After the shattering year of 2015 and the tragic loss of human life in the campaign in Yemen against Al Houthi rebels, the UAE is ready to face 2016 with determination. It will continue to take an active part in offering leadership to the shattered Arab world with its allies in Saudi and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council supported by Egypt, as it seeks to back the surviving nation states of the region and work for the reinstatement of stable government and the rule of law.
The UAE will continue to fight the evil of Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) both with its armed forces and by mobilising the intellectual case against the terrorists and in support of stable and transparent government, which allows individuals to strive for their ambitions with a sense of security.
This is why the UAE’s most important task of its vital underlying focus on human development and education will remain intact. This is what will allow the country to think ahead 30 years with some confidence, in the knowledge that the next generation of young Emiratis will be ready to contribute to the knowledge economy of the 21st Century that is hard to imagine at the present time. The government’s 2016 campaigns on reading and innovation are part of that wider preparation for the unknown future.
The problems in the region will continue, although with some possible rays of hope. The advance against Daesh in Iraq will continue, although far too slowly — thanks to the lack of interest from the international community in supporting the government of Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi which they see as being a close ally of Iran.
The savage war in Syria will grind on with innumerable small groups seeking to gain what territory they can. The region will agree with the international world that the Geneva Process should be the basis of any talks, but it is unlikely that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad will agree as he milks his Iranian and Russian allies for everything that he can take. Meanwhile, Syrians will continue to be killed in their hundreds and thousands, or eke out a living of sorts in totally inadequate camps.
Surprisingly, the civil war in Libya has already got a sort of agreement as the two rival parliaments have agreed with the United Nations on a way forward. Their political leaders have yet to sign up to the process, but at least there is a way forward, which is taking root in Libya and is not just a figment of the United Nation’s imagination.
The suffering of the people of Palestine will continue with no respite. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is taking advantage of American disinterest in Palestine to increase its grip on the West Bank, blockade Gaza just above the point of starvation and slowly crush the spirit of the Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem. Their plight will not be helped by the 2016 United States presidential elections, during which, no candidate will seek to alienate the Jewish vote, however disenchanted many American Jews may have become with Netanyahu’s extremism.
The biggest event in 2016 will be the US elections, which will offer a stark choice over who will lead the world’s superpower for the next four years. The chaos in the Republican Party has made Democrat Hillary Clinton the most likely winner, which will lead to a more muscular foreign policy than current President Barack Obama has managed. If this is well managed, it might become a force for good in 2017, but that would need American might to be harnessed in support of local and national leaders. But, if it becomes a repeat of simplistic military assaults with no commitment to nation-building, the result will be a disaster. It is a dangerous omen that Hillary has promised to visit Israel soon after her election.
It will be hard for the Republicans to win after their destructive primaries and a dramatic shift to the far right, which may have inspired the partisan party loyalists, but will need to attract large number of bigots and xenophobes to overcome America’s much more diverse majority. But if the Republicans do win, they will cause substantial chaos. They have committed to cancelling the nuclear deal with Iran and to withdrawing from the Paris climate deal commitments; and they will rip up the affordable care system created by Obama. Their foreign policy will be frightening: It could be ferociously isolationist, or it could revert to a Bushite neocon view of the world as “us-and-them”, as soldiers are sent here and there to great misery all round.
The US elections will profoundly affect relations with China. Despite tension in the South China Sea, China will continue to become a more involved player in the international community and it will be an important task for the US in particular as the sole superpower, and other global leaders to work with China to ensure that it appreciates the international legal structure, which is for the benefit of all and not just an American plot forced on the world in the aftermath of the Second World War. 2016 will see the continued need for reform in the UN, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and many other global institutions, but this should be done on the basis of supporting the rule of law, rather than narrow national advantage.