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Gloomy 2023

Dec 28,2022 - Last updated at Dec 28,2022

The New Year is certain to be dominated by destructive policies adopted in 2022 by global, regional, national and local authorities. 

On the planetary level, policy-makers have for decades failed to seriously confront global warming/climate change which is wreaking havoc around the world. They have repeatedly met at grand conference centres, held lengthy discussions, and gone home. There they have taken as little action as possible. Consequently, some countries have faced torrential rains and flooding, others desertification and famine. During the end of year holiday season, the world’s worst polluter, the US faced well below freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall. 

Instead of cutting carbon dioxide emissions, European governments speak of countries with low emissions “carbon trading” with high-emissions partners. The Ukraine war has made the situation worse because reductions in the flow of Russian natural gas to Europe have forced some countries to revive coal-powered plants which are more polluting than gas. While climate change has encouraged some shift to sun, wind and surf power, this shift is too slow and too limited due to lack of political support in polluting industrialised countries. 

Consequently, Europe is likely to confront increasing migration from African countries beset by war, floods and drought as well as from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, where global warming is a factor in the collapse of their agricultural sectors and economies.  

While Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he is ready to negotiate an end to the war with Ukraine, its President Volodymyr Zelensky insists that Kyiv will settle on the basis of a 10-point “peaceplan” unacceptable to Russia. When and if talks begin, Putin — whose losses in the war may have made him pragmatic — can be expected to insist on keeping Crimea and the Donbas, Ukrainian demilitarisation and NATO guarantees for Russia’s territorial security. 

Due to soaring ambitions soaring from near-total support from the US and Europe, Zelensky is certain to argue Crimea and the Donbas must return to Ukraine. However, they are inhabited by ethnic Russians and were ruled by Moscow for centuries — as was Ukraine itself — before Ukraine emerged as an independent state in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. 

Provided with tens of billions of dollars worth of weaponry, Zelensky is playing a dangerous game by using drones to target major military bases deep inside Russia with the aim of humiliating Putin who has retaliated by bombing Ukrainian power plants and civilian infrastructure in order to make use of freezing weather to force Zelensky to accept the status quo ante. Meanwhile, billions of dollars which should be spent on cutting pollution and shifting to sun,wind and wave renewables have been sunk into a war which — I have repeatedly argued — should never have been waged, particularly since Zelensky entered the presidency promising to resolve disputes with Russia. Two words, “No NATO,” should have been sufficient but US President Joe Biden, ex-BritishPrime 

Minister Boris Johnson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg were determined to use Russia’s invasion of Ukraine revive the alliance, make it relevant, and challenge Putin who was determined to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO. Europe has, reluctantly, been compelled to support this war despite its financial costsand negative impacts on European economies and citizens.

By shifting its attention from this region to China, Washington has prompted Arab governmentsto reduce dependence on the US and cultivate relations with Russia, China, India, Turkey, Brazil and South Africa, countries which do not back the US-led Ukraine war and want to see it end soon. Saudi Arabia and the UAE could also continue to urge oil producers to adopt export quotas which keep the price high and suit their interests rather than those of the US and its allies. 

2023 could usher in a new intercontinental war in this region. US experts have warned that Biden is “inching” towards war with Iran. Having failed to re-enter the agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for lifting sanctions, Biden has concluded a military pact with Israel, Iran’s arch enemy, and both could launch attacks on Iran, claiming they must prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. 

If they strike, Iran could retaliate with well-developed cruise ballistic missiles against Gulf neighbours as well as Israel and call on Lebanon’s Hizbollah to fire rockets at Israeli cities and towns. US commentators suggest that Iran could also attempt to strike Israel’s main nuclear plant at Dimona in the Negev. The installation is a hardened site well-protected by Israeli anti-missile interceptors but just one or two successful Iranian strikes could precipitate disaster.

The ongoing Intifada in Israeli-occupied Palestine is likely to intensify due to the return of Binyamin Netanyahu to the prime ministry after forming a Cabinet of ultra-nationalist and ultra religious figures. This government has vowed to grant legitimacy to “illegal” Israeli outposts boosting the total to 240 colonies and rendering impossible a land-for-peace deal with Palestinians. They have been trapped in small West Bank enclaves administered by the Palestinian Authority which has been stripped of authority byIsrael. While Palestinians step up resistance to Israel “Palestine” will continue to be a rallying cry for 88 per cent of Arabs from the Gulf to the Atlantic, as Arab football fans attending the World Cup in Doha demonstrated.

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