What will be the big story of 2014?

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A number of the BBC's experts have been asked to give their predictions on which stories to follow. You can listen to the BBC experts making more predictions on Radio 4 on Friday 3 January at 20:02 GMT. You can read what they predicted for 2013 here.

The fight for suburbs of Damascus

Lyse Doucet, chief international correspondent

As 2013 drew to a close, Syrian government forces were assaulting suburbs around the capital Damascus, trying to defeat rebel forces and destroy their strongholds in advance of talks set for 22 January.

The balance of forces on the rim of Damascus will shape opposition threats to President Bashar Assad's centre of power and roads leading from Damascus which are key supply lines for both sides and routes to Mr Assad's ancestral heartland on the coast.

This will also be a story of a shocking humanitarian crisis. Many rebel-controlled suburbs have been cut off from aid for months, with alarming reports of growing starvation among trapped civilians. How long can they survive? Will forces, on all sides, do more to spare civilians?


Mark Mardell, North America editor

One of the biggest stories of 2014 will be how Obamacare, as the affordable care act is known, pans out in practice. It is a huge change for many Americans - forcing them to take out private health insurance or face a fine - with big knock on effects.

How history will judge the president's legacy - domestically at any rate - depends on what happens to his most important law, which is already in fierce trouble.

In Democratic states that have put some political oomph behind selling it, it will be a big success.

In Republican states, where the politicians won't touch it with a barge pole, won't help people sign up, won't take government money to expand care for the poor, it will be a whopping and costly failure. It will deepen the political divide and resentment that runs through America - it is not just in Washington that they can't agree.

Wearable technology

Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent

After several years of incremental change - better, faster, cheaper smartphones and tablet computers - we are due for another great leap forward.

The best bet is that it will come in the shape of wearable technology, new devices that feed our desires to monitor our health and activities while being connected to the internet at all times.

The standout product could be Google Glass, or maybe Apple's elusive iWatch will finally make an appearance.

The groundbreaking ideas, however, may not come from big companies but the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. This is where mad inventors and ambitious entrepreneurs now come to raise money - and whether it's wearable technology or some other trend, you're likely to spot it here first.

Improved relations with Iran

James Robbins, diplomatic correspondent

Every year can feel like "the year of Iran", but 2014 does offer the prospect of a nuclear thaw in relations with the outside world.

This process will continue much more smoothly than the rocky path to partial breakthrough in 2013 might suggest, and that makes Iran's President Hassan Rouhani the man to watch in 2014.

In reality, of course, there are two men to watch. Behind the president, it is the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who will continue to decide how far to take compromise with the key UN and European powers.

That said, the "noises off" could still drown out dialogue between the main actors. Those loud, sceptical voices - justified or not - include powerful politicians in the US Congress, as well as Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not to mention nationalist hardliners in Iran itself. So the potential for upset must still be reckoned considerable.

The reopening of the Mauritshuis Museum

Will Gompertz, arts editor

Over the past 18 months, a world tour has been taking place that makes those undertaken by The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen seem like sideshow.

Millions of people from Kobe in Japan to Atlanta in Georgia have rocked up to see a group of superstars quite unlike any other.

The stars in questions are paintings, or more specifically, some of the greatest masterpieces ever produced. Among their number is Jan Steen's As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young and The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius (the name and plot device for Donna Tartt's 2013 novel).

But the real showstopper, the beautiful woman who has fronted the entire tour, is Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, perhaps second only to Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa as the most famous work of art in the world.

On 27 June 2014, she and the other superstars return home to The Hague where they will rejoin the many other masterpieces at the Mauritshuis Museum, which is reopening after having been closed during 2013 for refurbishment.

The unveiling of this renovated 17th century Dutch palace, together with a new wing on an adjacent site that is reached by a light-filled underground tunnel, is my culture pick of 2014.

Phasing out of US cash injections

Linda Yueh, chief business correspondent

There will be no ripples at all across global markets in the aftermath of the US Federal Reserve "taper", as cheap cash injections start to be trimmed back - and will eventually end, probably next year.

Emerging economies in particular will weather the departure of cash with nary a flutter. This is because countries around the world heard the warning shot from Chairman Ben Bernanke back in May and prepared their economies accordingly for when it finally happened in December.

The so-called Fragile Five of Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Turkey have prepared for the inevitable end of the era of cheap money and adjusted well. Plus, they all have elections in 2014 that will probably proceed smoothly - no surprises, only seamless successions.