Last week I looked back at the predictions I’d made for 2014. While I got a few right, I’d failed to predict the violent events of the year, from Iraq to Ukraine to Crimea. So where will these trends take us in 2015? Let’s take a look at what might hit the headlines in the year to come.
1. Peace between the US and Iran
While they still haven’t made a final deal on Iran’s nuclear program, the Islamic Republic and the Great Satan have been edging closer to each other throughout 2014. The common threat of Islamic State has moved their interests in the region closer together, as the US slowly seems to be accepting that Iran’s ally Bashar al-Assad isn’t their biggest enemy. A deal on the nuclear program and the lifting of sanctions would encourage Iran to continue to help stop the Sunni jihadists, and maybe even work towards a solution in the basket case that is Syria.
The problem with this is that the US can’t just dump its long term allies Saudi Arabia and Israel, both of whom are deeply afraid of the threat Iran poses. But with Barack Obama entering his last year of having an actual chance of achieving anything, and a reset with Cuba behind him, it wouldn’t surprise me if Iran and the US sealed some sort of deal.
2. Nothing good in Ukraine…
As much as I would like to see change in the city I lived in for years, it doesn’t seem likely that Donetsk and its neighbour Luhansk will rejoin Ukraine. After the army’s ‘Anti-terrorist operation’ earlier this year seemed to be heading for success, Vladimir Putin responded by massively stepping up the transfer of arms and armour to the rebels, as well as launching a cross border attack with Russian regular units. For a few hectic days it seems like Russian troops would reach Mariupol, before the situation settled into the ceasefire and stalemated fighting that ravages the region now.
There’s no indication that Putin will change this policy. The Ukrainian army doesn’t have the power to take back the east, and officially letting the region go would be political suicide for President Poroshenko. As I already predicted earlier this year, either the frozen conflict will continue, or some kind of spark will reignite full conflict and lead to heavier Russian involvement. Either way, it means another hard year for the people of the Donbass.
3. …or in Syria
This was one predication I got right for last year, though I failed to anticipate the meteoric rise of Islamic State. 2015 promises to be similarly horrific. The strength of IS is likely to turn the civil war in Syria into more of a two party conflict, with each party equally unpalatable to the West. Even if they are defeated in Iraq, IS will likely retain its power base in Syria, and continue to dominate the other rebel groups. Bashar al Assad can also see this happening, and he can take the opportunity to step up attacks on the more moderate rebels. By eliminating these last holdouts in the east of the country, his almost 4 year old version of the conflict – that the government is fighting Islamic extremists – will become true.
This is not a good thing for Syria. The government offensive to destroy the moderates will of course involve the sort of street fighting and total destruction we have seen before. And if the country is divided between IS and the government, little foreign intervention can be expected. Syria’s suffering looks set to continue for years to come.
4. A good year for the EU
2015 is a year that has already started well for the European Union, with Lithuania becoming the last Baltic state to join the Eurozone. Challenges are fast approaching though, with two crucial elections coming up. The first is the Greek election, called after the parliament failed to appoint a President. The current leader in the polls is the Syriza party, which aims to renegotiate the bailout deal on the country’s massive debt. This is something the EU is determined not to do, and a Greek exit from the Euro would do huge damage to the country and the EU. However, despite the anger still alive in Greece at the cost of the bailout, I can’t see Greece quitting the Euro. No matter who wins, it’s unlikely any party would want to lead the country into the economic disaster that would be a withdrawal.
The other crucial election is in the UK, where the ruling Tories have promised a 2017 referendum on EU exit if they win, and the anti-EU UKIP party is surging in polls. However, I predict that the May elections will be won by Labour, which doesn’t want a referendum. The problem for Prime Minister David Cameron is that UKIP is stripping away his supporters. The more UKIP grows, the more seats Labour will gain. There are a whole range of interesting results the election could produce, but in the end I think that Labour will triumph one way or another, and the current obsession with the EU put (temporarily) to rest.
5. More people power
This last year has also been one of protest, from Venezuela to Hong Kong to Ferguson. Thanks in part to social media, more and more protest movements are holding on to make an impact on their society. This hasn’t always translated into actual change though. As the slow death of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong has shown, a truly determined government can outlast protesters if it plays its cards right. If it doesn’t though, the example of the Ukrainian Revolution points to the possibilities. It seems likely that this a trend that will continue into 2015, with people across the world continuing to realise the effect they can have on their governments.
The start of 2015 also marks the end of my first full year of blogging. It’s been a fantastic experience, and my thanks go to all my readers and those who commented! I’m looking forward to another year with Your World Explained.