Carnegie experts forecast Middle East trends in 2015

The Carnegie Endowment has published forecasts of trends in the Middle East written by its scholars.

Lebanon. “Since 2005, Lebanon has turned “muddling through” into an art of governance. However, the perpetual balancing act that the Lebanese are now so used to—and to which they have accustomed the world—is becoming increasingly perilous and difficult. Lebanon has escaped a breakdown so far, through perseverance and a bit of good luck, but from now on that might not be enough to keep the country out of the abyss.”

Palestine. Possible developments include a succession crisis in the Palestinian Authority; more fighting in Gaza and a revival of Fatah-Hamas reconciliation. “There is one potentially disruptive surprise—a positive one—that should not be completely discounted: an international recognition of the realities…”

Egypt. Security and the economy will be volatile. “Egyptians were fatigued by unrest in summer 2014 and wanted to give the newly-elected Sisi a chance, so protests were minimal. But if the blackouts happen again in summer 2015, they could create a sense that things are not working out well under Sisi as hoped.”

Tunisia. “Tunisia as the success story of the Arab Spring is a popular narrative. But great uncertainty remains regarding the outlook for the transition from dictatorship to electoral democracy.”

UAE. “The UAE is poised to become one of the key political and economic players in the Middle East in 2015.”

Iran. “2015 has the makings of a perfect storm for Iran’s economy, which is now hemorrhaging on three fronts. Tehran loses billions of dollars per year to maintain the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, tens of billions due to falling oil prices, and hundreds of billions over the last few years due to economic sanctions. The prolongation of these three trends could have dramatic consequences.”

Syria. “(T)he regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is likely, in 2015, to face its toughest challenges since the Syrian crisis started nearly four years ago. This may compel the regime to engage seriously with one or another of the diplomatic initiatives launched by various parties at the end of 2014—but that is a remote prospect—or else experience increasingly significant cracks within the ranks of its own social and institutional constituencies.”

Oman. The health of Sultan Qaboos will be a key issue.