The Year Ahead – OpEd


By Dr. J Scott Younger

We turn attention to the year ahead albeit with some trepidation. It is a year of important elections in the USA and several other countries. The UK will have one which is likely to lead to a change but not much alteration in foreign policy. The elections for leader in Russia and China will be ‘arranged’ so that Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will stay in post for a third term. This is not in accordance with the two-term constitutions of their countries brought in following the respective experiences from long periods of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, who were effectively dictators. 

Come the end of the year, we may see a Trump presidency, although he could be serving the start in prison! It is altogether puzzling that this could happen in the country that prides itself as the leading nation in western democracy. Before that occurs, in the coming months he faces over 90 charges of misdemeanours, some very serious. He awaits the Supreme Court’s pardon in the worst of the charges against him, not just fraud of several million dollars or sexual dalliance, denied of course but, most serious of all, incitement of insurrection at the Capitol on 6 January 2021. This is a grave offence under US law and would preclude him from standing again. How will the Supreme Court judge, since three of the appointees are his nominees. 

Assuming he overcomes those hurdles, since he has a devoted and often organised following, arguably those of limited vision who fall for the grand gesture, however untrue, the MAGA – Make America Great Again – rabble. Even the evangelistic churches sincerely believe he has a God given gift to lead! The diplomatic corps of the British government and hence the Foreign Office have started to show concern as to what adjustments they will have to make should we have to face a Trump presidency and other countries will have to face similar issues though perhaps not so marked.

At New Year there was an announcement that the BRICS bloc of countries was expanding. The BRICS are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which included over 40% of the world’s population and were widening their membership over the world by taking in the following five Middle east countries – Ethiopia, Egypt, Iran, UAE, and Sauda Arabia. Argentina was asked but declined at this time. None of the bloc have particularly strong ties to the US. Part of the vision of the bloc is to create a multipolar outlook rather than one dependent on one country, the US, although the US has the greatest GDP at 25% of the total world GDP.  It is also the leader of the democratic countries of the western world. China has the second highest GDP at 18% with much greater population, approximately 4.2 times.

However, the expansion of the BRICS bloc raises the profile of Russia and incidentally their ally, Iran, because of their contretemps with the US. Some world public opinion is turning against the US government, even citizens within their own country as they become more aware of the Israel – Palestine situation, and the harsh treatment meted out to the Palestinians, not forgetting the dreadful terror that Hamas did.

Gaza in focus

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of State, has paid his fifth visit to the region, but no real changes have come out of it except that Israel is to allow the UN to oversee Gazan Palestinians from the north to return to Gaza city. The Israelis have a free hand to continue their bombing campaign in the south ostensibly to wipe out Hamas but the killing of civilians, with the total standing at about 25,000, is a high price to pay as so-called collateral damage. The South Africans, who perhaps are well placed from experience, have reported Israel for genocide to the court if Human Rights. Lord Cameron, the British foreign secretary, has hinted that the Israels may well be guilty of war crimes and has called for an immediate humanitarian pause to allow critically needed aid to enter and prevent an imminent disaster from famine and related diseases, which are looming and which could multiply the death toll.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the war could go on for many months – the Hostages would seem incidental to his thinking, by the way, in which case the conflict in the Middle East is likely to widen. Blinken is trying to prevent that from happening, but he will have to be allowed to show a firmer hand. Hezbollah in the Lebanon and the Houthis at the mouth of the Red Sea, each with Iranian backing have already demonstrated their willingness to enter the conflict. 

The extreme right wing of the Israel government would like to see the Palestinians chased out to the Sinai desert thus leaving the total land area to the Israelis. This is not likely and certainly not an option. The next idea is for the Palestinians to live under apartheid conditions. That is not acceptable either. The two-state solution is the general consensus by concerned parties now, including Arab neighbours, but that will be difficult to implement considering how much ill will has really occurred over the past century. But it is believed this is what is needed, as Antony Blinken hinted. It would appear to be the only realistic way to resolve the situation and will require a third party, perhaps the Saudis, to help the Palestinians develop their own country and to hold back Israeli incursions like they have been doing in the West Bank for the past few years. 

If the Americans put pressure on the Israeli government to halt by a certain date, soon, and work diligently with a positive Israeli government, altered from that of today, there is a chance to make peace work. Biden is seeking re-election against ‘the Donald’ and losing badly in the polls, puzzling though it may be. Unfortunately, he does not show willingness to take a harder line which is necessary. If he does show some firmness, then he would surely gain some kudos. The Democratic government is doing quite well on the economy, and starting to address properly climate issues, then going forward on this foreign policy issue, not forgetting the Ukraine situation, would at least give him a good platform for the election. The lives of the Palestinians are dependent on you, Joe!

About the author: Dr J Scott Younger, OBEis a professional civil engineer; he spent 42 years in the Far East undertaking assignments in 10 countries for WB, ADB, UNDP.  He published many papers; he was a columnist for Forbes Indonesia and Globe Asia. He served on British & European Chamber boards and was a Vice Chair of Int’l Business Chamber for 17 years. His expertise is infrastructure and sustainable development and he takes an interest in international affairs. He is an International Chancellor of the President University, Indonesia and Honorary Senior Research Fellow of the Glasgow University. He is a member of IFIMES Advisory Board. Lived and worked in Thailand from 1978 to 1983 and visited Burma, Bangladesh and Nepal for projects.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect IFIMES official position.


IFIMES – International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan studies, based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, has special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council ECOSOC/UN since 2018. IFIMES is also the publisher of the biannual international scientific journal European Perspectives. IFIMES gathers and selects various information and sources on key conflict areas in the world. The Institute analyses mutual relations among parties with an aim to promote the importance of reconciliation, early prevention/preventive diplomacy and disarmament/ confidence building measures in the regional or global conflict resolution of the existing conflicts and the role of preventive actions against new global disputes.

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