Foreign Policy in 2007; Rough Going amid 'Unknown Unknowns' Oiled by Optimism

Article excerpt


Last year was dispiriting for Anglo-American foreign policy, but is there any reason for optimism in 2007?

First the bad news: Iraq's civil war will intensify, despite the expected "surge" of 20,000 or more U.S. troops. Even 200,000 extra troops will make little difference to the sectarian passions. De facto partition is likely by year's end.

The worst-case scenario is regional war. Iraq's Sunni rump is protected by Saudi Arabia, which is sucked into the conflict against Shi'ite Iran. Jordan, Egypt and some of the Gulf states back Saudi Arabia. This prompts Sunni vs. Shi'ite disorder in the whole region, not least within Lebanon. Israel again intervenes in the south to stop the war from spilling over into the Jewish state and moves back into parts of Gaza and the West Bank to curb the worst excesses of the Hamas-Fatah full-blown civil war.

The Iraqi Kurds' unilateral declaration of independence triggers a Turkish invasion of the enclave. Turkey, feeling spurned by the European Union, withdraws from NATO.

This turmoil will push the oil price sky high. Even if there is no regional war, an al Qaeda attack on major oil installations in Saudi Arabia could also have a major impact on the oil market. Violence in Nigeria could have the same effect. Whatever the cause, oil-price increases in 2007 could inspire a global recession except in China, with its massive reserves of foreign currency and stored oil.

The conflict in Darfur plus the continuing guerrilla fighting in Somalia destabilizes much of North Africa and the Horn region, allowing fertile territory for increased jihadism. Addis Ababa's proxy war with Eritrea in Somalia turns into full-scale war on Ethiopia's northern border, and expanded conflict in the Ogaden. All this makes the recent U.S. military decision to create a coherent Africa Command even more necessary.

The Chinese sit back, cough in their polluted air and concentrate on making money, along with the rest of Asia, though all are buffeted by oil-price induced downturn. An increasingly authoritarian Russia continues to manipulate energy dependency in Europe, while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez uses his oil leverage to further undermine U.S. interests in Latin America.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown withdraws troops from Iraq, but continues to support the NATO effort in Afghanistan, despite the successful Taliban spring 2007 campaign. French and German troops say they will pull out in 2008.

Scientists warn of a possible major comet impact in 2012.

What of the good news? An optimistic scenario would run something like this: Iraq continues to be mired in conflict, but there is no regional war. President Bush does a "Richard Nixon" and visits Tehran shortly after President Ahmadinejad is ousted in the summer of 2007. …