Saturday, January 1, 2011
2011: Should We Be Worried?
By Abdul Rahman al-Rashed
This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 01/01/2011
Whilst it is true that it was not the most fantastic year ever, neither was it the worst…in fact, for the most part 2010 was better than we feared! This was a year that we lived in relative safety, although there were a few big disappointments.
I recall that the majority of headlines focused upon Iran, and we saw speeches, mutual threats, and political action, with tension in the country coming to a head. However despite all of this, the year passed by without any single conflict with the Iranians. The same applies to the Palestinian issue. Although the year ended without any political progress being made on this issue, there were also no political crises. The Arab front that is confronting Israel also experienced its most quiet year, and what is reassuring is that this time the Arabs have found somebody to fight Israel on their behalf, rather than fighting Israel on behalf of others. I am of course talking about Turkey which has become an additional front against Israel, and it does not matter that the Turks have different objectives [than the Palestinians].
One of the strangest incidents of last year was that we saw wars being fought by the countries that are most concerned about peace. For Saudi Arabia, with its full military might, entered a conflict along its southern border for the first time in 30 years since the signing of the Jeddah Agreement with [Egyptian President] Gamal Abdel Nasser [signaled the end of the North Yemen Civil War]. This war was with one of the Yemeni rebel groups, the Huthi insurgents, who thought to open a new front of conflict with Saudi Arabia, in addition to their conflict with the Sanaa government, however this only served to further impede their military activity. If this war was surprising, the manner in which it ended was equally so, for all signs indicated that this was a conflict that would continue to run, when the Huthis – who are allied with Iran – announced their withdrawal.
Despite the grumblings we heard about the political situation in Baghdad, the Iraqi elections occurred peacefully, and the results were more positive than we expected. However 2010 also was a year that Al Qaeda are sure to be proud of, for this year saw a huge number of terrorist plots across the majority of the world, from Saudi Arabia to the USA to the depths of the Sahara desert in Africa. However despite the huge number of terrorist plots, only a few of the smaller plots were actually carried out, with all the major plots being successfully thwarted.
2010 passed without any significant surprises, there have bee no major coups, no major world leaders have died or slipped from power.
So, in light of this, can we describe 2010 as a failed year? Perhaps this was a boring year, but I do not think that we can call it a failed one. I believe that many of the seeds for the future were sown in 2010, and I fear for this bitter harvest, and I believe that 2011 may be an extremely dangerous year [due to this]. I do not think that the next few months will be characterized by the same monotony [that we saw in 2010]; for Iran is on fire internally and besieged externally, and so 2011 will undoubtedly be a year full of news from Iran. However it may also perhaps be a better year for the Palestinians, as there is still a long path ahead in the Palestinian and Israeli negotiations. As for the Gulf, for the first time since the liberation of Kuwait, this region is entering a year that will be full of uncertainties. Fortunately for the Gulf, the political arrangements here remain the regions major guarantor, for the least tremor here affects the entire region as a whole.