Where Is the World’s No. 1 Superpower Now?

President George W. Bush may think he’s got plenty on his plate after the Nov. 7, 2006 midterm elections which cost his Republican Party majority control of Congress, largely because of his Iraq policy.

A fresh intelligence report placed on his desk this week shows that his vexations are not over. The report discloses strong geo-strategic currents that challenge the rating awarded America after the Soviet empire’s fall as the world’s single superpower.

Its writers count half a dozen separate events brought together by the forces determined to take America down a notch or two.

These events will be touched on in the next two articles:


1. Rapidly expanding trade between China and Iran


This trade, which goes beyond energy, passed the US$10 billion mark in 2005 and may have doubled this year. Both nations have pulled on the boots of world giants and are striding towards their goals of long-term domination of Central Asia, the Persian Gulf region and the Middle East.

Iran’s new perception of self is evident in the transcripts of conversations held recently in Europe by a group of high Iranian officials and the director of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei.

Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator and national security adviser, Ali Larijani, was the leading spokesman. Arrogance suffuses his arguments against bowing to US pressure for abandoning uranium enrichment.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s offers exclusive highlights from those conversations:

– Two centuries of Western hegemony in Asia are at an end.

– It is about to be replaced by the strategic partnership of China and Iran.

– A unique opportunity is at hand which Iran must grasp: The rulers of China have not just chosen Iran as their most important strategic ally, but have extended to the Islamic Republic, its army, economy and culture the respect it deserves as a world civilization in its own right and on a par with China.

Iran’s leaders are powerfully impressed with Beijing’s attitude and have come to regard their bilateral relationship as an unbreakable bond and doorway to a bigger and brighter future. In this context, the threat of UN sanctions is a non-starter.

D. ElBaradei heard the Iranian official declare that the door to this partnership of equals was in fact opened by the United States. For hundreds of years, he said, Russia had blocked Iran’s access to Central Asia. The downfall of the Soviet empire, engineered by the United States in the Cold war, removed this barrier. Tehran thus gained its first direct land route to Beijing.

E. Furthermore, US policy on Afghanistan from the mid-1980s until the present was the most powerful catalyst for raising Sino-Iranian relations to their present level.

The Americans first drove the Red Army out of Kabul, then turned their backs on their ties with the world Jihadist movement whose fighters had joined the fight against the Russians. The mujahiddin were left high and dry – albeit with the weapons provided for the anti-Russian campaign.

Thirteen years went by and, in 2001, after the 9/11 al Qaeda attacks on America, the US led the invasion of Afghanistan, setting up rear bases in Central Asia. Russia, the former enemy, assented to and backed the US-led campaign in Afghanistan, contributing rapid intervention armed forces and Uzbek commandoes to spearhead the fighting in the north. At that point, the Chinese decided that the only way to halt America’s domination of Central Asia, was to circumvent it with a long-term strategic partnership with Iran.

F. Two years later, in 2003, the United States invaded Iraq, a step which gave Iran the chance to gain on two tracks:

The Chinese Track:

When Iraqi oil resources came under American control, the Chinese were convinced that building ties with Iran had become necessary to offset US supremacy. That was when Beijing began selling the Islamic republic advanced military and nuclear technology. After opting for this course, China could no longer object to North Korea resuming its nuclear cooperation with Iran.

The Shiite Muslim Track:

Iraq under US domination and the rising Shiite star in Baghdad gave the ayatollahs of Tehran their first direct and open channels to the Shiite communities of Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates.


2.      An Iranian military-nuclear deputation in Pyongyang


In late September, twelve days before North Korea’s first nuclear test on Oct. 9, US intelligence learned that an Iranian military delegation was visiting Pyongyang, made up of Iranian nuclear and missile experts.

The visitors toured the Yongbyon reactor and the country’s Punggye-ri testing site in the far north amid preparations for the coming test. Some US officials received the impression that the Iranians had been clued in on some of North Korea’s secret preparations for the test. If true, this would point to three developments in North Korean-Iranian relations:

First, China was in on the visit, but ignored it, preferring Pyongyang to carry the can as Iran’s nuclear partner rather than Beijing.

Second, China must also have known about the coming North Korean nuclear weapons test and only pretended to have been taken unawares by Pyongyang’s ten-minute advance notice.

Third, North Korea not only agreed to open its most secret nuclear installations to Iranian scrutiny, but is also willing to instruct Iranian scientists and technicians in Pyongyang or on their home ground on how to set up and execute a nuclear weapons test.

Iran’s utter self-confidence in its ability to carry through its nuclear aspirations, hinging heavily on the certainty of Sino-North Korean assistance, was transmitted to the UN nuclear watchdog director in their conversations. It added an extra layer of pride to a speech delivered by Iran’s supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Wednesday, Nov. 11.

He thundered that his country would continue to acquire nuclear technology and challenged what he called “Western fabrications.”

Speaking to an audience of many thousands in Semnan, 155 miles east of Tehran, he said that most countries believe “nuclear energy should be taken away from the hands of a few powers,” and went on: “The Americans open their mouths and close their eyes and say whatever they want, such as: the world opposes enrichment,” said Khamenei, referring to the program which the UN Security Council has called on Iran to stop.

“No,” Khameni declared. “It is you (America) who do not know and do not see the world.”

Iranian leader was also moved to such provocations by a discovery.

Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 4 and 5, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report Tehran was surprised to hear from Iranian spy planes and surveillance vessels that the USS Enterprise task force had exited the Red Sea and Mediterranean and was making tracks for the Atlantic and that, furthermore, the USS Iwo Jima, which put into the Persian Gulf in mid-October was gone just as suddenly.

US Fifth Fleet headquartered in Bahrain had been drawn down to a single task force the USS Eisenhower. This led Khamenei to conclude that the impending threat of an American attack on the eve of their midterm election had blown over for the time being.

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