Something is coming that will leave the world a different place. Not something wicked perhaps, though made necessary by wickedness. Certainly something sad, bad and dangerous.
I wrote a couple of days ago about what I thought was a likely sequence of events leading to a major war in the Middle East in 2012.
The initiating factor (underlaid, as always, by longstanding hostility and mistrust) is the imposition of stronger sanctions against Iran.
President Barack Obama has just signed into US law the strongest sanctions yet against any trade with Iran’s central bank. These sanctions are not only against Iran, but against any country which trades with Iran through its central bank. The US is effectively saying, you either trade with us or Iran. You can’t trade with both.
Meanwhile, the EU continues to consider sanctions specifically against Iranian oil. EU foreign ministers will meet again on January 30th to try again to formalise an agreement.
When imposed, those sanctions will cause huge difficulties for Greece, because Iran is the only major oil exporter still willing to offer Greece credit. Greece will need to be plied with promises of support and energy supply before it will agree. Some of those promises will not be kept, because when the time for payment comes, countries that made the promises will be in such financial straits they will be struggling to pay their own energy bills.
Meanwhile, Iran is flexing its muscles in the Straits of Hormuz, test firing a new medium range anti-radar missile, a weapon that could strike a US aircraft carrier, or more easily, other major shipping including oil tankers carrying Saudi or Kuwaiti oil.
Europe is weak. It has spent the last twenty years undermining the strength of its democracies and economies, and handing power to a bunch of mealy mouthed bureaucrats.
The US is economically weaker than at any time since the 1930s, and is lead by an ineffective and ill-informed president.
The West, in the sense of the world’s liberal democracies, will win. But the fight will be economically crippling, and tragically costly in human life.