Graham Fuller’s Five Middle East Predictions for 2015

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Only a fool offers longer term predictions about the Middle East.

I offer the following longer terms predictions about the Middle East for 2015.

  1. ISIS will decline in power and influence. I have stated earlier that I do not believe ISIS is viable as a state; it lacks any coherent and functional ideology, any serious political and social institutions, any serious leadership process, any ability to handle the complex and detailed logistics of governance, and any opportunity of establishing state-to-state relations in the region. Additionally it has alienated a majority of Sunni Muslims in the world, regardless of deep dissatisfactions among Sunnis in Iraq and Syria. Ideally ISIS should fail and fall on its own, that is, without massive external, and especially Western, intervention that in some ways only strengthens its ideological claims. To be convincingly and decisively defeated, the idea of ISIS, as articulated and practiced, needs to demonstrably fail on its own and in the eyes of Muslims of the region.
  2. The role of Iran as an actor in the region will grow. Despite all the hurdles, I feel optimistic about US negotiations with Iran. Both parties desperately need success in this regard. Normalization is ludicrously long overdue and necessary to the regional order. Furthermore, Iran and Turkey, are the only two “real” governments in the region today with genuine governance based on some kind of popular legitimacy—for all their faults. Turkey is democratic, Iran semi-democratic (presidential elections, while not fully representative, really matter.) These two states espouse many of the aspirations of the people of the region in ways no Arab leader does. The Gulf will be forced to accommodate itself to the reality of a normalized Iran; the two sides have never really been to war, despite all the occasional bellicose noises that have emerge from them periodically over the past century. Iran is post-revolutionary power with a vision of a truly sovereign Middle East free of western domination– none of the Arab states truly are. Iran’s influence in the region will also grow in supporting growing regional challenges to Israel’s efforts to keep the Palestinians under permanent domination.
  3. President Erdo?an in Turkey will find his influence beginning to crumble in 2015. After a brilliant prime-ministership for the first decade of AKP power, he has become mired in corruption charges and has lashed out in paranoid fashion against any and all who criticize or oppose his increasingly irrational, high-handed, and quixotic style of rule. He is in the process of damaging institutions and destroying his and his party’s legacy. I continue to have faith that Turkey’s broader institutions, however weakened by Erdo?an, will nonetheless suffice to keep the country on a basically democratic and non-violent track until such time as Erdo?an loses public confidence—which could be sooner rather than later.
  4. Russia will play a major role in diplomatic arrangements in the Middle East, an overall positive factor. Russia’s ability to play a key diplomatic (and technical) role in resolving the nuclear issue in Iran, and its important voice and leverage in Syria represent significant contributions to resolution of these two high-priority, high-risk conflicts that affect the entire region. It is essential that Russia’s role be accepted and integrated rather than seen as a mere projection of some neo-Cold War global struggle—a confrontation in which the West bears at least as much responsibility as Moscow. The West has insisted on provoking counter-productive confrontation with Moscow in trying to shoehorn NATO into Ukraine. Can you imagine an American reaction to a security treaty between Mexico and China, that included stationing of Chinese weapons and troops on Mexican soil?
  5. The Taliban will make further advances towards gaining power within the Afghan government. After 13 years of war in Afghanistan the US failed to bring stability to the country as a whole, or to eliminate the Taliban as a major factor in the national power equation. The Taliban is much more than an Islamist movement; it has in many ways been a surrogate for nationalist Pashtun power within Afghanistan (although not accepted as such by all Pashtun). The Pashtun lost out big when the Taliban government was overthrown by the US in 2001; inclusion of mainstream Taliban within the new government is essential to future Afghan stability. The Taliban will seek to strengthen their power on the ground this year in order to enhance their powers of political demand in any possible future negotiations over power sharing. They cannot be functionally excluded. Desperately needed stability in Pakistan also depends in part upon such a settlement.

OK, that’s enough predictive risks for one year…

Photo: The Middle East at Night (NASA, International Space Station, 06/04/12). Credit: NASA/JSC

This article was first published by Graham E. Fuller and was reprinted here with permission. Copyright Graham E. Fuller.

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4 Comments

  1. Don Bacon may you please guide me into the true direction about my thought that Isn’t it that US is a front line force for the Iranians achievements that is to hold onto the centers in Iraq and Afghanistan, with providing regime change potions ?

  2. Graham,
    Where is Gulf? which Gulf are you talking about? Gulf of Mexico?
    PLease elaborate!
    Also, I strongly believe Russia will start being less and less important…it’s a country ran by toughs.

  3. Fools need to stick together with different predictions.
    1. ISIS will prevail over the disjointed US reaction. The last Iraq bastion in Anbar is al-Asad air base, which was once second only to Balad (which itself was once only second in the world to Heathrow for traffic) and al-Asad is now completely surrounded bu ISIS forces. There are a few hundred Americans at the base, which will have to be destroyed if and when ISIS takes it. The taking of US prisoners will require deep boots-on-ground US involvement, compounding past errors and creating still another Iraq fiasco.
    2. Iran will continue to prevail over the US also, but without any real (possibly a paper) agreement because Iran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas are not negotiable, as Israel requires.
    3. Russia will tighten ties with Turkey and Iran, as all three work with China to focus on the East where the economic growth is and not Europe where it isn’t.
    4. The untold story of the financial, political and social collapse of Europe will become evident even to the pandering anti-Russia MSM.
    5. In Afghanistan the Taliban have beat the US and its allies, making it a three-fer for the UK in the graveyard of empires.
    …”And the young men hearing these things will grip their Martinis [British rifle], and pray to Allah, that one day He will bring some Sahib[Brit] — best prize of all — across their line of sight at seven hundred yards so that, at least, they may strike a blow for insulted and threatened Islam.” — Winston Churchill, journalist, 1897, aged 23

  4. Only a fool puts his/her name to predictions about what will happen in the M.E. IMHO. Considering the state of affairs there, along with the continuing opening of the proverbial can of worms from the U.S., especially if Senator Grahams sucking up to Netanyahoo is any indication of the Congress, it wouldn’t surprise me if there might be some talk of using Nuclear devices!

    The big question is: “when will they ever learn”? Considering that after the end of the longest war the U.S. has been involved in, is another very-if not the most-costly war and a failure too boot. Of course, one might point to the Viet Nam war, if when the French were defeated, in I believe 1953, the U.S. took up the mantle. With that in mind, all bets are off

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