2016 was devastating for order and security

2016 was devastating for order and security
I was hoping after I made my dire predictions a year ago on these pages, that my ominous forecast of 2016 would be wrong. But unfortunately, it did not come to pass. And I was right!

What a tumultuous year 2016 was... It left its mark in many, indelible ways. It was a year of shocks, jolts, blood and surprises. It was the year Arab political and social systems seemed to fall apart. 2016 was a year where President-elect Donald Trump triumphed against all odds in the US. It was a year when the British shocked themselves and probably regretted they voted to leave the EU — the famous Brexit vote. Dealing a major blow to the EU as a coherent organisation and ushering in probably the fragmentation of not only UK, but the break-up of the EU itself, with Italy, Germany, Netherlands and France witnessing the rise of populist movements. Syria shamed all of us who watched helplessly and many of us were indifferent about the plight of the tormented nation.

While it is true the Middle East has not been stable for decades, in 2016, we witnessed and lived through a new low with many blows and tragedies. At times we had the sinking feeling, that the Arab world is falling apart and breaking at the seams. The phenomena of terrorism, upheavals and the sinking of failed states even further down the path of failure all came to a head, thus pulling the whole region into an abyss.

But what’s in store for the Arab world is not reassuring. The Arab political system is imploding. The EU is breaking apart. And the uncertainty and unpredictability of Trump administration is causing much angst and worry in all Arab capitals and beyond. “The incoming Trump administration does not seem much inclined to have a policy toward the Arab world, which is a problem given the challenges the region now presents,:writes Jon Alterman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in a recent article.

In 2016, the refugee crisis became an international stain on our conscience, especially those countries who lecture the world about human rights. More refugees drowned crossing the Mediterranean Sea than any year before. Consequentially, the internally displaced in Syria, Iraq and Yemen has reached an all-time high, reaching millions.

GCC states’ budgets suffered from deficits and some governments’ implemented austerity measures, reducing or ending the generous subsidies. Nonetheless the GCC states continued to lead the Arab political system and cemented their role, even with lower oil prices and budget crunches. They continue to be the engine of the Arab world.

In 2016, the GCC-Iran Cold War became much more entrenched from the Arabian Gulf to Yemen and from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon. Syria has become the black hole and the tragedy of our times. It has become more insane, inhumane and bloodier, sinking to new lows, led by Russia and Iran and its proxies and their unrelenting attack on residential areas in major cities, mainly Aleppo.

Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) suffered its worst year in 2016, since its ascendance to power. Through a series of defeats, losing ground in Iraq, Syria and Libya, it has been diminished, but not defeated. As US President Barack Obama gets set to depart the scene, Syria will tarnish his legacy and image, as the president who let mayhem to escalate, dithered and did little to stop the bloodbath.

What a brutal year 2016 was. In our midst, we continued to bleed and lose the battle for stability and security. The Cold war between most of the Arabs and Iran and its proxies from the Gulf to Yemen and from Iraq to Lebanon got worse and became ugly. Syria continued to bleed, in a devastating and numbing scene, where humanity failed the bereaved people who were subjected to carpet bombing, and uprooted in a deliberate demographic transfer of the native population in Damascus and mainly Aleppo — the martyr city, which finally succumbed to the relentless Russian indiscriminate bombardment and obliteration campaign by Iran and its Shiite militias and proxies, exacting a heavy toll on what was left of its population.

Beyond the Middle East there was uncertainty in Europe and the US too. The failure of pollsters in predicting and gauging the peoples’ mood in the UK which resulted in the stunning Brexit vote was remarkable. Donald Trump won the US presidential election, causing the upset of the decade! The only solace for Hillary Clinton was her besting Donald Trump by almost 3 million votes in the popular vote. But losing where it counts in the antiquated Electoral College System (where 270 votes are needed to be the US president)Trump trumped with 306 votes to Clinton’s 232. It was humiliating for Clinton to lose the deep Blue Democratic states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota, which spelled her upset defeat!

But the stunning development came with the publication of the US intelligence community declassified intelligence report accusing the Russians of deliberately hacking and interfering in the US presidential election under the directions of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency,”the unclassified report of US intelligence stated, clearly indicating that President Putin “aspired” to help Donald Trump win the election. This will tarnish the victory of Trump who continues to be in state of denial.

Furthermore, in a candid and critical assessment, outgoing US Secretary of Defence, Ash Carter, summed up Russia’s behaviour in Syria “They haven’t done anything to fight Daesh. They’ve been fighting the moderate opposition along with the Syrian government. Everything they’ve done has been wrong headed and completely obverse of what they said they were going to do.” In 2016, Russia clearly became a rough state!

Once again, 2016 was a devastating year for order and security! The fear is that 2017 could top 2016 to be even messier, bleaker and unforgiving. Ironically, that could make us looking back to that awful 2016 with solace! But I do not make any predictions.

Abdullah Al Shayji (Gulf News)

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