In addition to the obvious trouble spots – Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – the countries that will preoccupy the Obama administration in the coming year are the PITEY nations: Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, and Yemen.

Pakistan and Yemen are both fighting extremists within their borders and, of greater concern to the U.S. and the West, extremists who come to their countries from abroad for training and motivation to become terrorists.

My forecast for Pakistan is to continue to muddle through and hold together, despite some trying moments. The battle against the Pakistan Taliban will go on in the frontier areas, and, unfortunately, suicide bombings throughout Pakistan are not likely to diminish.

In Yemen, the Sana’a government, with U.S. and UK help, should be able to contain the recent growth of Al Qaeda and prevent the open spaces of Yemen from becoming a second Waziristan. But Yemen’s other problems with the Houthis in the north and secessionists in the south will remain unresolved by year end.

Iran offers the most promising developments in decades. It is no longer a question of whether the regime in Tehran will fall but rather when it will fall. The Green Movement will likely evolve into an alternative political force capable of ruling Iran. The international discussion on Iran will shift from the nuclear file to transition issues relating to the coming of post-Khamenei Iran.

Turkey may offer some nasty surprises. It has begun in 2009 to move its foreign policy in a direction away from its pro-West orientation. It has been pulling back from overt cooperation with Israel and currying favor with Iran, Syria and Hamas. Whether this will evolve into some kind of Northern axis to include Iraq remains to be seen. It is running out of patience with Europe over the accession timetable, and is getting closer to Russia. What remains unclear is whether its policy is one of having good relations with its geographic neighbors including, for instance, Armenia, or whether Erdogan is moving the country ideologically away from secularism towards an increasingly less benign Islamism.

Egypt has begun 2010 playing a positive role in restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that have been bogged down for over a year. The big question for Egypt is the coming of a post-Hosni Mubarak government. If President Mubarak can hold on for another year, Egypt will remain a stable, moderate and pro-U.S. country anchoring the Middle East in relative peace. If, however, a succession crisis emerges this year while Iran is still under Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, the Middle East could be in for some turmoil.

Jonathan Paris is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center.  This essay is part of the 2010: A Watershed Year for South Asia web forum, a collection of expectations about the greater South Asia region in the coming year.