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Source: Stratfor Fourth Quarter Forecast

Middle East

Locator - Middle East

Iran Seeks an Opening for Dialogue

As we saw last quarter, Iran has attempted to use a U.S.-Russian diplomatic framework for Syria to edge itself into a more comprehensive dialogue with the United States. Under the direction of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, the Iranian government will make conciliatory gestures on a political settlement for Syria and on the Iranian nuclear program in laying the groundwork for a diplomatic rapprochement. The United States will move cautiously toward dialogue, beginning in a multilateral setting, but the U.S. president will also be sensitive to Rouhani’s limited timetable to show progress in the negotiation back home. The attempt to fast-track the talks will eventually run into hurdles, and the U.S. president faces limits in what he can concede, particularly on energy sanctions, without the consent of an intractable U.S. Congress. For this quarter at least, the negotiation will move forward.

Given Washington’s cautious approach to talks, Iran will try to diplomatically re-engage the United Kingdom to build a Western channel to Washington. Iran will also make quiet diplomatic outreaches to Saudi Arabia as it tries to convince Riyadh that a U.S.-Iranian accommodation is inevitable. Saudi Arabia does not face enough pressure from Iran at this stage to enter a negotiation with its main adversary and will instead focus its efforts in boosting weapons, money and fighters to the Syrian rebels from the Arabian Peninsula to compensate for U.S. inaction. Saudi Arabia, along with the other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, will draw negative attention to Iranian and Hezbollah activity in the region in an effort to undermine a U.S.-Iranian dialogue.

The Plan for Syria

The U.S.-Russian diplomatic plan to strip Syria of its chemical weapons will encounter a number of political and logistical hurdles this quarter, particularly in forging a cease-fire and providing adequate protection for weapons inspectors. Nonetheless, the United States will rhetorically maneuver around these obstacles to sustain the diplomatic option and thus avoid another ill-fated campaign to rouse support for a military response against Syria.
Another large-scale chemical weapons attack would be a deal-breaker for the plan, but the Syrian regime likely will avoid such a provocation and focus instead on using this period of diplomatic limbo to attack rebel positions using conventional assets. As we emphasized last quarter, the regime will be constrained in this multi-pronged offensive, resulting in an overall stalemate on the battlefield. Though Syrian rebel factions will try to derail the U.S.-Russian diplomatic initiative through attacks and propaganda, they will remain too weak and divided to undermine the plan and force a military intervention. In fact, rebel frustrations over U.S. inaction in Syria will only heighten rebel infighting this quarter and complicate external considerations to arm seemingly moderate factions.

The Syrian Conflict’s Other Effects in the Region

Spillover sectarian violence in Lebanon will remain steady in the coming months. Hezbollah will concentrate its fighters along the Syria-Lebanon border and boost its security presence in its neighborhood strongholds to counter Sunni militant provocations. Israel will maintain a pre-emptive military posture to target any attempts by the Syrian regime to transfer advanced weapons systems to Hezbollah.
Turkey will try to balance this quarter between maintaining a stable relationship with Iran in the evolving diplomatic environment and maintaining its support for the Syrian rebels. The Syrian regime will in turn try to enhance its working relationship with Kurdish factions in Syria, Iraq and Turkey to sabotage Turkey’s broader containment strategy with the Kurds. Turkey’s ongoing struggle in trying to push forward its shaky peace agreement with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and continued economic stress will be exploited by the ruling Justice and Development Party’s political opponents, preventing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan from trying to reshape the Turkish presidency through a constitutional referendum with Kurdish backing.

Iraq’s Sectarian Tensions to Continue

Sunni militant violence in Iraq will remain at a relatively high but steady level as the overall regional jihadist focus stays on the Syrian battlefield. In northern Iraq, Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government will advance construction on a pipeline and alternate pumping and metering station designed to circumvent Baghdad’s veto on Kurdish exports and investment deals with foreign firms. As the project enters its final stage, the long-standing political impediments to the plan will overshadow any announcements on the pipeline’s near-completion. Turkey will not be able to convince Baghdad to accept its proposed payment mechanism for exports. Moreover, heightened intra-Kurdish political competition and potential unrest will limit the ability of a divided Kurdish leadership to challenge Baghdad on energy exports this quarter.

Egypt’s Military Tries to Combat Militancy

In Egypt, the military’s ongoing crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood will radicalize more Islamists and result in a steady increase in low-level attacks on police stations and other state infrastructure across Egypt. An increase in religious violence by radical Islamists against Coptic Christians will be exploited by the military to justify further crackdowns. At the same time, Salafist-jihadists will sustain near-daily attacks against security forces in the Sinai Peninsula. Some of these groups will continue to expand their target set and launch attacks in mainland Egypt and tourist areas. These attacks will be more infrequent, but will have the potential to inflict more casualties and structural damage.

In trying to contain the Salafist-jihadist threat and keep the Islamist political landscape divided, the Egyptian military will maintain relations with Salafist political groups and former jihadists and try to keep them politically engaged with the government and constitutional committee. Political friction within the committee over the drafting of the Constitution will extend the process into next year, prolonging the political transition.

The Egyptian military’s growing distraction with Islamist militancy will increase pressure on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, where it will see its influence challenged by competing Palestinian and jihadist factions. Faced with limited means to force Egypt or Israel into a negotiation to reopen its borders, Hamas will remain caught between efforts to threaten the Egyptian military by facilitating attacks in the Sinai and an imperative to not completely alienate Cairo.

North Africa: Tensions in Libya -in Benghazi and other power centers, a Succession in Algeria

In Libya, Tripoli will face significant challenges to its authority from regional power centers in Benghazi and in Zintan, and Misurata. At the same time, the local city councils will struggle in trying to rein in competing militias and tribal groups in their respective regions, resulting in a highly fragmented political landscape overall. Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan will also face external pressure to stabilize the country’s political and security environment enough to revive Libya’s oil production. However, oil production will continue to fluctuate significantly this quarter as power struggles persist on multiple levels.

Ailing Algerian President Abdulaziz Bouteflika will proceed with the final steps of his succession plan this quarter. Constitutional amendments, including the creation of a vice presidential position, can be expected. Any objections to this carefully choreographed succession plan will be mitigated by increases in social spending.

As Algeria maintains relative calm on the domestic front, it will gradually deepen its involvement in its periphery in response to growing political instability and militancy in both Tunisia and Libya. As Stratfor highlighted in the annual forecast, Algeria will use security cooperation with its neighbors and its energy relationships with the West to strengthen its regional role. In Tunisia, in particular, Algeria will mediate a slow-moving political negotiation, in which the embattled Ennahda party will try to avoid replicating the mistakes of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in seeking a compromise with its political rivals. Morocco, meanwhile, will be inwardly focused as it attempts to balance the implementation of political and subsidy reforms.

Source: Startfor. Read more: Fourth Quarter Forecast 2013 | Stratfor

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When we treat people as if they already were better than they are,

we help them become what they are capable of.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ….with a few edits

If you find a path with no obstacles, it may not lead anywhere.
~Frank A. Clark


Sometime back I spoke to a group and showed them pictures of some very famous people, assembled by Denis Waitley. The pictures included Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Jay Leno, Ted Turner and my hero Winston Churchill.

Then I asked the audience what they all had in common.
….they were all dyslexic!
The roles that made them famous also required lots of reading. Not a single one of those great people let dyslexia keep them from being all they were created to be.
“It’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you’re not.”

Vic and Lisa Johnson …with a few edits


When you develop your ability to balance your emotions, unexpected problems won’t knock you off balance as easily, and you’ll return more quickly to a positive outlook.
~Peggy McColl


By Miles Patrick Yohnke © 2010 …with a few edits

Last week I saw Allan. A person I went to high school with. Allan has severe Cerebral Palsy. He is disabled. In a wheelchair. Thankfully his mind is sharp. He had so much trouble getting around from class to class. Our school was very old. It had many floors and so many stairs.
It had been about thirty years since I saw him last. Nothing had changed. He was still the same. Still as clear as then. That same big vibrant smile on his face. And it seemed somewhat fitting as he was being lifted into a vehicle when I saw him.

When I’m on the highway cycling or other sports I perform, I think of people like Allan who do all they can. And how lucky we are to have our health. We have to use our bodies. They will fail when we don’t use them or when we eat improperly.

Exercise improves your mood. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed than you were before you worked out. You’ll also look better and feel better when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem. Regular physical activity can even help prevent depression. Exercise combats chronic diseases. Regular physical activity can help you prevent or manage high blood pressure and lower the buildup of plaque in your arteries.

And there’s more. Regular physical activity can help prevent type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer. It is stated that when one exercises regularly there is a significant decrease in the likelihood of getting breast cancer. Why wouldn’t one exercise?
God creates this beautiful body full of muscle and detail and if one doesn’t use it,what a loss!

It goes hand in hand. People sometimes aren’t happy in their lives, yet often they do nothing to correct this. They dwell in their own dysfunction. They think they should do better, that they should do something more with their life. Well, when does this happen? When does this occur? We make that decision. We get just this one life. If waiting for it to happen, then one is in for a long, dark wait.

Like Allan we can exercise in many ways in which we are not limited. We should use and take advantage of that which we are granted. Today is the day. That flash of light awaits.
Globally recognized and award-nominated engineer, producer, writer, poet and founder and C.E.O. of 5 Star Productions, Miles Patrick Yohnke brings many years of experience to the music industry; including many awards in sales and marketing. You can reach him at miles


I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but rather how well he bounces back when he hits bottom.
~General George S. Patton

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