For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look back on key topics for this year, and predict what they see for the year ahead. CIA veteran and Middle East hand Rob Richer offered his take.
On the fate of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, now that the Trump administration has officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in defiance of the international community:
“There’s been a resignation in the Middle East for years, that the peace process had gone stagnant, and particularly in the last year with the current president and his envoys, that it really wasn’t going anywhere. What we have is an announcement that talks about Jerusalem which fuels the resignation of people who say, look, they aren’t good brokers, this wasn’t going to happen, so what do we do?
“This is like a simmering pot. What’s going to happen is around the world, Palestinians who one day hope to have a country, other Arabs who thought the U.S. was a real backer, are going to express their frustration politically, but they’re also going to express it violently. It’ll simmer to a boil. I fought the Palestinian resistance groups when they were a serious issue, and they can be again.”
On the standoff between Qatar, and Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. among others.
“The Qataris have been trying to resolve the issue, and it’s been almost a one-sided effort. What the Saudis are demanding is almost total abdication by the emir of Qatar, and some statements and some actions with are contrary to their own sovereignty and actually make no sense.”
“I think the Qatar crisis will not be resolved. I don’t believe it’s in the Qataris’ interest to abdicate their sovereignty. I don’t believe that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, who is the architect of this along with [Crown Prince] Mohammed bin Zayed of the UAE, are willing to say “I’ll let bygones be bygones” or to take a token offering from Qatar as a way out of this. I think we have too many egos at play, and this decision was almost all ego-driven.” (6:02)
On Saudi Arabia, and the year ahead for its young crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman aka MBS.
“I think you’ve got growing pains for the young man, who I believe is 32 years old, who could be king of that country—if he lives as long as some of his predecessors—until his 90s. So you’re looking at 60-year reign. A man who is holding people accountable for excess and corruption at the same time he’s bought a painting for $450 million, and just bought a palace in Paris for $320 million or so. So he’s a contradiction in terms. I believe that he has good intentions; I don’t believe though that he’s found his way. He’s had a mixed legacy over the past year. I think the ramifications of some of his actions—in Qatar, Yemen, Iran—are going to be serious issues that we are all going to have to deal with in 2018.”
To read one of our earlier, in-depth takes on the Jerusalem issue, click here.