A bumpy ride

Israeli analyst Barry Rubin, in the Jerusalem Post, gives his views on what to expect regarding the Middle East in 2004. Naturally, he predicts a bumpy ride. However, he sees less Palestinian violence, as the intifada continues to wind down and the fence enhances Israeli security. For Palestinians, Rubin sees the battle to succeed Arafat as the major story, “as Palestinian factions carve out empires for themselves, laying the basis for post-Arafat anarchy.” I wonder whether Rubin’s first prediction is entirely consistent with his second.
In Iran, Rubin predicts token moderation on the part of the government that “will have no effect on Teheran’s sponsorship of terrorist groups or its drive for nuclear weapons.” In Iraq, Rubin sees the violence continuing unabated, as Sunni Islamist groups take over leadership of the violent opposition. If the US transfers power, there may be less violence but, in that event, Rubin expects bitter factional quarrels and perhaps even fighting.
Rubin sees mostly good news coming from the U.S. and Europe. Here, he expects a Bush victory. There, he sees a possible challenge to French leadership resulting, perhaps, in friendlier relations with the U.S. and a more balanced stance with respect to the Middle East. Rubin also sees the possibility of a strong backlash against Muslims in France and similarly situated European nations.

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