Middle East experts this week predicted a “seven-year itch” in 2018 will erupt in the region, eclipsing the impact of the Arab Spring, which began in 2011.
Dr Claire Spencer, senior research fellow at Chatham House, warned that “a new post-Arab Spring generation is coming of age with worse prospects than in 2010-11”.
In her 2018 predictions for UK-Israel think-tank BICOM, Spencer said the recent protests in Iran were “a reminder to regional leaderships to meet domestic expectations over economic reforms”.
The Arab Spring is the name given to a wave of protests, riots and demonstrations throughout the Middle East and North Africa, which began in Tunisia in December 2010, when popular economic grievances were voiced.
The leaders of four states were toppled and major concessions and reforms were forced through in many others.
Noting a current and strong grievance over corruption, Spencer said “demands will be less about regime change and democracy than the impact of rising living costs, taxation, joblessness and official
As in 2011, when Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak was overthrown after almost 30 years, Spencer said Egypt again looked vulnerable to discontent, as did Jordan, Turkey and Gaza if Palestinian reconciliation stalls.
Dr Jonathan Spyer of the Middle East Forum predicted sectarian violence in Iraq this year, as a general election pits Sunni versus Shia in Baghdad, with Iran’s influence felt in its support for the country’s powerful militias.
In Syria, Spyer foresees a big power face-off between residual US forces and those loyal to Russia and Iran, the latter having fought for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who last year routed the last of the Sunni rebel resistance.
“Exploratory probes from the Iran/Assad/Russia side intended to test US resolve (which these players may well take to be wavering, and vulnerable to pressure), are likely in the year ahead,” he wrote.
In Israel, Dr Michael Koplow thinks Benjamin Netanyahu will finally be kicked out of power after 10 years leading the country, as police investigations culminate.
“This will either lead the Likud to force him to step aside in favour of a new party leader, or lead Netanyahu to take the country to elections to forestall an indictment, which will result in a new coalition headed by (Yesh Atid leader) Yair Lapid,” he writes.