2011 was an awfully hard year to follow in terms of global news events. From crumbling empires in the Middle East to an epic tsunami/earthquake/nuclear emergency crisis in Japan to financial near-catastrophe in Europe to the assassination of the world’s number one terrorist, the year was filled to the brim with monumental events that will continue to shape our planet for years to come.

Herewith follows some of my predictions for what may happen in 2012 with respect to some key foreign countries.

*Syria will explode into a full-blown civil war. As with Libya, the opposition will eventually outnumber forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, boosted by increasing number of defectors from the state military jumping to the opposition. Assad will likely hang onto power as long as possible, but will probably cut his losses by seeking exile in perhaps the only country that will have him – Iran. If he fails to secure such a safe exile, Assad will probably be murdered by his own people, similar to the fate of Moammar Gaddafi. However, It is doubtful that western powers will become militarily involved in Syria, as they did in Libya.

*Sectarian violence will continue to plague Iraq as the Sunni Muslim minority seeks greater rights from the Shia-majority government and cabinet, without the presence of U.S. troops.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has already warned foreign powers not to meddle in Iraq’s internal affairs[ however, it would seem that (Sunni) Saudi Arabia and (Shia) Iran will likely try to influence their respective co-religionists in Iraq some way or another with the US out of the way.
Interestingly, the toppled dictator Saddam Hussein was himself a Sunni Muslim who dominated the Shia majority.

*Pakistan will face another troubling and trying year in 2012. The military and intelligence service, already embarrassed by the commando raid by U.S. soldiers which killed Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil without their knowledge, will seek to wrest power away from the civilian government.
Washington’s suspicions about the true loyalties of Pakistan’s military will only deepen – something India would probably capitalize on for its own strategic benefit.
Moreover, in the event that Pakistan seeks peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, that would further aggravate the U.S. and likely set off another round of cross-border attacks between Pakistan and Afghanistan,
Pakistan will become more isolated in the global community with (perhaps) China playing a greater diplomatic role who Islamabad. President Asif Zardari's hold on leadership looks shaky at best and it is doubtful that he has the stomach to resists any kind of pressure from the military to step down.

*One of the peripheral Euro Zone countries, most likely Greece, will exit the currency bloc next year. Given the immense opposition to government budget cuts and austerity programs by the Greek public, leaving the euro would be popular among the electorate and spare the economy from severe deflation.
The euro is simply too strong a currency for Greece to climb out of its recession and economic paralysis.
Of course, such a measure would face stiff opposition from France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, who warned of an even greater catastrophe if one euro zone member dropped out.

*Russia, facing high inflationary risks and growing discontent with Vladimir Putin’s heavy-handed rule, will likely endure a turbulent year in 2012. Much of the Russian public is outraged by Putin’s plans to remain in the Kremlin and have accused his United Russia Party of rigging elections. While President Dmitri Medvedev has proposed some modest electoral reforms, they are unlikely to appease the anti-government protesters. Expect more demonstrations, more moderate reforms and more troubled times in Russia.

*China’s economy will slow down, reflecting the grim global climate, as well as the ever-weakening domestic property market and prospects for declining exports.
In tandem with a faltering economic picture, the Chinese government will likely contend with increased social unrest over the lack of democracy; human rights violations; the widening wealth gap between the rural migrant poor and the affluent eastern coast; and the growing concerns over pollution and environmental threats to the environment.