The coming months are no doubt critical in our lives and the lives of people around the world. The coronavirus remains humanity's enemy number one, the enemy of the hour, and the leading cause for the expected global economic recession. The future of oil is uncertain, and falling prices and dwindling production pose a greater threat than Iran, terrorism and the pandemic combined, as the fate of the region's countries is closely tied to the performance of the oil market. Besides Turkey and Iran, China today is gaining traction and influence in the region as one of the biggest suppliers of technology and arms, while its security and political stance in the region remains unclear. And the attitude of the new administration in Washington towards the region is no clearer with Donald Trump's departure.
The end of 2020 is not the end of the world yet, but we are all quite aware of what a scary year it was. Just like World War II, all nations have sustained terrible loss of life and economic damage. 2020 taught us a great lesson: That we are partners in misfortune, even if we are not partners in good times. The second lesson is that scientists and doctors play as important a role in protecting us as the mightiest armies. Hopefully, 2021 will be the Year of the Vaccine, following the outgoing Year of the Pandemic.
It was a terrible year for the Iranians; they suffered economic and military asphyxiation, they lost their positions in Syria, and endured the deployment of Russian forces and Israeli attacks. Iran was on the receiving end of over 500 military strikes which they were unable to respond to, they lost in Gaza and even in Yemen. Their progress was further halted by Mustafa al-Kazemi's entrance into power as prime minister in Iraq. All these fortresses they have built may collapse after Joe Biden takes over the US presidency.
Over the past year, three words have echoed in our space: Coronavirus, Trump, and Biden. Politically, the pandemic has not brought about the downfall of governments, but it has exhausted enormous financial resources, and if it continues at the same pace, it could bankrupt major and even minor economies. Look at Lebanon, in the span of a year, a pound is now no longer worth the paper it is printed on.
Trump represented a moment of reckoning in America and around the world, and his departure will leave a dangerous void that the new administration will not be able to fill.
Much has changed in the past two years, so trying to understand possible upcoming events helps us prepare for and deal with them effectively.
We need to understand the policies and motives of the countries with the most influence in our region, and to anticipate the changing tide of power, such as Turkey and Iran scrambling to divvy up areas of influence, in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Gulf, North Africa, the Red Sea and Yemen. Will this unrest increase or be resolved? How long will the current situation last? Regional conflict is like a magnet for foreign forces, as we have seen in conflicts such as Libya and Syria.
And then there is the oldest conflict, the Israeli conflict, which has now become merely Palestinian. Our new year may be the year of the Palestinian cause, and the year of peace with Israel, even for those who are not yet on board.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.