Some dates in history are famous for producing landmark changes. See 1453 and 1917-1918 for past examples. This year may have similar potential.
In 1453 when Byzantium fell to the Turks, the Hundred Years War came to an end and Johann Gutenberg introduced movable type, starting a communications revolution that accelerated popular revolution and helped bring on the Reformation. Historians use 1453 as a convenient date to mark the end of the Middle Ages and the transition to something new.
Ditto for 1917-1918) when four centuries-long empires fell and the ground was laid for Hitler and Stalin. The effects of World War I were economic, political, social, military and technological.
The potential triggers for 2012 lies in two events possibly coming together—the imposition of full sanctions in Iran and the downfall of Assad in Syria where momentum has shifted and seems to be accelerating rapidly. The scary thing is that both may occur almost simultaneously if things keep going as they are.
SYRIA’S RAPIDLY SHIFTING TIDE
Thanks to support from Russia and Iran, Assad has managed to hang on so far even while killing more than 14,000 Syrians. Even with allies continued support, it now appears the regime is beginning to teeter (see upcoming subpost). Even former allies may defect as it becomes so noticeable.
Regardless of intentions, can Iran afford to continue to subsidize Assad Syria once sanctions go into full effect in a few weeks? Among Iranian and Russian officials, the perception is growing that the tide seems to be turning rapidly in Syria. If so, why throw good money after bad? Should Iranians cut off aid for those two reasons, Russia too is likely to dessert a sinking ship. At that point I suspect that any Russian “apologies” will impress the muslim world as much as “remorse” from a convicted serial killer would impress families of his victims prior to sentencing.
FOR KHAMENEI, ASSAD’S FALL COULD NOT COME AT A WORSE TIME
Everyone is already obsessed with the political and economic effects when sanctions take full effect in Iran. Supposee Assad’s regime were to follow not long afterward. How might that event compound the regime’s problems at home?
Can it save itself by crying “uncle” on nuclear inspections or would Khamenei remain obstinate? In that case the regime would face a lose-lose situation. It can remain stubborn, assuring that every domestic problem grows worse. Or it can give in and offend hard-line nationalists and clerics. Recall Khrushchev’s fate a year after backing down in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Either way, the regime will suffer its third blow to any claim of popular legitimacy since 2009. It can’t last.
THE THIRD POTENTIAL “VICTIM” OF 2012 ALSO FACES A TIMING PROBLEM
Putin won’t go immediately but these external setbacks in Syria and Iran will enlarge cracks in his declining popularity at home just when Russia’s oil revenues are expected to decline for various reasons. The Russian people will surely resent how Putin’s shortsighted foreign policies, designed to promote xenophobia, left them isolated from the West and stuck with pariah status among muslims. As in Iran, the direct motive for promoting xenophobia was to rally domestic support. Unfortunately for Putin, as for Khamenei, what worked in years past no longer fools anyone these days.
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