Image 1 of 10: January 9. Iran and the EU will meet in Geneva to discuss an implementation timeline for last year’s landmark nuclear deal with China and major Western powers. Under the deal, Iran has already agreed to curb the most sensitive aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions.
Image 1 of 10: January 14. Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, hopes to have a new constitution in place to coincide with its revolution anniversary and hold subsequent elections before the end of 2014. However, recent death threats have disrupted the constitution drafting process, putting the country’s successful transition in jeopardy.
Image 1 of 10: Jan 14-15. Egyptians will head to the polls to cast their votes on a draft constitution supported by the military backed interim government. The vote will pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held later in the year.
Image 1 of 10: January 22. Syrian opposition groups and President Assad’s government are scheduled to meet in Geneva for peace talks, which will be moderated by Syria’s UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. Two dozen countries are expected to attend, but some opposition groups are still undecided on participating and the jury is still out on whether Iran will sign up.
Image 1 of 10: February. The December 31 deadline for destroying Syria’s chemical arsenal lapsed due to bad weather and the country’s ongoing civil war. However, the process is back underway with the first shipment for destruction leaving the port of Latakia earlier this week. Over 700 tons of weapons are expected to be destroyed in 45 days.
Image 1 of 10: April 5. As per Afghanistan’s constitution, President Hamid Karzai cannot run for a third term, but it is not clear who his successor in Kabul will be. With foreign forces set to leave the country in 2015 and the Taliban running amok in the South, the new “TBD” President will have a difficult task at hand.
Image 1 of 10: April. This is no April Fool's, though peace for Palestine-Israel is starting to sound like a joke! The deadline to achieve the apocryphal Israel-Palestine peace deal expires. With contentious issues like settlements, Jerusalem, and land swaps on the table, a lot of talking still needs to be done before any deal can be sealed.
Image 1 of 10: April 30. Iraq’s Incumbent Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki will likely stand for a third term following this year’s elections. The question is not so much if he can win, but rather if he can implement policies that truly speak to the country’s embittered Sunni minority and restore peace to his violently divided country.
Image 1 of 10: May. Lebanese President Michel Sleiman’s term is set to expire on May 25. With tensions between pro and anti Syrian factions running deep, a new candidate that is acceptable to all parties will not be an easy find. The question thus remains: Will Lebanon slide back into a civil war and is stability and a viable cabinet even a prospect?
Image 1 of 10: August. Turkey will hold its first ever presidential elections in 2014. With Prime Minister Erdogan’s three term limit set to expire in June 2015, people are wondering if the heavy-handed Erdogan will run for President amidst growing corruption scandals throughout the country.
In 2013, the Middle East saw more action than perhaps the last scene of a Rambo movie.
Last year, fighting between Syrian rebels and Assad’s regime forces exploded and spiralled to a new level of violent chaos. Peace talks between the Israeli and the Palestinians were revived. Iran held historic negotiations with major Western powers. And with over 7,000 deaths, Iraq witnessed the worst levels of bloodshed since the country’s 2007 sectarian clashes.
Now, all of this action (and more) has spilled over into 2014.
With Iran and Saudi Arabia stepping up their proxy war in Syria, can the new year hold out any prospects of peace for the country -- and for that matter, for the people of neighboring Lebanon as well? With Israel building settlements faster than you can say “illegal,” and with Palestinians fiercely drawing their red lines, are there any prospects of a lasting peace? What will happen in Tunisia and Egypt as the Arab Spring continues to play out? And, with Al Qaeda affiliated militants gaining greater control of Anbar province, will Iraqi forces be able to successfully strike back? Finally, with the war on terror becoming more of an ‘Arab’ issue than an American battle cry, as Lebanon came to learn at the close of last year, will the shattered Middle East be able to quash the scourge of Al Qaeda? Will the peace efforts of the international community ever pay off?
Perhaps such questions are enough to make a person’s head explode, but keep calm, and keep reading.
Short of answers or predictions, we’ve listed out the important Middle Eastern geopolitical events for the immediate future that you need to keep track of -- month by month.
Track this calendar. Follow the Middle East drama. And pray or meditate that peace may win.