By Sal Bommarito
The prospects for peace in the Middle East are not favorable in the near future. The ISIS conflict and several other ongoing problems will continue to plague the Arab world during the next year. This essay will examine some of the more pressing issues and their effect on the geopolitical landscape.
The ISIS caliphate will begin to take shape as hostilities wane between ISIS and its enemies. It will be a monumental achievement for the interlopers to establish a new nation on stolen ground. The brutality of ISIS will not subside. In an effort to solidify its dominance, ISIS will execute opponents as well as non-Sunni Arabs. These actions will serve to exacerbate the refugee crisis and increase the number of displaced Arabs.
The immigration of refugees to countries neighboring Syria, including Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, will create dire circumstances for the lost souls and for the countries that have been so receptive to those in need. Refugees will encounter worsening living conditions and be ostracized by citizens of countries to which they immigrated. It is likely that thousands will perish from starvation, cold weather, unsanitary conditions and genocide.
The coalition’s plan to train and arm Iraqi soldiers and moderate rebels in Syria will be unsuccessful. This contingency will create a stalemate if the U.S. does not send ground troops. Ground force support of bombing operations is critical as ISIS fighters fortify their positions in populated areas. Pilots have not been able to identify and destroy targets without experienced controllers on the ground.
At some point, the U.S. will be forced to abandon its objective to destroy ISIS. There is no reason to expect that President Obama will change his battle plan during the final two years of his administration, even if Congress petitions him to do so.
The extraction of U.S. forces from the region is a significant goal of the Obama administration. This coupled with resistance of Americans against ground troop utilization should ensure another unsuccessful American military escapade.
Iraq will continue to be a battleground where Shiite government forces encounter persistent Sunni opposition and ISIS fighters. The current leader of Iraq will eventually cave into hard line pressure and increase the oppression of Sunnis not under the control of the ISIS caliphate.
The Shiite/Sunni feud will escalate throughout the region as each sect employs insurgents to destabilize nations governed by the other sect. Yemen is the latest victim, where Shiite fighters have deposed Sunni leadership.
The consensus among nations determined to dethrone Bashar al-Assad of Syria will dissipate as domestic conditions in each Arab country worsen. The U.S. has already deferred its earlier objective to topple Assad, so he will survive for the time being. Iran must deal with western sanctions and oil-inspired economic instability, so it will be diverted. Turkey has a gargantuan refugee problem that is taxing its financial condition and a growing Kurdish push for independence. The only state that will likely pressure Assad is Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, Syria will continue to be a killing field as ISIS protects its gains and Syrian rebels battle against Assad.
Iran will not be able to negotiate a deal with the U.S. to produce a nuclear weapon. The U.S. Congress is going to resist any inane deal that would make the Middle East more dangerous and encourage others to develop or buy a nuclear weapon.
Saudi Arabia will be the only country with relatively stable conditions. Low oil prices will decrease its revenues, but it has significant monetary assets on hand. The inability of Iran to develop a nuclear weapon will be a great relief to the Saudis. The new king will attempt to increase his country’s influence by bribing other nations and unleashing Sunni insurgents into Shiite countries.
The big question relates to terrorism. Will all the upheaval in the Middle East create new problems for the west? Will ISIS encourage new lone wolf atrocities throughout the world? Is global terror on the rise and being encouraged by ISIS’ success? Will ISIS refocus on building a new nation based upon terror, cruelty and fanatical religious ideology?