What the Year 2014 Holds for the Middle East and the Caucasus

It is that time of year again when analysts are asked to put on their thinking cap and try to predict what the coming 12 months may hold for some the more troubled regions of the world. This is by no means a simple exercise as it is scientifically impossible to predict the future, at least at the present time. The closest one can get to making an intelligent prediction in the world of politics is to study history and to look at the past. Indeed, the past holds many answers to our questions about the future.

In so far as trying to predict what may transpire in the Greater Middle East and the Caucasus, the job is rendered somewhat easier due to a number of predetermined factors upon which one may rely on year after year, such as the quasi assurance that there will continue to be instability in some parts of the aforementioned regions almost as sure as the sun is going to rise the next day.

Based upon recent events in those regions it is therefore quite safe to assume the following:

North Africa: Militant Islam will continue to try to push for a beachhead somewhere in North and sub-Saharan Africa. In order to grow and expand their operational plans calls for establishing a new base of operations in the region. After their failure in Mali they will attempt to establish a foothold in other countries in the region. Indeed, following a tumultuous year the one country that has enjoyed continuous stability is Morocco. Libya has seen an increase of terrorism-related activities, as has Tunisia. Algeria, while appearing to fare better than in previous years, is still not where it should be.

So looking into the crystal ball one can see the following;

Continued turmoil in Tunisia and Libya where the situation is likely to get much worse before it gets better. More stability in Morocco and that despite efforts by salafi groups who will try to make some headway in this North African state and attempts by Islamist groups to infiltrate the kingdom.

The big unknown of course will come from Egypt. It was in Egypt, after all where the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in March 1928 in the Egyptian city of Ismailia, by a simple school teacher named Hassan al-Banna.

Al-Banna's first emergence from anonymity came about in 1936 with the publication of his 50-point manifesto, in which he called for an end to corruption, a return of morality and the enforcement of sharia, or Islamic law.

He was hanged in 1949 and the Muslim Brotherhood was banned and forced to go into the shadows.

The MB, despite all the setbacks it experienced has never lost hope. It continued to operate under aliases, presenting its members for elections under the banners of fictitious parties and organizations.

Finally, after decades of living in a political limbo and of trying to remain one step ahead of the law, the Muslim Brotherhood won its way into the Egyptian presidency after the departure of Hosni Mubarak.

But politics is a difficult animal to tame. It is one thing to contest everything that a government might do or not do from the sidelines of leadership. However, the game changes drastically once one begins to feel the heavy weight of the mantle of power.

Indeed, this responsibility proved far too much for the MB after they won their way into the Egyptian presidency. Their incompetence at managing a country such as Egypt proved to be their downfall. After a short-lived victory and legitimacy the Brotherhood lost the Egypt presidency and have as of this week been banned and are once again forced into the shadows.

Following the mass protests which brought the Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi to the Egyptian presidency and more protests a year later which forced his premature departure from power, the Egyptian government on Wednesday formally declared the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and banned its protests nationwide.

The Cabinet has declared the Muslim Brotherhood group and its organization as a terrorist organization," Hossam Eissa, Egypt's Minister of Higher Education, said in a statement.

In the Levant it is safe to assume that violence will continue to plague Syria, where the war will continue for at least another year and

In Turkey , the government of Prime Minister Racep Tayyip Erdogan will continue to face a series of political and social headaches and scandals but will in all probability survive the year. And finally in the Caucasus , a region that is far more stable than the nearby Middle East has good things coming, in the form of new pipelines to Europe that will help the region's oil and natural gas production flow out and much-needed dollars and euros flow in.


Claude Salhani is a journalist and political analyst specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and terrorism. Follow him on Twitter @claudesalhani.com