My predictions for the Middle East in the next decade

I am afraid despite all the efforts trying to squash terrorism and making the region more stable, the Middle East will be less rich, less important and more of a mess in the next decade or so for a number of reasons:

  1. There is an impending disaster that no one seems to bother with but will be nearly impossible to correct unless acted upon now. There is a population explosion that goes unchecked by war and disease. While we are all pro-life and have respect for people procreating, I must say that people are reproducing almost without restraint. The principles at work, in simplified terms, is that God will provide as well as the drive for outnumbering the world with Muslims.
  2. I also foresee the region to stay unstable partly because the old imperial order is breaking down and new challenges to the existing regimes are rising — from ISIS to the Muslim Brotherhood type groups but also ethnic groups like the Kurds. In addition, the Sunni-Shia conflict is now out in the open and will dominate the region for years to come. These kinds of religious wars do tend to wear the populations down and eventually reduce to a simmer or even die down. Think of Lebanon. So I do believe that after a while, a new order will establish itself — not necessarily a democratic order but hopefully a more stable one than we see in the large countries today.
  3. The larger trend is likely to be the transformation of energy. Oil prices are down and will likely stay down for a combination of reason — new US supply, new worldwide sources from shale to tight oil to Iran; alternative energy is reaching critical mass; Chinese demand is slowing. In these circumstances, the regimes that have coasted on oil wealth will have to reform or repress. My guess is that we will see a mix of reform and repression. The only sure thing is that those countries that do open up economically and politically will hopefully do better in the long run. Saudi Arabia can run a medieval monarchy when oil is $100 a barrel. Can it do so at $40 a barrel? I am not sure.
  4. Gas prices fluctuate. That’s a fact. The troubled economies in the Middle East are the ones that don’t depend on oil. Look at Yemen, Syria, and Egypt–Iraq wouldn’t be on the list if it weren’t for the American invasion. Oil prices are never an issue for the stability of countries in the Middle East: The monarchies and pseudo-dictatorships of the oil-rich countries in the Middle East will never be allowed to fail. If the US doesn’t save them then Western European powers, Russia, China or Japan will interfere to stabilize them.
  5. I foresee the nations will still be divided still for a long time by religion. Every religion, historically, had entered a dark age. Plainly speaking, the Jewish dark ages ended with King David–they had lasted a few hundred years. The Christian dark ages last well over 800 years and ended with the Renaissance. If you look up Eastern Asian religions you will find that each had its dark ages of several hundred years. The Muslim world is entering its dark ages and I am afraid will be there for at least 400 to 500 years.
  6. The price of oil will decrease by more than 50% and North America will be energy independent. This will be due to electric cars, self-driving cars, and solar energy. This will cause instability for central governments which could either have a democracy or be like many African countries. I suspect it would be the latter for many countries. They had many decades to prepare for a post-oil society by investing in education and industry, however, they did not do that. The US, on the other hand, will most probably not give enough foreign aid to help those countries because they will not have any strategic or energy value to the US. Those countries will have to solve those problems themselves.
  7. A tally of the major countries involved?
  • Egypt: Will probably keep changing their presidents. Not an optimistic future as there is no true will from the country to apply democracy atmosphere and lack of creative solutions to solve critical problems.
  • Qatar: Doha (capital of Qatar) will be the new Dubai.
  • Yemen: Total chaos if they don’t unite and find out the source of the violence, the cause of it, and the solution and differentiate between their real friends and enemies
  • Kuwait: Bleak as the country is 80% dependent on Oil and is not investing in developing other sources of income fast enough, it at all.
  • Saudi Arabia: Influence way down, at least as compared to what they enjoy today.
  • Syria: Bashar Assad is gone. The ongoing effort in rebuilding the cities. No more ISIS.
  • United Arab Emirates: First world country. Probably something like Singapore.
  • Iraq: Iraqi tribes (Sunnis and Shiites) will go against the government to make the country “Iraqi” again. Probable outcome: Either settle down into a multi-ethnic and religious nation or split along sectarian and national divides along Sunni, Shia and Kurd lines.
  • Iran: More democratic and liberal and Mullahs power waning gave the wave of young people – which are reaching maturity about now – are not well known for their religiousness and conservatism.
  • Lebanon: With Syria and Iran’s power waning – Hizballah (the country’s power broker) will most probably wane accordingly – all depending though on a rising Christian leadership in partnership with other minorities in the region.
  • Jordan: One of the few stable countries that will remain so because of its big poor conservative population unlikely to go against the monarch the king, a descendant of the Islamic prophet.
  • Bahrain: Subject for a long time to continuing demonstrations and disorder, with the government using whatever measures are necessary to suppress its impatient Shi’ia

Written by

Ziad K Abdelnour, Wall Street financier, trader and author is currently President and CEO of Blackhawk Partners Inc., a private equity and physical commodities trading firm based out of New York City, Founder & President of the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon (USCFL), Founder & Chairman of the Financial Policy Council, Member of the Board of Governors of the Middle East Forum and Former President of the Arab Bankers Association of North America.