Forecast as of New Years Eve 2018 (What’s this?)
That one’s unfortunately easy. Continued quagmire escalating into a worse conflict. With the US withdrawal from Syria and (my anticipated) drawdown in Iraq – Iran has completed its geographic encirclement of the GCC. The weakest spot in that encirclement however is Yemen and since I don’t see Saudi Arabia unilaterally entering into a conflict against Iran in Syria or Iraq then it’s going to be in Yemen that it plays out.
Iran has a lot of resources freed up that were pinned in Syria (including many Iraqi militias). These forces, and their equipment, can now either roll into Lebanon to harass Israel or assuming no Israel fight pivot and provide greater support into Yemen.
This will lead to the continued destruction and suffering in Yemen. While 2013-2017 where the years we stood by and watch Syria get reduced, 2019-forward I think Yemen will take that role. It won’t be as publicized because even fewer westerners know about Yemen than they did about Syria.
The only real ‘surprise’ outcome I see here is if Congress passes a veto-proof resolution to withdraw some or all of US support to Saudi Arabia in Yemen (which consists of both weaponry and navy vessels.) That, and increasing domestic frustration with Yemen in the Kingdom may result in MBS pulling out or dramatically changing the nature of the conflict. But I don’t see the domestic pressure high enough, nor am I seeing MBS chastened enough to contemplate such a retrenchment. It would be smart though because GCC is becoming increasingly isolated against the Iranian encirclement.
The civil war in Yemen drags on with no end in sight. Civilian casualties now are between 1/3rd-1/5th of that of Syria and equal to or 1/6th that of Iraq War (depending on estimates used. And it’s still a quagmire for Saudi Arabia. There has been some movement around eroding support in Congress for MBS and I can’t imagine the Pensacola incident helped, though Impeached President Trump still has strong support for the Crown Prince.
This general trend mapped over an inflection point over the summer where a few events intersected. Iranian backed and supported Houthi’s launched two significant (of many hundreds overall) attacks into Saudi Arabia. A drone attack successfully damaged oil infrastructure while a border crossing captured several hundred Saudi mercenaries in the employ of SANG. This occurred at the same time John Bolton was being fweeted (fired by tweet) as National Security Advisor over the summer. Bolton was one of the most aggressive hawks on the Iranian policy front. Some combination of these, or other factors, led to gestures of openness to rapprochement from Saudi Arabia to Iran in terms of settling Gulf Conflicts. Those gestures are a long way from changing facts on the ground and so the Yemen War continues.
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