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2023: A Continuation of Last Year

As 2022 draws to a close, we perform familiar rituals to celebrate the past year, ushering in the New Year with the promise of new beginnings. We make decisions like quitting smoking, losing weight, and carving out more time to relax. It’s the same decisions we’ve made before and failed to stick to, hoping that this time will be different. But it takes more than a new page in the calendar to change behavior. And this is true of both people and the world in which we live. After reading dozens of fanciful predictions from political commentators about the “big” changes that 2023 has in store for us, it is necessary to set the record straight. In many ways, 2023 will be nothing more than a continuation of 2022. In domestic politics and international affairs, the constants will remain the same. Barring some unexpected drama, things will be just as they were. Let’s look at some examples. Russia’s war in Ukraine: Although Russia is negatively affected by the sanctions and heavy losses it endured in Ukraine, it shows no signs of being ready to end its offensive. It is true that the US provision of weapons enabled the Ukrainians to fend off the attacks and fight back, but it also exacerbated the conflict. Ukrainians and young Russian conscripts are paying a heavy price. Ukrainians have been subjected to horrific attacks, and Russian citizens have been forced into military conscription. And this conflict will continue in 2023 with neither side willing or able to give in or back down from their maximalist demands. Europe is already suffering from an economic downturn and successive waves of refugees that have exacerbated internal EU divisions. All of this will make the old continent continue to drift to the right. Winter fuel shortages caused by war will continue to test the strength of Europe’s democratic institutions. In Iran: Iranians are discontent with the clergy, sending them to the streets in protest of the regime. Despite the economic sanctions and the country’s increasing isolation from the West, Iran succeeded in finding allies and markets for oil and weapons, which reduced the chances of concluding a new nuclear deal or reducing Iran’s meddling regional role. Israel and the Palestinians: The new Israeli government announced its intention to accelerate the settlement movement in the occupied territories and to step up the oppression of the besieged Palestinian population. The official response of the United States, which was dictated by domestic politics rather than principle, was a lukewarm wait-and-see response. In the face of Israeli policies, American public opinion will continue to shift, but not enough to prompt Congress or the White House to act decisively to stop Israeli behavior. Dysfunction in American political life: At home, political dysfunction continues. The Republicans will do everything in their power to disrupt the remaining two years of President Biden’s term. The Republican Party will continue repeating the same old tropes and accusations, revealing the dominance of Donald Trump, and Trump’s political orientation, over the base of the Republican Party. And the same commentators who imagined that a “red wave” would rise in 2022 and then falsely declared that the Democrats had won unexpected victories, are now convinced that Trump is finished. They’re quick to eulogize Trump and search for his successor. The electorate remains deeply and almost evenly divided. Trump and his ideas are still very much alive, running through a deep vein of discontent among a large segment of the electorate. Trump has targeted the media, the “elites,” the “deep state,” the judiciary, the FBI, and the Democrats, which are the very institutions that attack him. In the eyes of Trump’s followers, these institutions legitimize their discontent and empower Trump. The Republican Party will not be able to replace him and remain a viable party unless Trump steps down voluntarily and accepts a successor, which is unlikely. If one wants to know where we are heading, he must go back to where we started and where we are today and continue following the same trend line into the future. The year 2023 will be a continuation of the year 2022, not a “new year,” unless divine providence intervenes. –James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)