Next year, the crown will fall from Benjamin Netanyahu’s head and there will be the very real prospect of another ‘Arab Spring’ say Middle East analysts.
In a forecasting report published today, researchers at UK-Israel think tank BICOM said 2020 would be the year in which Israel’s prime minister finally loses power to his former Israel Defense Force (IDF) army chief, while Arab countries on Israel’s border will descend into chaos.
They said the likelihood of an “Arab Spring 2.0” emanates from civil strife in Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, a splintering war in Yemen, governance issues in Jordan and Egypt, and a controversial modernisation campaign in Saudi Arabia.
The report also recognises that Russia is now the dominant military power in the region, following its decisive intervention in Syria and Donald Trump’s US withdrawal, as evidenced by his decision to let Turkey clear Kurdish areas by force.
BICOM said Iran would tread water in the hope that Trump serves only one term, but noted how Tehran became far more aggressive midway through this year, attacking vital shipping lanes, US drones and Saudi Arabia’s oil installations.
While Israeli airstrikes against Iranian interests in Syria were expected to continue, regional watchers felt neither country wanted to risk escalating their conflict to all-out war.
However, Israel and its allies know Iran is well capable of defending itself with the new Hoveizeh cruise missile (with a range of 1,350km), the Dezful ballistic missile (1,000 km) and the Khorramshahr ballistic missile (up to 2,000 km).
- Read more – BICOM’s James Sorene: The Middle East in 2020
Of more concern to the IDF is Iran’s ambition of turning Yemen and Iraq into launch sites for missiles aimed at Israel. Both countries have vast swathes controlled by local forces loyal to Tehran. Iranian missiles stationed in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen would present an overwhelming threat.
Domestically, BICOM said Netanyahu’s tenure would end in 2020, adding that a new leader – probably ex-IDF chief Benny Gantz – could rebuild trust with Israel’s neighbour Jordan, whose king’s patience Netanyahu has tested to the limit.
Following Israel’s next election on 2 March BICOM said there would be a unity government without Netanyahu.