the Disillusioned kid: What happens next?
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Thursday, December 28, 2006

What happens next?

It's almost the end of the year, so what better time to stick my neck out and make largely baseless/self-evident assertions about what's going to happen in the coming year?

Firstly, the situation in Iraq is going to continue to deteriorate, but the US and UK will not withdraw. It's possible that the occupying forces may increasingly be able to retreat to their barracks, as control is handed to Iraqi prixies, but this is far from guaranteed. Even if this does take place, the widespread criminal violence (kidnappings etc.) and burdgeoning civil war will go on, possibly extending to Iraqi Kurdistan which has hitherto remained relatively peaceful.

Afghanistan will in all likelihood suffer a similar threat. Having re-emerged as a major threat over the past year, the "neo-Taliban" are unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Again it's hard to imagine a US/UK withdrawal, although a steadily rising death toll amongst British and American forces may weaken support for the war.

In Palestine there's little sign that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, caused by extended Israeli closures and international sanctions, is going to be resolved anytime soon. While the "international community" have suggested that sanctions will be lifted once the Hamas government are removed from power, Mahmoud Abbas' calls for new elections may backfire. If Hamas decide to boycott them, then they'll have little legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinian population and if Hamas do decide to run, it's entirely possible they'll win again, perhaps even more convincingly. Either way, I fear we're a long way from stability in the Occupied Territories, let alone a serious Israeli-Palestinian settlement.

The conflict in Darfur will continue, inspite of the peace deal between some rebel groups and the government in Khartoum. While we may see a UN presence in the region, I don't think the kind of large scale western intervention which some liberals support is anymore likely next year than it has been over the last few. Perhaps the most worrying trend visible in the Darfur situation, is its transformation into a regional conflagration incorporating local conflicts in neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic. If this continues, as seems likely, it will serve to make any peace deal all the more complicated to acheive.

On a slightly more positive note, I continue to believe a major assault on Iran is unlikely. The US and UK might well like to attack the country, but bit off more than they could chew in Iraq and will find themselves under increasing pressure in Afghanistan. Similarly, the Hezbollah-Israel conflict of last August will surely have discouraged the more hawkish Israelis. No doubt western powers will try to use the recently established UN sanctions regime to put pressure on Ahmadinejad. They may even supplement this approach with covert action, perhaps through the Islamist-Marxist People's Mujahedin, who have previously received US support, despite being designated a "Foreign Terrorist Organisation," by the US State Department. If we keep looking for the big attack or even an invasion, we may miss these smaller and less obvious interventions.

Back in Blighty I think it's safe to say we're going to see the attack on our civil liberties continue. The introduction of ID cards will begin in earnest with 69 interrogation centres being opened sometime in 2007. After calls from senior police officers for bans on flag burning, and the power to proscribe chants as well slogans on placards, banners and headbands, I'd be less than surprised if at least some of these suggestions found their way into legislation over the coming year. Even children won't escape this, with the expansion of fingerprinting in schools and the establishment of the Children's Index.

As pessimistic as the foregoing sounds, it isn't all going to be bad. I promise. It's just that bad things are easier to predict with any degree of certainty. We do know that by this time next year, Blair will be gone, even if we're not entirely sure when he's planning on going (place your bets here), so at least there's that to look forward to. I also believe that none of the foregoing is inevitable. History shows that if people get themselves organised in sufficient numbers, governments have to sit up and pay attention. (On which note I predict the Save the NHS campaign is going to be one of the big movements of next year.) The future really is in our hands. I just wish we didn't seem so butter fingered.

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