I don’t entirely agree with ICG’s “Next Year’s Wars,” their choice of conflicts is idiosyncratic, and they don’t really predict anything, but it is hard to compete with an organization that has smart people on the ground in difficult places. I’ll focus on 10 places they don’t mention:
1. Russia: Putin doesn’t make it over 50% in the March 4 election but wins the second round. Demonstrations continue but he resists new parliamentary polls. Weakened, Putin lashes out at his opposition and makes things worse. Who knows where this ends, but it will probably not be in 2012.
2. Saudi Arabia: Crown Prince Nayef succeeds to the throne and tries to roll back King Abdullah’s modest reforms. Demonstrations break out but are brutally repressed. Oil prices, already high due to Iran’s threats to the strait of Hormuz, skyrocket.
3. Iraq: The Sadr bloc’s call for new elections in Iraq is echoed by the Kurds and eventually Iraqiyya. Maliki tries to avoid it, but he eventually falls to a vote of no confidence in parliament and elections are held towards the end of the year. I’m not going to predict the outcome.
4. Egypt: The constitutional process is difficult and delayed, but presidential elections are held in the fall (postponed from June). Secularist candidates split their constituency, the Muslim Brotherhood blows its lead by pressing social conservatism and Abdel Fotouh, a relatively moderate Islamist, wins.
5. Libya: Continues to implement its established roadmap, elects the “National Public Conference,” prepares a constitution and succeeds in disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating most militias.
6. Bahrain: The Americans continue to support the regime. Iran, stung by tightened sanctions, sponsors demonstrations against the Fifth Fleet.
7. Sudan: War, between north and south. South wins, takes back Abyei and part of South Kordofan. President Bashir is shipped off to The Hague by his generals.
8. Zimbabwe: Mugabe dies, his loyalists hang on but can’t manage the economic collapse. The opposition takes over.
9. Balkans: Serbia gets candidacy status for the EU but that fails to save President Tadic’s Democratic Party from a parliamentary election defeat. Kosovo meets all the requirements but continues to be denied the European Union visa waiver. Bosnia gets a new government but no constitutional reform.
10. United States: Republicans nominate Mitt Romney. Economy continues slow recovery. Barack Obama is reelected, by a smaller margin than in 2008. Al Qaeda succeeds post-election in mounting a non-devastating suicide bombing.
And for extra measure:
11. China: Big real estate crash late in the year cripples Chinese banks and causes bigger problems for the world economy than the euro, which muddles through.
12. Israel/Palestine: Big but largely nonviolent demonstrations on the West Bank. Israelis say “genug ist genug” and unilaterally withdraw from Palestinian population centers.
That should give me something to write about a year from now! None of it should be mistaken for advocacy, and a good bit of it is based on feel rather than analysis.
I reviewed last year’s predictions yesterday.