Now that the "holidays" are past (though not in the Middle East, where Orthodox Christmas still lies ahead) and the new year begun, everyone is looking back on the year past and toward the year now beginning. I already noted yesterday that we have a lot of elections queued up in the first part of this year, with Israel and Jordan both this month and Egypt due to choose a new Parliament soon. In June Iran will elect a successor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
I'll have a number of posts on specifics, including a big one on Egypt, but I must say the overall outlook isn't terribly cheery. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process seems beyond rescue, and if the two-state solution lies beyond reach, it's hard to forecast where we go from here. In Syria, with 60,000 dead already and no endgame in sight, things are going to get worse before they get — well, even worse than that. When an endgame does come, it may be bloodier than what has gone before. Egypt is at best in for a struggle between its Islamists and secularists. Libya is still very much contested ground. Violence is continuing in Iraq, and unresolved disputes with the Kurdish region could still tear the country apart. Bahrain is keeping the lid on, but at a cost. Jordan continues to stir.
There may be a few bright spots; Tunisia, despite continuing Salafi violence, is still handling the democratic transition better than most. On the other hand two years ago the region seemed impervious to change. Now, change seems a way of life. More on individual countries and issues will be coming.