In 2011, we saw the end of an era in many parts of the world, from Egypt to North Korea to Iraq. 2012 could well be a time of new beginnings, from China to Russia to the foreign policy implications of our own presidential election. Stephan Richter of the Globalist, Jessica Mathews of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Hisham Melhem of Al-Arabiya television news channel look at the year that just passed and the year ahead.
People “Trying to Take Fate Into Their Own Hands”
Richter said that we haven’t seen people “trying to take fate into their own hands” in the way that we did in 2011 since the 1990s in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Mathews cautioned that the Arab awakening that happened across the Middle East in a series of protests will likely be a decades-long process, and a very fluid one. “My own feeling is that over time, this will be a moderating influence on Islamists because governing is a whole lot tougher than being in the opposition,” Mathews said.
Iran’s Missile Testing
Iran’s recent testing of long-range missiles has raised questions about how to best handle potential threats from that country. Mathews believes the test is Iran’s way of saying, “Don’t mess with us,” and thinks it’s evidence that U.s. and European sanctions have hurt Iran significantly. “Iran is more vulnerable than ever,” Melham agreed. “When they do this firing of missiles they remind me of North Korea. Expect that. This is the new normal,” Melham said.
Leaving Iraq; Preparing For Withdrawal From Afghanistan
The U.S. officially, and fairly quietly, ended the war in Iraq in late 2011. Mathews pointed out that 2010-11 have seen the highest number of U.S. and NATO casualties in the war. “Negotiating with the Taliban is mind-bogglingly difficult,” she said. Melham agreed that the U.S. has unreliable allies in Iran, on top of a “shaky” political situation. “Militarily, the situation is untenable in terms of achieving ‘victory,’ Melham said.
Will The Euro Survive?
“The Euro will survive,” Richter said, but the most immediate question will be whether or not Greece will continue to use the currency. Mathews thinks there are plenty of potential mortal blows that could befall the Euro. The political will in Europe within the past year has never been strong enough to get ahead of what the markets are demanding, she said. Further, austerity measures alone won’t pull the region out of the downturn – there has to be concurrent growth at levels that have not yet manifested in order to get the debt levels down, she said.
You can read the full transcript here.