Friday, December 31, 2004

Predictions I

Here are some random predictions for 2005. Might be more later, if El Jefe feels up to it, or She Who Must Be Obeyed doesn't shoot me for sitting here typing all this stuff.
It will be discovered that Iran is much further along in its nuclear ambitions than is currently imagined. 50/50 chance Iran will declare it is a nuclear power in the next twelve months, and/or will test some kind of explosive nuclear device. At the same time, the Islamic Republic, which would probably not survive a fair election on the question of its continued existence, will become increasingly unpopular. The likelihood of Iran’s publicly going nuclear increases as the Islamic government becomes increasingly disliked. The nuclear program, popular with Iranians of all political persuasions as a symbol of national power and pride, provides the regime with cover to crack down on dissidents.

The North Korean absolute, quasi-religious monarchy masquerading as a communist state will become more unstable. The rash of high-ranking defections from embassies and trips abroad will continue. Rumors of disaffection will continue to seep-out, and if the rumors keep involving the military, look for big-time trouble for the Dear Leader. One warning sign of trouble for the regime might be show trials of dissidents or a very public execution/disgrace of a high ranking official. A coup attempt against Kim Jong-il is possible.

Russia completes its turn away from democratization. For the mid-term, Russia will evolve into something like the Republic of Korea during the Park Chung-Hee era. (1963-79). The Army; FSB (KGB’s domestic replacement); and SVR (KGB foreign intelligence replacement) combine acquires more political power because (1) Putin’s Russia is more interested in rebuilding its position as a great power than it is in democratization.; (2) Putin has already decided against Yeltsin’s policy of alliance with the post-Soviet oligarchs; (3) as under the USSR, these institutions work better than any other institutions in society.

Capitalism and economic growth will be fostered so long as they are seen to promote Russia’s position as a great power. Liberty, however is considered disruptive. Despite alarmism in the press about a return to Soviet days, Putin probably has more in common ideologically with some of the ministers of the last Tsar than with the Bolsheviks.

China and Russia will, for the moment, engage in close military cooperation, but without much warmth on either side. The relationship prospers because the parties need each other. Russia wants to maintain its arms industry, and China wants access to Russian military technology. But the Russians fear a future sandwiched between a powerful China and the EU. Condi Rice, make a phone call.

Dow Jones Index Value, 30 December, 2005: 12,482.01. This assumes no major terrorist attack in the last six months of the coming year on US soil. Growth appear to have resumed, but both the trade deficits and the public debt are worrisome. These factors and the value of the Euro will possibly drive more investors across the Atlantic.

Terrorist Attacks: We have not heard from Al Qaeda. It would be in this organization’s interest to get on the board. It loses support and interest among the Islamic disaffected if it does not. Al Qaeda’s likely actions are hard to predict because it is unclear to what extent they have been damaged by US efforts to date. A 9/11 scale attack is possible, but the likelihood of such cannot be reliably predicted. What can be predicted, however, is a series of smaller, easier to organize, attacks. El Jefe therefore predicts attacks by suicide bombers in the US in 2005.

Iraqi elections are a mixed bag. Iraqi elections will go forward as scheduled, but with minimum Sunni participation. The Kurds will participate, but they have their own agenda. The result will be a Shiite-dominated government not inclined to be inclusive, or charitable to Sunni concerns.

The struggle in Iraq will more and more assume the character of a Sunni-Shiite civil war, as the Shiites build themselves a military force, and the US fading into the background but in effect aiding the new government in what amounts to wholesale repression of the Sunnis. The Kurds will take this opportunity to exit Iraq, stage left, to quasi or real independence. Assuming the situation with Iran allows, US withdrawals from Iraq will begin by summer.

Saddam will be dead by June. Trials of Saddam will proceed as soon as possible in the spring, with obvious results. To some extent these will be fair, but they will also be show performances by the new Iraqi government. Saddam’s death will be essential to the new regime, both as revenge on behalf of those who suffered from his rule, and as a demonstration that he has no power, so this event will be organized as soon as possible.

Pakistan will become increasingly unstable. As the US winds down its efforts in Iraq, it can be expected to turn more attention to finishing Al Qaeda in the Afghan mountains, and in the Pakistani border regions. The US will lean on Pakistan to take a more active role here. Al Qaeda’s friends in ISI (Pakistani intelligence) and in Pakistan’s military aren’t going to like this. President Musharraf better beef-up his security.

Osama Bin Laden will be either caught or killed in 2005. You can fight city hall, but not forever. The US simply has too much in the way of money and resources to bring to this hunt, and eventually this weight is going to tell. Every day that passes sees Osama’s chances of evading apprehension grow fainter. Either the Americans get lucky, Osama makes a mistake, or the CIA finally buys the right Judas.

Osama’s chances of being taken alive, incidentally, are minimal, if his captors have been instructed properly. It would be impossible for the US authorities to keep the lawyers and media from turning Osama into a circus event, and he would be unlikely to divulge much information without interrogation techniques that, for obvious reasons, could not be applied to this individual. As for the psychological value of capturing him alive: his body will be propaganda enough. Whatever happens to Osama though, Islamic terrorism is going to be with us for years.

Saudi Arabia headed into rough water. Despite recent successes by the Saudi Arabia security forces, Saudi Arabia is a desperately ill society. All evidence indicates that Al Qaeda and other forces opposed to the regime have the police and intelligence organs penetrated. This is pretty serious in a police state. Sometime soon, that whole country is going to blow sky-high.

Fidel Castro will die. Okay, maybe this is wishful thinking. Still, needed some good news on here someplace.

Britney Spears will get divorced. Or is it married ? Whatever she is now, she’ll change status. Maybe a couple of times.