. Because of the rise of Hamas and the war with Hezbollah, the predictions were only partly fulfilled, very late in the year, and the offer has not gotten down to details about borders yet. However, an offer very close to what was outlined below is being mooted by Israeli FM Tzippi Livni, and PM Olmert made a conciliatory speech offering prisoner exchanges and referring to the Arab peace initiative, and he did meet with President Abbas and promise to remove checkpoints.
Some of these predictions may seem trivial in retrospect. Remember them however, the next time you read that the US is about to invade Iran or that Bashar Assad is about to resign. Last year at this time I wrote: "However, this year there are numerous uncertainties. Once can at least hope we have picked out the right events to watch, but the outcomes may be quite unforeseen." We missed a few of course.
Israel and the Palestinians:
1. Ariel Sharon will not return to active political life, but predictions about his medical prognosis should be ignored. Recovery of function from brain damage and recovery from stroke is an uncertain process.
2. Ehud Olmert will lead the Kadima party to victory and will form the next government (barring his illness or criminal proceedings).
3. Olmert will form a coalition government or unity government with Labor and possibly Likud.
4. Olmert's government will dismantle at least some illegal outposts.
5. Olmert's government will make a "peace move" or diplomatic proposal.
6. The peace move will include some good will measures. These may include further release of prisoners, relaxation of checkpoints and withdrawals from Palestinian cities to create a better atmosphere.
7. The Israeli peace proposal will be turned down by the Palestinians.
8. In accordance with the plan published in Ma'ariv before Sharon's illness, Olmert's government will propose to withdraw from areas in the West Bank to a border that they will attempt to have recognized as the border of Israel by the United States.
9. Israel will not implement much or any of the proposal in 2006.
10. The United States will provide only a vague and ambiguous formulation concerning this border, which might read "In the view of the United States, Israel may legitimately claim this land in any future settlement."
11. The United States will not provide formal recognition of any border that is not negotiated with the Palestinians.
12. Mahmoud Abbas will remain head of the PA - barring ill health or assassination
13. Palestinians will hold elections at the end of January.
14. Palestinian elections will not be orderly.
15. Hamas will get a large representation in the elections, but not a majority.[they won!]
16. Low key violence will continue from territories, but contrary to Israeli GSS expectations, Hamas will not escalate its attacks.
Lebanon and Syria
17. Assassinations of Lebanese opposed to Syria or Hizbullah will continue
18. Bashar Assad will remain in power
19. The UN investigation will conclude that there is not enough evidence to indict anyone, or they will ask for more time. It is very unlikely that they will be able to reach a definitive conclusion because of systematic destruction of evidence, suborning of witnesses and withholding of testimony.
20. Even if the UN investigation finds conclusive evidence against Syria, the Security council will do nothing.
21. There will be no US military intervention in Syria. In general, President Bush is too weak politically to muster support for dramatic moves.
22. President Emile Lahoud will remain in power.
23. The Lebanese army will not make a decisive move against Hizbulla.
[Deploying the army to the Southern border was a decisive move. It resulted from the unforeseen war.]
24. Iran will enrich uranium and resume work on its Arak "research" reactor which is capable of producing fissionable plutonium.
25. Iran will not announce that it has a nuclear weapon.
26. Though there may be a UN resolution against Iran, it will not include any effective international sanctions.[two toothless resolutions].
27. There will be no Israeli military move against Iran
28. There will be no US military move against Iran.
29. The Iranian government will continue to make threatening statements against Israel and the United States, while insisting, on no evidence, that Israel and the USA are planning to invade Iran.
30. USA will withdraw at least some troops from Iraq before the congressional elections.[Troop levels are a bit lower perhaps, but there was no election-related reduction or demonstration to show "we are winning the war."]
31. The new Iraqi government will be generally "compliant" to US foreign policy.
32. In Shi'a areas there will be a repressive regime regarding personal issues such as dress codes and alcohol.
33. Iraq will not "fall apart" into separate ethnic zones as is constantly predicted in different Web sites.[Not yet, anyhow]
34. Violence will continue in Iraq from Sunni resistance and Al-Qaeda.
34. The price of oil will remain above $55, because OPEC members perceive that the market can bear this level without undue inflation or economic slowdown. Continuing increases in demand will slowly force prices up.
35. Iraq - Zarqawi will still be there.[He was killed]
36. If he is caught, Al-Qaeda will continue to function in Iraq.
37. Palestine/Israel - Al-Qaeda will continue to claim that it carried out actions against Israel. It may establish itself in Gaza and stir up trouble in Israel, PA, Egypt and/or all three. A convenient field of action is offered by Palestinian chaos and by the anomie in Southern Lebanon. Even if they don't carry out any actions, they can take credit for actions of the Hizbullah.[This seems to be occurring, though extent of Al Qaeda involvement is not minor]
In addition to the above list, there was a "watch list" - issues that were unpredictable but important to watch:
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