Forecasting the year ahead is even more of a mug's game than most journalism.
2006: Will Bin Laden be tracked down?
In December 2000, I remember, I confidently predicted that 2001 would be the year of Europe.
Instead, 11 September happened in New York and together with large numbers of the world's press I spent the rest of the year in Afghanistan.
So, on the strict understanding that this is only a party game and that we must expect that the unexpected will make any prophecies look foolish, here are a few of them.
2006 will be the year when...
...Even the most resistant scientist, industrialist and politician will have to accept that the evidence for the damage we are doing to our planet is overwhelming.
We will get closer to the point where the damage is irreversible, but it seems safe to assume that the United States, China, Brazil and India will continue to ignore the fact that they are among the worst of the culprits.
Nevertheless 2006 will see the rapid growth of a new industry, in which those countries which want to be part of the solution will trade credits for a cleaner world.
...It will take a disturbingly long time for a new government to be created in Iraq.
How long for a new government to be formed in Iraq?
As a result, as happened after January 2005, the insurgency will continue unabated, and pressure will grow in the United States for a pull-out of American forces. As November's mid-term elections approach in the US, greater efforts will be made to bring home significant numbers of troops.
This will merely show the insurgent leaders that they are on the right track, so there will be little incentive to ease the campaign of killing and bombing. Of all the predictions made for 2006, the safest is that thousands more entirely innocent people will be caught up in the violence.
...Iran will take its nuclear ambitions further, and its negotiations with the European countries will seem more and more pointless.
President Ahmadinejad will, however, start to lose favour in Iran, and the political opposition to him will grow.
Will Sharon see off all-comers in the 2006 elections?
...Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, will wipe out both the Labour Party and Likud, the party he left, in the forthcoming election.
He will then try for a long-term deal with the Palestinians, based on an Israeli pull-out from much of the West Bank. But the question of Jerusalem will make agreement impossible - at least for the rest of the year.
...The American press will finally get stuck into a serious examination of the Bush administration's business links.
The pressure on Vice-President Dick Cheney will grow a good deal heavier and more embarrassing. As a result, the standing of President George W Bush will fall even lower. The US economy, however, will continue to do well.
...The EU's woes and weaknesses will continue for most of the year.
Paris suffered widespread rioting in 2005
But the faint improvement in the German economy, already visible, will begin to lift the rest of the EU before the end of the year.
France, however, will grow weaker, and there will be more trouble between the police and young people of African and North African backgrounds. Next July and August may be a very difficult time in the towns and cities of France.
...Osama bin Laden will be tracked down, but will not be captured alive.
This is perhaps a pretty wild prediction, given his proven ability to rely on the help of tribal leaders along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, but a fugitive's luck does tend to run out and this may be the year when it happens to him.
It will, of course, make absolutely no difference whatever to the strength of violent Islamic fundamentalism, which will continue to grow in many countries, especially France.
...Saddam Hussein will be found guilty of the Dujail massacre - the case which he is currently being tried for.
What impact will a verdict in Saddam Hussein's trial have?
The Iraqi government, anxious to win a little more credibility for itself, will then start to try him for the gassing of the inhabitants of Halabja in 1988.
His appeal against his death sentence for Dujail will be dismissed, and (according to the Iraqi constitution) he will be executed 30 days later. His death, though traumatic, will have little effect on the level of violence in Iraq.
...England will beat Brazil in the final of the World Cup in Germany.
This is, however, not so much a prediction as a statement of pious, patriotic hope. Whether it is any more or less likely to happen than the other things I have listed will depend on a random series of chance events which are impossible to forecast. That's the pleasure and the frustration of writing about international affairs.
The comments published below reflect the balance of opinion received so far:
No mention of UK politics, so here goes. Blair under enormous pressure to step down and will announce he will do so in 2007. Brown will not be seen as the only contender to take over and will be further discredited by the media and other parties throughout the year. Kennedy will be ousted. Cameron will continue out-spinning the Labour machine.
Tim Charsley, Cirencester, UK
Some pretty bold predictions there. Two of the most interesting ones are the possibility of the capture of Bin Laden and England winning the world cup. The capture of Bin Laden will certainly lift the popularity ratings of the current American president. If any of these predictions do indeed come true, then 2006 is a year I welcome with open arms.
Mo Ham, UK
I would take that selection now, with a slightly more positive outcome for Iraq.
Derek Smith, Leeds, England
I do agree with most of Simpson's predictions (I really appreciate that, Simpson!) except the one on Sharon. I think Sharon will get too weak and fragile to do/achieve the things Simpson predicted he would do.
Abera W. Kidan, Addis Ababa
There are probably three predictions that still need to be made. The first is that at some point towards the end of 2006 the pressure on Tony Blair will grow so great from the mountain of compromising he will have to do that he will resign by Christmas 2006. As he will continue to appear weak to the strength of his back benchers and the back stabbing from Gordon Brown going on silently in the wings. The second major prediction will be that for all the new Tory policy forums the old in-fighting will resume and by the end of the year the conservatives will look like the conservative party we all loved to hate of the late 1990's. Third off I will probably say the most likely is that Sunderland will be relegated from the premier league at the end of this season I am sad to say!
Kevin Murphy, UK Newcastle
The NHS will suffer a severe funding and operational crisis as yet more money is sucked up by bureaucrats and as suppliers refuse to do business with the trusts because they are not being paid. Of course, it will be the elderly who suffer the most and horror stories will be splashed across the front pages.
Chris Powell, London, UK
You have not mentioned about the developments in Afghanistan, Pakistan and central Asian countries. I have often been following your inputs for the global developments as well as the regional ones.
Hashim Ammar, Bamyan, Afghanistan
I predict a lot of natural and man made disasters. The massive earthquake witnessed in Pakistan in 2005 will repeat somewhere along the same fault line. Even now the tremors have not stopped. The hurricanes will return in the US Gulf and East Asia. There will be a lot of trouble in Saudi Arabia which is more dangerous than Iran. Israel- Palestine issue will escalate due to undermining of PLA Govt by Hamas and other hard-line groups.
Imran Ahmed, Karachi, Pakistan
Saying that President Ahmadinejad will lose the support of his people is wishful thinking and highly irrelevant. Iran's nuclear ambitions is a one way street leading to a major war in the end.
Joe Teufel, Denton, Manchester
Yes, I fully agree with the predictions put forward by Mr Simpson and wonder, on the ecological side, if one other prediction made some 30 years ago by Monsignor Camara will finaly occur, i.e. that wars will ceased on earth the day all peoples will be facing a common enemy which could easily be the pollution. The catastrophes we have witnessed in 2005 could even be more deadly and disastrous forcing the reluctant countries to join the Tokyo round and effectively work on reducing gas emissions. Not only in France will we see problems arise from the illegal status of immigrants but also in countries like the US, Canada and many European states, namely Great Britain, Italy, etc. Also, religious tension will occur between fundamentalists and those who wish to maintain the separation between faith and state and not only in Arab countries but in the US, Canada and others were right-wingers and left-wingers will try to impose their life philosophy on others. And finally on the sports scene, let us hope that someday the World Cup will be the only instance when a country is fighting against another. Wishing you the best in 2006, especially the best of health.
Pierre Baril, Gatineau, Canada
1. Russia & Ukraine continue to clash over gas supplies; the UK starts to see shortages of energy for industry as European energy companies keep supplies for their domestic markets to replace shortfalls in Russian gas. This will be "the final nail in the Government's coffin" and Blair will leave the mess to Brown.
2. Water shortages in the Middle East lead to increased tensions between countries that extract water to the detriment of those lower down the rivers.
Iain, Forres, Moray
I think that's a fairly good summery of likely events.
One think I might add however is Russia becoming a more central economic and political power again as its role in future energy supplies hits home, and focus moves from the middle east to the Siberian steppes.
2006 will be the year that personal debt makes many people realise that there is just no need to buy more and more stuff. That, and ecological concerns, will mean that at long last Sustainability will become cool. There might be a trend for hanging onto old cars/clothes/household equipment and economic consequences as we happily readjust!
Anne, London UK
I would add that disputes over water will escalate in number and extent. These will centre on Turkey and its control of the Tigris and Euphrates as will affect Syria and Iraq.
China will continue to take on US debt and major companies. How long before they begin to control policy?
Jeremy Ross, London, UK
I predict that 2006 will be the year that Europe realizes that the Kyoto Protocol will never work and abandons mandatory caps on CO2 emissions. A new system will be adopted by all developed nations that involves a binding timetable for the adoption of new technology that will result in major reductions in emissions over 100 years.
Gil Pearson, Norway
WTO will not achieve its objectives. War on terrorism will continue. Osama Bin Laden will succeed to elude as ever. Initial euphoria on Indo-Pakistan talks on Kashmir will be fading away, but talks towards long term solution will go ahead. The President Bush will succumb to domestic pressure and call back majority of forces from Iraq. Iran and Syria will be put on economic sanctions. But it will prove a blunder if any predictable missile attack is launched against Iran. It will put a permanent seal on peace process in the Middle East.
Muhammad Arshad, Lahore, Pakistan
The EU declares that 365 days in a year is an odd number and decides to have a standard 400 instead. However all countries will be able to negotiate away from the standard to speed up or slow down their economies. Tony Blair announces that Britain will be happy to have just seven days, making a long time in politics last for the whole year. President Chirac states that Britain will have to pay double if it wishes to do this. Tony Blair agrees to pay double to achieve this monumental victory for common sense.
Steve Westover, Ystalyfera, Wales
Gordon Brown will not be Prime Minister.
Patrick, Honiton, UK
Agreeing with John Simpson especially with the last one needs a great leap of faith. If I could have a wish list this would be at the top - Israel pulls down the 'wall of shame'. Peace throughout the Middle East maybe would follow. To make this happen I hope that Sharon makes a full recovery so that John Simpson's prediction will happen.
Sandra Warde, Stockport
Millions die from h5n1 bird flu. No useful stocks of vaccine prepared in time and tamiflu mostly useless. Widespread chaos.
Maurice Coope, Bollington, UK
Oil wars are coming. The new arena will be East Africa and the horn of Africa where there are signs of new finds. This will be China v West and rest. Pakistan province of Balauchistan will strive for full independence and there will be turmoil.
S Kothari, Harrow, Middlesex
The Government will privately realise that it is bankrupt and cancel its spending plans in Defence, Education (Academy Schools) and Health (new hospitals). However to justify these cancellations they will swell the ranks of the Civil Service with yet more bureaucrats who will publish meaningless papers supporting the Government's decisions. The Inland Revenue meanwhile will misappropriate more of our money including the dividend from the cancellations but continue to tax middle England into poverty.
Peter Craig, Chesterton
I predict that 2006's weather will be even more violent than 2005's. Severe bushfires in Australia, record snowfalls in Canada, severe drought in South America and record temperatures in August in mainland Europe, followed by severe flash floods. Oh, and yet more severe hurricanes for the US.
Alex, Aylesbury, UK