1. The Islam State (IS) caliphate collapses, leaving a major guerilla-extortion operation consisting of hardcore, increasingly indigenous fighters in the Sunni region. I was surprised when IS, instead of stopping to take a breath, consolidate its hold on Sunni Iraq and Syria, and learn to govern, decided to continue to push south to take Baghdad and north into Kurdish turf. It had obviously won too much, too quickly, which made them forget about such things as home court advantage, US air power, and, more long term, Iran. The outcome was a loss of dedicated facilities and logistic capabilities and a decline in the ability to conduct visible operations. All this accompanies the loss of momentum, which, together with the decline in logistic capabilities, should cut down seriously on the inflow of foreign fighters. I see a relatively short transition accelerated by infighting and purges. Rule of thumb for uprisings: Take over, or go criminal. Do I really think that this will happen this year? Dunno. I’m laying down my bet now so I won’t have to bandwagon later, and I’ll just go double or nothing with my prediction if it doesn’t work out immediately.
2. Prime Minister Abe does not go to Yasukuni Shrine. I know, I said this before and got it wrong. But circumstances have changed. First, on the personal level, not going at all is a far greater transgression than not going at all. Geopolitical considerations and the pleas of his chief cabinet secretary and foreign minister now have a better chance of prevailing. Second, the US authorities registered their displeasure, reminding the Abe administration of the harm to the bilateral alliance with an administration deeply wary of unsolicited distractions. Third, he did not go in 2014, after a former prime minister (Yasuo Fukuda), the LDP vice president (Masahiko Komura), and the LDP secretary-general (Sadakazu Tanigaki) put their reputations on the line. Fourth, Xi Jinping did provide a grimace-and-greet, and Park Geun-hye did offer to host what is supposed to be a Japan-China-South Korea trilateral summit last month (which Xi kicked forward, to make sure Abe wouldn’t go to Yasukuni and show everyone who was calling the shots).
3. And to repeat, Goshi Hosono wins the DPJ Representative election in a runoff against Akira Nagatsuma. If you are looking for a long-term alternative to the LDP, hope that Hosono goes against his instincts, stops trying to please everybody, and instead knocks a few heads—for starters, find a way to take Koshiishi and the whole upper house clique down a notch—in mapping out a plausible alternative to Abenomics.