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Three regional conflicts that could be settled in 2022

Osama al sharif
Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. (Photo: Jordan News)
At the onset of 2022, the Middle East ranks first in terms of a chain of convoluted conflicts; some have been gridlocked for years. But pundits cannot escape making some informed predictions about what 2022 holds in store for some of these conflicts. And yes, there is optimism regarding some conflicts – less than a handful in fact – that could arrive at some sort of resolution this year. Here are three that make it to the very top.اضافة اعلان

A demonstrator stands next to a flaming tire at a makeshift barricade erected during a protest demanding civilian rule in the “Street 40” of the Sudanese capital’s twin city of Omdurman on January 4, 2022. (Photo: AFP) 

The Iran nuclear deal

The eighth Vienna session has resumed and all parties feel the pressure to reach a deal in the coming few weeks, and maybe earlier. The news from the Austrian capital is good after months of frustrating talks that saw a power transition in Tehran. After weeks of guessing, the new government in Tehran seems to be moving closer to adopting a new agreement that would revive the 2015 nuclear deal. The reason for optimism is that neither party has an interest in facing the unknown, including a possible military conflict.

For Iran, the proposal is straightforward: It wants the removal of penalties and sanctions regarding its economic activities, including its free and open oil trade in the international market. But there are also other sanctions related to non-oil activities that the West, primarily the US, is reluctant to concede. The chance is that the West will give Iran what it wants on oil trading, but will postpone dealing with any other caveats, like human rights, and ballistic missile and drone programs. Giving in on these will anger its allies in the region.

For Iran, it is important to reach a deal when its economy is suffering. For the US, any deal would help the Biden administration move to other issues, as it faces domestic challenges, including tough mid-term elections that could render Joe Biden a lame duck president. If the Democrats lose their thin majority in the House of Representatives come midterms, the entire nuclear deal with Iran could once again be in jeopardy. The White House cannot give any guarantees that a future administration will not walk away from a deal with Iran.

So for the near future, a deal is possible, but it will never enjoy longevity as it now becomes a US partisan issue.

The Sudan conflict

The Sudan issue has just got more complicated and that could be a good thing. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok resigned less than two months after he struck a deal with the ruling military in Sudan to come back as premier. That deal was rejected by civil and political powers in Sudan and since November 21, the Sudanese people have taken to the streets, rejecting the agreement and calling for an end to the military’s control of the so-called Sovereignty Council. 

Hamdok obviously miscalculated, and by aligning himself with the military, he lost his political incubator, the movement for freedom and change, which had led to the overthrow of the leader for 30 years, Omar Al Bashir. Following Hamdok’s alliance with the military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, he was unable to form a government of specialists. In between, the Sudanese people had waged massive protests that were met with violence by the military that resulted with over 55 dead and more than 10 women gang raped.

Hamdok had no recourse but to resign, having failed to form a civilian government. By doing so, he has put the military in an awkward position. Burhan wants to form a new civilian-led government. That will not happen. No one can risk facing the daunting end of Hamdok. The military has few choices. Either start a genuine dialogue with civilian and political powers that would likely lead nowhere, or bow down and accept an immediate civilian transitional government that will call for early elections.

Clamping down on protests will not do and the country will slip further into chaos. The military cannot be trusted to hand over the reins of power to a civilian administration. But it cannot sustain the current situation either. It will have to yield in few months.

Iraq’s new government

Now that the controversy surrounding the election result is over, Muqtada Al Sadr has the chance to form a national government that departs from the polarized governments that have ruled Iraq since the US invasion. A number of issues work for him. The fact that a growing majority of Iraqis are fed up with the mingling of Iran and its proxies in Iraqi affairs is paramount. The street is with the young Shiite cleric, who also has the backing of largely secular Sunni movements and young Iraqi activists. In addition, he is likely to get pivotal support from Kurdish parties as well. Iran’s sway over Iraqi affairs is waning but not finished. The coming days will test Tehran’s influence over Baghdad.

One thing is clear, and that is that Iraqi nationalists are in control and they do not want to see their country get entangled in regional polarization, especially the faceoff between the US and Iran. Sadr’s chances of opening a new chapter in post-invasion Iraqi politics have never been higher.

Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.   

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