American Hegemony: India and Iran in the New World Order

Updated November 24 & 25 below.
Lord Acton once implored us to remember a simple mantra:

Where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Since its inception, American foreign policy has essentially been to expand the sphere of American dominance at whatever cost is necessary. It began with simple expansion out along the American continent, slaughtering the inhabitants along the way. In 1899 President McKinley issued the "Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation" announcing Americas intention to set up its own version of the British Empire. This policy continued through the years of "Wilsonian Idealism" and accelerated after World War II, reaching its climax under the guise of "Humanitarian Intervention" under Clinton. Each step along the way has seen an increase in the scope of Americas hegemonic ambitions, and each time the sphere of influence was expanded. First it was just the North American continent, then nearby islands, Central and South America, and finally expanding through the Middle and Far East.

Americas two most recent conquests, Afghanistan and Iraq, are becoming indicators that the time of American Empire may be coming to an end. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States remained as the sole world superpower, excersising its will with reckless abandon. However, the extension - and expansion upon - these policies by George Bush Junior has polarised the world in a very different way. The unipolar order of The United States and everybody else is giving way under the paralysing weight of American ambitions of dominance. What is emerging is a multipolar order, with the United States being put in a position of being unable to exert its influence at will, and instead having to increasingly accept foreign influence and input in world affairs.

The end of America's reign as the worlds sole superpower, and the absolute corruption that such power brings along, should be welcomed and encouraged by people the world over. As important policies in America are seldom even discussed (The Kyoto Protocols, Nuclear Disarmarment, Human Rights), and the US is using its global power to marginalise such important doctrines as those set forth by the Geneva Conventions, any move away from the absolutely corrupting Absolute Power given to American interests should be heralded as a positive move by anyone concerned about the safety and well being of our species as a whole.

Lynchpin: India

The United States Senate last week passed (by a vote of 85 to 12) a measure approving the transfer of Nuclear technology, equipment, and fuel to India. Doing so required that an exception be made to the Atomic Energy Act, which specifically forbids the sale of nuclear materials to countries that are non-signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The important reasoning behind this was spelled out in a recent article in The New York Times which stated that the vote was "expressing that a goal of nurturing India as an ally outweighed concerns over the risks of spreading nuclear skills and bomb-making materials." Such an agreement also brings to an end the 30 year old doctrine prohibiting the transfer by the United States of Nuclear reactor components and fuel to other countries.

Today, Chinese Premier Hu Jintao is in India on a visit meant to increase bilateral ties between the two countries. The China Daily reports that
As the first Chinese president to visit the country in a decade, Hu is expected to work with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to "fill in the specifics" in the strategic partnership, according to Sun Yuxi, Chinese ambassador to India.

China and India announced the establishment of their strategic partnership for peace and prosperity last April in a joint statement signed by Premier Wen Jiabao and Singh.

Hu's talks with Singh today will iron out the details for enhancing this partnership in political, economic, military, cultural, scientific, technological and educational spheres, Sun revealed in a group interview last Friday with Chinese journalists at his residence.

Meanwhile, The Boston Globe reports that this meeting between Chinese and Indian premieres is likely to lead to a Nuclear arrangement being ironed out between those two countries as well, with China adding their bid for India to the one already on the table from the US.
If China and India enter into a nuclear cooperation agreement, it will mark a new stage in the increasing competition between China and the United States for India's friendship.

President Bush branded China a "strategic competitor" as soon as he came to office in 2001. Since India's burgeoning economy and muscular military can tip the balance of power in Asia, over the last year the United States and China have been trying to build closer ties with India, said Sun Shihai, deputy director of the Institute for Asia Pacific Studies at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

"The US always said it wants to use India to balance China," Sun said. "China feels it needs to engage India more [and] develop some kind of Russia-China-India cooperation" that can balance US hegemony. "So there is some kind of competition happening."

The White House's July 2005 decision to enter into civilian nuclear cooperation was widely seen as a critical step in attracting India into the US orbit.

The worrysome emergence of spheres of influence outside of US control, specifically Russia and China (with partnerships growing to include Latin America, India, Iran and Pakistan), has US planners on their heels, of which the US offer of Nuclear technology to India is merely a byproduct.

The most specific worry for US planners is the duo of China and Russia extending their influence beyond the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and including countries in Latin America (Brazil, Venezuela) and such strategic heavyweights as India, Pakistan, and Iran. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, the US has aggressively been trying to expand NATO influence as far east as possible, encompassing many former Warsaw Pact nations. This is where the importance of India comes into play.

Were India to join a strategic alliance with China and Russia, they would throw their sizeable population (over 1 Billion people, the 2nd most populous nation on the planet behind China and much larger than the US with 300 Million) and strategic central-asia location (between China and another country the SCO has been courting, Pakistan) into the already economically- and militarily- hefty China/Russia partnership. Moves have already been made in increasing cooperation between China and India with trade set to exceed $20billion (US) this year, exceeding the target set by the two governments for 2008. There is also talk of a bilateral free trade agreement between the two countries, which could enable an increase in the already strong rate of general economic growth in the region.

There are, of course, a couple of sticking points in the China-India relationship, which the US is trying to take advantage of while it still has the opportunity. These include Chinese cooperation with India's foe Pakistan, the asylum of the Dali Lama from Tibet in India, and the China/India border. The border was in fact originally drawn by the British government near the end of their colonial reign, and has not been agreed upon by China or India. In the heat of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Nikita Kruschev is rumored to have encouraged Chairman Mao to go ahead and attack India over their disputed border, which India accepts but China views as claiming for India 90,000sq-km of Chinese territory. This act set in motion stronger ties between the US and India, which continue to this day; for instance, including a ten year mutual protection pact between the two countries currently in effect.

However, steps have also been taken in recent years to increase military cooperation between China and India, another factor worrying to US planners who hedge their bets on permanent US military dominance. This cooperation is being manifested in the areas of economics and defense, mainstays in the US's exertion of dominance in world affairs.

The value of courting India away from China/Russia is not lost on analysts, with such influential writers as Henry Kissinger and Noam Chomsky making their opinions heard on the subject. A regional economic and military alliance comprising Russia, China, and India, would have severe implications for continued American dominance.

Battleground: Iran

Successful defiance of American hegemonic interests is not undertaken lightly. However, the failed US invasion and occupation of Iraq has put the United States in its weakest position in decades, leaving open the opportunity for other power centres to assert their influence.

Previous attempts at defiance have led to serious consequences for countries such as Cuba, which suffered at the hands of an American economic strangulation since the overthrow of the US-backed Batista regime. Overt actions have been taken against others guilty of defiance in the past, such as many Latin American countries, North Korea, Vietnam, Sudan, and the recent US-sponsored coup attempt in Venezuela to oust the elected president Hugo Chavez.

Historically, Russia and/or China have consistantly fought the US on different battlegrounds, with Mao's troops fighting American troops in both North Korea and Vietnam (in the latter, the 100,000 strong Chinese forces even went so far as to don their Chinese military uniforms), the placement of Russian Nukes in Cuba, American Nukes in Turkey, and so on.

The re-emergence of Russia and China as global players is today being showcased in Iran. What was originally a confrontation strictly between France (proportedly representing the EU, although EU polls at the time indicated that the EU population was more worried about US militarism than Iran's nuclear program) and Iran has become a standoff between the East (Russia/China) and West (US/UK). Backed by these two UN Security Council Veto holders, Iran has refused to back down in front of US pressure regarding their nuclear program. Simultaneously, Iran is stepping to the forefront of one of the major issues of the day, the civil war raging in Iraq.

After two decades of diplomacy suspension, Iran's close ally Syria and American occupied Iraq are resuming diplomatic relations. Syria, branded by George Bush Jr. as a member of the "axis of evil" along with Iran and North Korea, broke ties with Iraq in 1982 in reaction to the US-backed war against their partner Iran; increasing ties between Syria and the US-installed regime of Malaki (and Talabani) could only be as surprising to their US masters as Malakis denunciation of Israel's US-backed murderous escapades in Lebanon and Palestine over the past few months.

Even more surprising for the US is the acceptance of the offer of a state visit to Iran by Talabani this weekend, where the major issue is likely to be the civil war raging in Iraq (it is often referred to in the western media as the "security situation" but to a rational observer 100 sectarian murders a day is beyond a simple "security situation"). This is on the heels of a call by Tehran for a summit with Iraqi and Syrian leaders to discuss Iraqs deep seeded problems.

The idea of such a summit occuring is so worrysome to the US that the US Embassy immediately issued a warning to the Iraqi government to stay away from Iran and Syria, and The US Propaganda machine immediately issued a report that such a summit would never happen.

Why should America be so worried about Iranian influence on Iraq? It is generally accepted by those who look beyond Fox News Headlines that the US's intention was to impose a client regime on Iraq, opening up for US businesses "economic opportunities," in other words unfettered access to Iraqs vast reserves of natural resources, and a permanent US presence in the center of the resource-blessed region. Iran, on the other hand, wholeheartedly rejects the idea of any American and British influence in the region. An op-ed in the Iran Daily reflects this:
Many Arabs and Muslims I talked to at the weekend about his new round of irresponsible statements about Iran were of the opinion that Blair could be suffering from a fresh bout of dementia.

In a television interview, the Labour boss known to many peace lovers in and outside Britain as “Tony Bliar“, “Phoney Tony“ and “King of Spin“, publicly admitted that the war he jointly engineered with George Bush was a “disaster.“
However, that admission of defeat did not stop him from blaming Tehran for all that has been going very wrong in occupied Iraq as a direct result of the Bush-Blair arrogance.
He said he had a message for Tehran and Damascus: “If you are prepared to be a part of the solution, there is a partnership available to you.“

We cannot speak for the leadership in Syria, nor do we know if or when Bashar Assad proposed any mechanism to help bring peace to the volatile Middle East. As far as Tehran is concerned, Blair, who will be remembered by posterity as a pro-war ruler obsessed with Israeli security and interests, had the wrong address once again. Those who decide foreign policy in our country do not recall ever wanting to be partners with killers of innocent Muslims like Blair or Bush.

Having said that, it deserves mention that the UK prime minister who dragged his country into the bottomless quagmire in Iraq and Afghanistan, is simply not in a position to make offers or speak on behalf of the people in our part of the world. One need not be a political scientist to understand that there is not one single country in the Muslim-Arab world that wants even impartial western rulers to speak on its behalf.

Now, how can Iran get away with such blatant disobedience of American power? The answer lies, once again, in the East. Iran's ties with Russia and China are consistantly played down in the western media in favor of a portrayal of Iran as a country on the verge of aquiring nuclear weapons and intent on using them to commit genocide against Israel. However, if we look back at the timeline of the most recent developments in the confrontation we see other important factors. Iran's military is being supplied by the Chinese (who in turn were supplied by Russia), and their military capabilities were most recently demonstrated in excersises they carried out in nearly half of their provinces and the Persian Gulf. This chinese-supplied military capability is widely seen as a deterrant to the American military option. Additionally, Iran has secured a trade partnership with Russia (and, in turn, the SCO) that comprises the worlds largest supply of Natural Gas and one of the top five supplies of crude oil, and it is Russia (not Iran) that is building in Iran a new state-of-the-art nuclear reactor.

Strategically, Iran is in an ideal position to all but cut off the supply of Middle East oil to the West, while allowing oil supply to continue through pipelines to their allies in the East. Iran's close ties with China and Russia are likely to prevent the US taking any more aggressive stance against the country than they already have, for economic reasons I have explained before:
Another dangerous economic trend is the steady decline in value of the US Dollar. Against the Euro it has dropped by more than a third of its value over the past five years. America's aggressive foreign policy isn't helping the situation much either, as the countries that were subsidising the US's enormous budget deficit by (as required by the IMF) purchasing US government bonds as collateral to insure their own currencies, such as many South American, Asian, and "Old Europe" countries, are looking to withdraw from their IMF obligations and take their money elsewhere in response to what they rightly perceive as American Imperialism.

Perhaps more worrysome for the American economy is the fact that major energy-commodity trading countries, which have been propping up the value of the dollar since the seventies as it is the major trading currency for oil, are also responding to american imperialism with a desire to switch to other currencies as their oil buying and selling currency. Most notable would be China, which holds the largest foreign reserve of US dollars on the planet, and which has begun serious discussions this year to switch to Euros as its oil buying currency. That would lead their main oil supplier Iran, which the US has been bullying recently, to switch to Euros as well (for oil), and could lead other OPEC countries to follow suit. This would lead to a rapid decline in the value of the already weak dollar, and skyrocketing inflation in America.

The end result is that the US, bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and facing strong eastern opposition, is not currently in any position to enforce their hegemony.

Future Implications

Once an empire enters into decline, history tells us that the end result is consistantly terminal to their ambitions of dominance. Rome, Greece, Persia, the Ottomans, Britain; each have fallen by the wayside as their policies led to their downfall. What is emerging now is a multipolar order (rather than a unipolar order under US control) with the US sharing its global power with China and Russia, India (whom America is having to attempt to woo away from the other emerging powers), and a Latin America being led by Democratic Venezuela in partnership with defiant Cuba and economically strong Brazil, and with close ties to the strategic alliance of Russia and China in the East.

The indications of the demise of America as the worlds sole dominant superpower can only be welcomed by those who care about the future of our civilisation. The absolute power and absolute corruption that a system of American Hegemony has brought along is far from the best interests of the people, and it will be the people who benefit from moving away from the current Status Quo.

cross posted at Daily Kos and European Tribune.
Update: November 24, 2006

The India Daily reports today that China will be soon announcing its full support for India to be granted a permanent UN Security Council seat. This is different from the recent Kofi Annan proposal of six semi-permanent non-veto holding seats.
China opposes Japan and favors India just to make sure Western dominance of in UN Security Council is challenged. Japan is seen as an American satellite. Brazil is a mixed bag. Though India is tending towards Japan’s posture, most likely Indian people will not accept American policies as their own.

We should also bear in mind that the US does not want to see a peaceful and prosperous relationship between India and Pakistan, as it might lead to a strengthening of the Asian bloc that is emerging as a counterbalance to American hegemony. China sees this, and on Hu Jintao's recent visit he was quoted as saying china "welcomes and supports" improved relations and would like to take a "constructive role" in advancing the interests of Asian peace. However, he stopped short of offering to directly mediate talks. I get the impression that India and Pakistan, although still succeptable to mutual pervading animosity, are aware of the positive ramifications of normalisation and strengthening of relations. This would be an important step in the emergence of a South Asian bloc to counterbalance current American hegemonic interests.
Update November 25

As previously mentioned, China supplies much of Iran's defensive military capabilities. As Xinhua (China's State-Run news agency) is reporting today Russia is also supplying defensive military capabilities to Iran.

MOSCOW, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- Russia has begun delivering air defense systems Tor-M1 to Iran within the framework of an earlier signed agreement, Russian news agencies reported on Friday.

"The deliveries of Tor-M1 to Iran have begun. The first systems have been delivered to Iran," a source in Russia's military and intestinal complex was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying, adding the Iranian soldiers who will operate the systems were trained in Russia.

"Earlier Russian officials stated that Iran is a sovereign state, a member of the UN and League of Arab States, and no international sanctions prohibiting it from receiving defensive arms have been imposed," the arms-exporting company Rosoboronexport said.

One lesson that States who find themselves on the US's hit list have learned from Iraq and Afghanistan is that the likelyhood of attack increases as military power decreases. Both Iraq and Afghanistan had little or no military capabilities, which made them easy targets for the militaristic Bush administration.

One byproduct of these invasions is that it has sparked a mini arms race, with countries that the US comes out against scrambling to build up a military deterrant, as evidenced by Iran's increasing purchase of weapons from the east and North Koreas test of a nuclear bomb some weeks back, seen as a "deterrant to US designs" in the words of N. Chomsky.

China and Russia are eager to provide such a deterrant to countries who are willing to offer to them their strategic value, such as Iran, while simultaneously condemning measures that are viewed as "provoking" the United States, such as N. Koreas missile and nuke tests.

It should also be noticed how Russia is working to build an energy consortium which "runs counter to and increasingly circumvents the established liberal US-backed global oil market denominated in US dollars," often (as seen by their recent stance with Georgia) in a very aggressive and (dare I say) Western Capitalist manner.

Also, it will be interesting to see how the how the cold-war-relic Robert Gates, anti-Chinese Nancy Pelosi, and anti-Russian Tom Lantos (incoming Chairman, House Committee on International Relations) affect the re-emerging competitive nature of the relationship between East and West. The Asia Times has a thoughtful analysis on the subject.

1 comment:

misneach said...

The complex relationships between Iran, Pakistan, India, China and Russia offer a plethora of interesting news items.

Just a couple that I noticed recently:

Pakistan's Daily Times reporting on some less-publicised deals ironed out between them and China recently, antagonistically referring to "India's stonewalling" of China over logistics issues.

China's Global Strategy from The Daily Times, Pakistan (again), editorially trying to convey the message that "They like us better!" to India.

US State Department Report on Indian intransigence regarding Iran.