As we have learnt, everything is relative. One of the newspapers chose to remind us that last year the world stock markets saw a 60 percent growth from the previous year, while another newspaper described the year as the biggest disaster in stock market history. Both newspapers were correct.
Many indicators say that we are entering a better year, compared to past years, with regards to Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, as well as with regards to the oil-market for oil producing countries. Iran is the only worrying enigma to this, and this can be seen on two fronts; internally with regards to the confrontation between the government and the opposition, and externally as the time for an international stand against the Iranian regime’s nuclear file has come. This will either be seen via sanctions or military confrontation. Even in Yemen, despite the dangerous situation there and the possibility of the conflict continuing, it is not expected that this conflict will increase or expand any further unless the armed opposition becomes fueled internally, by which I mean receive Yemeni public support. The Yemeni armed opposition dependency on the Iranians and Somali gunmen will only provides it with little resistance, and last month it sustained heavy losses.
My expectation of the New Year is that this might herald a Palestinian peace, and perhaps even an Arab – Israeli peace in general. Over the past months, everybody has wasted precious time disagreeing on small details, and despite the frustration, everybody will return to these negotiations. If former Palestinian president Yasser Arafat had listened to those [who rejected the Oslo Accord] and refused to travel to Oslo, then Mahmoud Abbas would have remained in Tunisia, Ismail Haniyeh would have remained in Damascus, and we would still be talking about a gradual peace that would have taken another twenty years to achieve what we have achieved today. Therefore past failures are the normal price for political disputes, and we are optimistic about the New Year because many mistakes have already been made and that now is the time to take the right steps. US President Barack Obama – the major player in the Middle East issue – is well aware that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize before its time, and now is the time for him to make good on this.
Besides this, the Palestinians are aware that time is running out and the US congressional elections are coming around.
What about terrorism, the most dramatic and global issue facing us?
I do not think that the terrorists will be any luckier than they were over the previous few years, as news of Al Qaeda has become sporadic, and they are fighting desperate battles. This is the big difference between today and the recent past; for the organization maintained its propagandist activity, while an attempt by a Nigerian youth last week to bomb an aircraft was sufficient to return Al Qaeda on everybody’s lips. Other than this, Al Qaeda does not represent a real threat, even if it has opened a new front in Yemen and Somalia. Al Qaeda remains able to commit acts that draw the attention of the world and terrorize it, but the organization is no longer able to frighten regimes or undertake large-scale conflict in the same manner that it did during the [Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi era in Iraq.
There is one faction that I cannot ignore, a faction that has nothing to celebrate, and does not want anybody else to celebrate either, and these are the extremists who suffered a series of defeats last year. They will continue with their hostility to modernization, and will continue fighting against this. They will also stand against any sort of openness [to the outside] or establishment of [human] rights, however in reality that are fighting a losing battle against a flood [of people] that are stronger than them, rather than against just a few modernizers.
This is our New Year, and it does not seem so bad, perhaps as a result of what we have become accustomed to in the past.