For most people, New Year means January 1. This is due to the Western world’s domination of the socio-political and economic spheres. Since the West follows the Gregorian calendar, most people also follow it. New Year is celebrated worldwide with huge fireworks and other fanfare. People make New Year resolutions that are seldom kept and soon discarded.
They also go on shopping sprees and spend the next several months trying to repay the debt. Like most other activities, New Year is greatly commercialized. Some would argue there is nothing wrong with promoting commerce. Perhaps, but the fact is that through aggressive advertising most people are led to purchase items they do not need. The only beneficiaries are the big corporations that rake in enormous profits.
There are also other dates on which New Year is celebrated. Orthodox Christians celebrate it on January 7 but they are a minority among Christians, so their celebration gets little attention. And then there is Nowruz (literally meaning new day) that is celebrated on March 21 by Shi‘i Muslims in countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, and wherever Shi‘i populations reside. The Kurds also celebrate it.
Our concern is not so much with New Year celebrations as it is with looking ahead to anticipate what is likely to happen in the coming year: 2020. We are not making any predictions about the future (nastaghfir-allah); only Allah (swt) knows the future. Based on our understanding of what has transpired in the previous year or years, we can make an informed guess about what to expect.
Our primary concern is with the Muslim world and Muslims worldwide. The fact that there is too much external interference in the affairs of Muslims, we cannot ignore this facet of the problem either. Let us begin with the two longest running problems in the Muslim world.
Kashmir and Palestine: foreigners — India and Zionist Israel — have used military means to colonize the respective lands. The indigenous populations are subjected to horrendous abuse and suffering. Not surprisingly, the two colonial powers have cultivated close links in the military, intelligence, and other spheres to continue their murderous ways. Human rights organizations as well as the UN have documented their crimes but these are unlikely to deter the occupiers from their atrocious conduct.
Looking ahead, can we expect any improvement in the plight of the two oppressed indigenous populations? Unfortunately, there is little room for optimism. Their suffering is likely to increase because rulers in both India and Israel view this as advancing their domestic agendas. In India’s illegal occupation of Kashmir, there is also the risk of war breaking out with Pakistan that could have catastrophic consequences not just for the region but the entire world.
Syria and Iraq: while Syria’s troubles have been going on since 2011, Iraq’s are more recent, if we ignore the US’ invasion and occupation of the country in 2003. Both have to do with the imperialist-Zionist attempts to weaken Islamic Iran. Indications are that the foreign conspiracy for regime change in Syria will gradually peter out as government forces cleanse the last pockets of terrorist mercenaries. This, however, would not mean that external mischief would end. Both Israel and the US will continue to exert pressure to keep Syria destabilized but Damascus will be able to withstand such disruptions.
Iraq is a new, or renewed ballgame. America and its regional puppets led by Saudi Arabia are creating chaos in Iraq. The country is destabilized by utilizing people’s legitimate grievances and channeling them in ways that benefit the US and Israel. This is again meant to exert pressure on Islamic Iran that has extended its reach into Iraq as well as further afield. Given the lack of sophistication of most Iraqi political players, turmoil is likely to continue. Further, remnants of the former Ba‘thist regime have again become active, with money supplied by Saudi Arabia.
Yemen: the Saudi-led assault on Yemen has been a spectacular failure. There are clear indications that the Saudis want out. They are looking for a face-saving formula to avoid further humiliation. There are signs that the war on Yemen would wind down considerably in 2020 even if it does not end completely.
Saudi Arabia: the consequences of the disastrous policies of Muhammad bin Salman (MbS), the medieval kingdom’s de facto ruler, are beginning to catch up with him. Through his rash policies both at home and abroad, he has made far too many enemies. What is preventing a full-fledged revolt from erupting is the presence of his father, King Salman.
The king already has one leg in the grave. He suffers from dementia and is not in control of even his motors much less the affairs of the Kingdom; but given the long tradition of respecting elders, most princes are keeping quiet. Should Salman die this year, MbS is likely to face multiple challenges to his authority. He will use his iron fist (or bone saw) to crush all challengers, but such oppression will only intensify hatred of him. A palace coup cannot be ruled out. Even the American CIA might have a favorite prince that it would like to bring to power to prevent total breakdown of order in the Kingdom. Overall, 2020 does not look like a good year for MbS, especially if King Salman dies.
Afghanistan: Donald Trump has been desperately trying to strike a deal with the Taliban before the start of his election campaign this year. He is anxious to get re-elected and he needs one policy success. While he has repeatedly stressed that he wants to pull US troops out of Afghanistan, the latest being his Thanksgiving Day trip when he surreptitiously dropped into Bagram Airbase outside Kabul on November 29, but can he be trusted? He is deviant to the core. The Taliban know this. Even if he signs an agreement, he is so crooked that he will not fulfill it. He did it with the multilateral Iran nuclear deal referred to as the JCPOA.
The situation in Afghanistan will be determined by how much pressure the Taliban can exert on US forces and their Afghan puppets. They forced the US to the negotiating table not because the Americans are peacemakers but because the Taliban inflicted so much damage on them. A combination of Taliban military successes and Trump’s desperation for a deal might just bring an end to America’s longest war.
US-China trade dispute: this is likely to dominate much of the year 2020 primarily because the US wants to undermine China’s rise as a rival economic, political, and military power. America’s excessive demands will aggravate even a patient China and result in breakdown of talks. US-China rivalry will also affect the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as well as China’s multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative. The US is a declining superpower, China a rising one. It is always difficult for those losing power and influence to adjust to the new reality with grace. The US in particular, fed on a diet of jingoism, cannot accept its loss. But history is relentless; it marches on whether people adjust to its demands or not.
Rise in Islamophobia: the last few years have seen an alarming rise in Islamophobia both in Europe and North America. This is likely to intensify. Western military and political failures in the Muslim world as well as their need for further military expenditures necessitate finding scapegoats. Muslims residing in the West are soft targets. The rise of right-wing white extremist groups now joined by the Zionists pose an existential threat to Muslim survival in the West. Unfortunately, Western regimes are not interested in protecting their Muslim subjects. They want to keep them oppressed and subjugated. Instead of becoming ghettoized, Muslims must strive to establish links with groups struggling for social and political justice in society. This will help them overcome the real threat from white racist groups and their Zionist allies.
The above trouble spots are not an exhaustive survey of what is in store for 2020. Other eruptions might occur. Egypt is one area where events can take a turn for the worse rather suddenly. The broader North Africa region is also undergoing changes and events can easily spiral out of control. Libya is already in turmoil because of the West’s bombing campaign and the destruction of its infrastructure as well as government.