Saturday, December 14, 2013

Carnegie/ 2014': "Regional & internal dynamics continue to shift in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s favor!"

"... Syria will continue to dominate the news in 2014 with the persistence of a devastating war of attrition that neither side can win or lose given the current state of affairs. If convened, the planned peace conference known as Geneva II will not result in agreement over a transitional government able to guide Syria into a new phase. And regional and internal dynamics will continue to shift in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s favor as international concern builds over the growing role of Islamic extremist groups in the opposition. One huge challenge will be an increasingly unsustainable refugee problem, not only on the humanitarian level—over a third of the Syrian population is already internally or externally displaced—but also in countries such as Lebanon and Jordan that are hosting refugee populations equivalent to more than 20 percent of their own populations.The monarchies of the Arab world—both rich and poor—are not immune to the challenges facing the rest of the region. But they have mostly not experienced the same turmoil that the republics have. The rich monarchies of the Gulf have attempted to stem the tide of uprisings through financial means (and in the case of Bahrain, through security measures). The poor countries of Morocco and Jordan have used the legitimacy of their leaders to attempt a largely cosmetic “reform from above” process to keep the governments ahead of the street.... Saudi Arabia has attempted to insulate itself and the Gulf Arab states from the region’s transformative forces through the timeworn policies of subsidies, cosmetic reforms, and, in the case of Bahrain, military intervention. Beyond the Gulf, Riyadh has sought to check the regional rise of both the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Iranian influence, pursuing an increasingly assertive foreign policy that is simultaneously counterrevolutionary (such as offering financial aid to the military-backed government in Egypt) and pro-revolutionary (such as providing military support to anti-Assad rebels in Syria). Its position on both countries opened up a widening chasm in its relations with the United States over regional order that was crystallized when Washington and other world powers concluded an interim deal with Tehran that would temporarily freeze key parts of the Iranian nuclear program. Saudi Arabia claimed that the United States had betrayed it by keeping it in the dark regarding the Iranian deal and threatened to pursue a more unilateral foreign policy. In reality, however, Riyadh has few options but to follow in the broad wake of U.S. policy in the Middle East and is unlikely to follow through on its threats.... 2014 could prove to be a decisive year for Iran, both internally and with regard to its relations with the outside world. While the interim nuclear agreement was groundbreaking, the United States and Iran appear to have a fundamental mismatch in expectations regarding a comprehensive deal. Both the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress expect Tehran to make even greater nuclear compromises, while Iran’s hardliners feel they have already gone far enough and expect Congress to lift all sanctions imposed on the country.It also remains to be seen whether a nuclear détente with Tehran can foster significant U.S.-Iran cooperation on regional issues. As of yet, there are few tangible signs that Tehran is preparing to modify long-standing revolutionary principles, such as resistance to the United States and rejection of Israel’s existence. In this context, a fundamental shift in those Iranian policies that are problematic to both regional countries and the United States, such as support for the Assad regime in Syria or for Lebanon’s Hezbollah, is unlikely....2014 will almost certainly witness the failure of negotiations seeking a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict..."

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