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Showing posts from January 7, 2014

2013's Forecasting Report Card

Europe's Economic Crisis

Prediction: High unemployment rates will deepen the social and political consequences of the crisis as economic turmoil spreads northward on the Continent. Although extremist or anti-establishment parties will gain influence over the political debate, they will not be strong enough to take power in any eurozone country and the traditional elites will manage to stay in charge in 2013.

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Evaluation: Our forecast that the European Central Bank would have the tools to prevent a widespread financial panic in 2013 proved correct, and the traditional political elite managed to stay in power. However, rising unemployment weakened support for the political establishment, while extremist, Euroskeptical and anti-establishment parties gained popularity and increasingly influenced the political debate. We also correctly forecast the spread of the crisis to the north, with core countries such as France and the Netherlands coping with the political and social…

In Syria, a Bleak Future for an Al Qaeda Front Group


Although the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant is ramping up its campaign in Iraq, it is finding itself increasingly threatened in Syria. Hundreds of rebels and ISIL fighters have died as part of the largest and most serious rift between rebel and al Qaeda-linked forces since the start of the Syrian civil war. The rate of losses is unsustainable, but there is little reason to think ISIL will back down in either Iraq or Syria.


Provoked by incessant raids, detentions, assassinations, mutilations and the imposition of strict rules on rebel-held territories, Jaish al-Mujahideen and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front attacked a number of ISIL positions in Aleppo and Idlib on Jan. 3. The rebel offensive against ISIL has led to the capture of many ISIL positions across northern Syria, causing the jihadist group to threaten a withdrawal from areas where it is fighting the al Assad regime if rebel attacks do not cease within 24 hours. The rift is understood to represent a blow…

Disagreement Persists on Ethiopia's Planned Dam

The latest round of negotiations among Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt over Ethiopia's planned Grand Renaissance Dam ended on Jan. 5 without the three sides reaching an agreement about how Egypt's concerns would be addressed. Ethiopia is planning to build the dam on a major tributary of the Nile River, the Blue Nile, which accounts for about 85 percent of the Nile River. While Ethiopia wants to move quickly on constructing the dam, which would house a 6,000-megawatt hydroelectric plant, Egypt is concerned that the dam's construction would threaten its water supply farther downstream.

Egypt's water supplies could be threatened in two ways. First, once the dam is constructed, a massive 74 billion cubic meter reservoir will need to be filled. Sudan and Egypt agreed in 1959 to a water-sharing agreement where Egypt and Sudan get a quota of 55.5 and 18.5 billion cubic meters annually, respectively, though Ethiopia claims the two countries do not consume their entire quota. The Nile…

Annual Forecast 2014

After spending more than a decade absorbed in intractable conflicts across the Islamic world, the United States will finally start to catch its breath in 2014. As U.S. troops draw down their presence in Afghanistan, Washington will go to great lengths to develop an understanding with Tehran. Negotiations will face major hurdles, and a final settlement that lifts the economic embargo on Iran will be a bridge too far for 2014. However, our longtime readers probably will not be surprised by the underlying depth and sincerity shared by Tehran and Washington that will sustain this detente over the course of the year.

The United States has long struggled to resurrect a balance of power in the region that would allow Washington to once again manage and manipulate relationships on both sides of the ethno-sectarian divide without directly entangling itself in every quagmire that arises. Iran, for its part, knows it has a limited time to negotiate the bounds of its sphere of influence with an in…