Crystal Ball Watch 2007

As always, every year I make a set of predictions for the upcoming year. And every year I see how accurate I was. Last year’s predictions were a little off-the-mark. And by a little, I mean a lot. Let’s see how we did:

Iran will announce that they have completed work on a nuclear weapon and will conduct nuclear tests, showing once again how the intelligence community got it wrong.

Fortunately, not yet. I do think that the NIE is wrong, and that Iran is gathering the materials needed to make a bomb. I would be willing to bet that they’re farther along than we think. The hardest part is getting the fissile material, and the Iranians have thousands of centrifuges that can enrich uranium to weapons grade.

However, Ahmadinejad will face great political backlash as the Iranian economy begins to collapse.

Close, but no cigar. Iran’s economy is being propped up by high oil prices, and there’s some internal backlash against Ahmadinejad, but not nearly enough to put him into political jeopardy.

Iran and the US will enter a state of de facto war as Iranian naval vessels blockade the Straights of Hormuz and more Iranian fighters stream into Iraq.

Ugh, Straits of Hormuz…

Thankfully, it didn’t happen. It still could, but the Iranians seem less confrontational now.

President Bush will announce significant troop withdrawals from Iraq, as the situation in Iraq grows even more dire. His attempt to “surge” troops into Baghdad will be too little, too late, and not long enough to make a difference.

This one was totally wrong—and I’m glad to say that it was. The “surge” has certainly worked, and that’s largely because Gen. Petraeus was smart enough to make it less about having more troops and more about taking the strategies that Col. H.R. McMaster applied in Tal Afar and using them throughout Iraq. He really should have been Man of the Year, because he’s changed the history of the region in ways that will have profound repercussions for years. Gen. Petraeus is our T.H. Lawrence, except he had even more success.

The al-Maliki government will collapse when SCIRI and the Sadrists both walk out.

Dead wrong. Iraq’s coalition government is ever fractious, but it has managed to stay together.

The biggest success in the War on Terror will be when Ethopian troops take down the Islamist government in Somalia in a decisive victory.

That did happen, although the surge in Iraq rightly is the biggest victory in the war.

As a consequence of the above, the US will begin training Kurdish peshmerga to fight al-Qaeda as US troops withdraw.

It’s interesting to see the changing dynamic in northern Iraq. The Turks are striking at Kurdish terrorist groups, with our support. The Kurds don’t seem to be overreacting, much to their credit. Part of it is probably due to the fact that they’re sick of war, part of it due to the fact that Turkish companies are crucial to rebuilding Iraqi Kurdistan. Still, the Iraqi Army is doing a good enough job, and instead of Kurdish peshmerga it’s native Sunni groups who are kicking al-Qaeda out of Iraq.

Apple will release a cell phone that runs a stripped-down version of Mac OS X, creating the hottest gadget since the iPod.

Ah, the iPhone. Not perfect, but still the best cellphone ever made. Even though us early adopters got chumped. I wouldn’t trade my iPhone for a solid platinum RAZR. Mobile Safari may be a bit crash prone, and the software is still not quite up to Apple quality, the concept is so far ahead of its time that it’s still a work of technological art.

President Bush’s approval ratings will stay low, but not lower than they are now. (Which granted, isn’t saying much at this point.)

Pretty much true.

The Democratic Congress will push through a substantial tax raise, and the Bush Administration will capitulate. The stock markets will plunge in response.

President Bush has found his veto pen and apparently his cojones. If only G.W. had been this fiscally conservative when the GOP was in power…

Hizballah will continue their reign of terror in Lebanon, as Syrian forces take control of the country once again.

This hasn’t happened yet, but as Emilie Lahoud has stepped down, Syria continues to try to exert control over their neighbor. When even the French have said that enough is enough, it’s clear that Assad is not willing to cooperate. Sadly, Lebanon’s problems aren’t going away, and may yet get worse.

More critics of Vladimir Putin will find themselves dead.

Putin is still a tyrant, but he’s been more careful than in the past. Perhaps the horrendous death of Alexander Litvinenko was enough to dissuade others. The arrest of Garry Kasperov, however, demonstrates that being a Putin critic is a dangerous business in today’s authoritarian Russia.

Socialist Ségolène Royal will defeat Nicolas Sarkozy in the French elections.

Again, dead wrong. Nicolas Sarkozy could yet be the Thatcherite figure that France needs.

Barack Obama will continue to flirt with running for the Presidency throughout 2007, just to keep Hillary guessing.

Instead, he plunged into the race and is now making Hillary sweat.

John McCain will emerge as the front-runner in the 2008 GOP race while Rudy continues to keep everyone guessing as to what his intentions really are.

Rudy became the frontrunner, McCain nearly sank his campaign pretending to be one, and now the GOP race is up in the air.

All in all, a mixed bag. The biggest thing I got wrong was the “surge”, which isn’t surprising because last year I figured that it was about numbers rather than strategy. 2007 became a turning point in the war, one in which the US and the free people of Iraq have gained a decisive advantage over the enemy. Things in Iraq could still go bad very quickly, but in terms of predicting the outcome of the surge, I was dead wrong. As I was about Iran, Lebanon (to a point), and the French elections. My predictions for 2007 were a bit on the pessimistic side—fortunately, things didn’t turn out nearly as bad as they could have.

Coming up soon, my predictions for 2008.