By Stephen J. Sniegoski

[This article published in: Zeit-Fragen, October 2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

[In the first part of his analysis of current US foreign policy, the American historian Stephen Sniegoski emphasized that the “war against terror” pursued by the US government brings about the opposite of what was intended, an expansion of worldwide terrorism, particularly in the aftermath of the war against Iraq violating international law. This war was justified with lies. The secret services were brought in line so they provided the “information” that was politically desired. This war was an offensive war – according to the standards set by the victorious allied powers after the Second World War, one of the most heinous crimes against humanity. Sniegoski asks where the present war policy of the US government will lead – for the US and for the world. The violation of international law by the US has negative consequences for world peace that can hardly be estimated.]

American strategists may believe the hegemony of the US is very secure and cannot be questioned. This reflects strategic shortsightedness. The American attempt to dominate the Middle East inevitably produces a strong counter-reaction from other countries of the world. This seems to be almost an iron law of international relations: the balance of power politics that goes back at least to the Peloponnesian War. Even during the 1990s, other leading powers – Russia, China, France and India – repeatedly focused attention on the dangers of the superior American force and tried to create counter-weights to American hegemony. The American occupation of Iraq has activated fears of other countries that the very powerful United States could damage their interests.

America’s hegemonial foreign policy has led to a geo-strategic alliance between China and Russia. In October 2004 president Vladimir Putin visited China. During the visit, both China and Russia declared that Chinese-Russian relations were “better than ever”. Moscow and Beijing settled long-running border problems and agreed to hold a joint eight-day military maneuver in August 2005. This occurred in the Shandung peninsula on the yellow Sea 300 miles southeast of Beijing. 100,000 soldiers participated including ground troops, navy formations, marine troops, air combat forces and helicopter troops. These were the first large-scale military exercises between Russia and China since 1958. (1)

The joint maneuver also rounded out the fast-growing arms trade between Moscow and Beijing. China is Russia’s largest buyer of military armaments. According to one report, China in 2004 signed contracts on the delivery of more than $2 billion of Russian weapons. These weapons included warships, submarines, missile systems and aircraft. In the media, the idea was defended that the military exercises offered Russia the chance of showing its Tu-95 and Tu-22M long-range bombers that it hoped to sell to China. Both bombers can carry cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. (2)

Russia’s relationship to China is not limited to the weapons business. In the past five years, the non-military trade between Russia and China increased at an annual rate of nearly 20%. Russian energy exports to China are significant.

On July 2, 2005 a bilateral Russian-Chinese declaration on the “World Order in the 21st Century” was directed against the perceived American hegemony although the United States was not named explicitly in the document. Shortly after, this anti-hegemonial theme was repeated in a declaration of the “Shanghai Cooperation Organization”. This organization consisting of Central Asian states is led by Russia and China. Both declarations repeated the principles of mutual acknowledgment of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-aggression (in a non-aggression pact). In short, they demanded respect for the right of all countries to develop free from foreign interference. The “Shanghai Cooperation Organization” also forced the US to draw up a time-plan for the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan and in all Central Asia. (3)

That Russia and China began to support Iran, a land often named as the next target of an American attack, is very noteworthy. Russia and China see this support as a means for countering America’s striving for global hegemony. Russia helps Iran build its Busheer light-water reactor. Washington believes that the Busheer reactor will advance Teheran’s suspected nuclear weapon program.

Energy-hungry China has turned to Iran as an important supplier of oil and gas to cover its growing needs. In November 2004 China and Iran signed an energy agreement for 25 years. Its value is estimated at $100 billion for the next ten years. At the end of 2004, China was Iran’s largest oil customer. (4) Gigantic energy business runs counter to the American effort to isolate Iran and deny Iran funds for military armament.

Both China and Russia have supplied Iran with highly sophisticated weapons, particularly missiles and missile technology. In addition to anti-ship missiles like “silkworm,” China has sold Iran land-to-land cruise missiles and with Russia helped develop Iran’s long-range missiles. This help included the development of Iran’s Shihab 3 and Shihab 4 missiles of a range of approximately 1400 miles. As reported, Iran is intent on developing missiles with a range of 2100 miles. These missiles could reach Israel. In a report to Congress, the CIA declared that Chinese firms “have helped Iran approach its goal of becoming self-sufficient in ballistic missiles.” (5)

It has been repeatedly asserted that the US plans to attack Iran in 2005. Israel and America’s Israel lobby obviously press for this attack since Iran’s development of nuclear weapons would mean the end of Israel’s monopoly on nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Israel considers its monopoly on nuclear weapons in the region a fundamental pillar of its security. In addition, Israel wants to eliminate Iranian financing of different groups like the Hisbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine – both militant enemies of Israeli policy.

Philip Giraldi, a former secret service officer in the CIA, offered a provocative thesis about America’s possible attack on Iran in July 2005. Giraldi claimed the United States developed a plan for bombing presumed military targets in Iran with tactical nuclear weapons on order of Vic-president Dick Cheney. The targets include the nuclear power plants.

The American attack should take place like the September 11 attacks and does not depend on whether Iran has anything to do with terrorism. In short, the planned attack on Iran should happen analogous to the groundless attack on Iraq.

One asks about the reactions of Russia and China if the US carries out this attack. Russian and Chinese engineers and advisors in Iran could be killed. Such an attack could possibly lead to the fourth world war that the neo-conservatives envision. They do not expect an involvement of other nuclear powers. As history shows, many great conflagrations were kindled unintentionally. Most countries that instigate wars expect quick simple victories. Then reality often proves worse than expected.

Can America pull back from a permanent war or perhaps even a nuclear holocaust? The American people have grown weary of the war in Iraq. More and more voices urge a withdrawal. Different prominent groups – like the oil industry and the foreign policy establishment – have already spoken out against America’s war in the Middle East and are opposed to an attack on Iran.

Nevertheless many members of the foreign policy elite who are critical of American actions in Iraq are against a speedy withdrawal. If the US proves weak in Iraq, according to this way of thinking, it will lose credibility for exercising its desired role as the leading power of the world. A retreat of the US would force the superpower to the defensive in the rest of the world. Such a demonstration of weakness would provoke attacks on other parts of the American empire.

As long as the United States remains in Iraq, extension of the war is very likely. Incidents with neighboring Iran that naturally try to influence the political situation in Iraq are always possible. The continuing American presence in Iraq can provoke more terrorist attacks on Americans abroad and in the US. The pro-war lobby in the United States seeks to exploit these incidents to justify an attack on Iran.

President Bush’s recent statements do not suggest the US plans to withdraw from Iraq in the near future. The lack of readiness for withdrawal goes back to the influence of neo-conservatives and to the fact that the prestige of the government is at stake. The Bush administration does not want to simply abandon Iraq because this would amount to admitting that its whole policy failed miserably.

An American withdrawal from Iraq would require a political revolt in the United States. Support for Bush is falling in the population. The tragedy in New Orleans and along the Gulf coast caused by hurricane Katrina in September 2005 contributed to many Americans thinking the priorities of the Bush administration are wrong. The resources streaming into the Iraq war would be better used in meeting the pressing needs in their own country.

Politicians of the Republican Party (Bush’s party) who think in categories of political victories are no longer drawn to war as a means for winning elections. The democrats could win in the 2006 elections and form a congress against the war. However a large part of the democratic leadership – like senators Hilary Clinton and Joseph Biden – would then oppose a speedy withdrawal from Iraq.

The United States will probably remain and expand the war. Sometime or other the United States with its hegemonial claim will be defeated like all other hegemonial powers in the past. This will not happen without bloodshed and possibly irreparable damage to the international order.

I do not believe the American ruling class or the American people realize the catastrophe into which America’s war can lead. An analogy can be found in the great power alliances and hostilities before the First World War. At that time most educated Europeans did not expect a larger war or believed a war would only last a short time. The First World War proved to be an enormously destructive conflict that upset the social order in vast parts of Europe. One could say Europe never recovered from this dreadful event. On August 3, 1914 the British foreign minister Sir Edward Grey predicted very accurately that the great powers in Europe would be drawn into the war. “The lights go out all over Europe; we will not see them shine any more as long as we live.”

A comparable moment has not arrived yet. However without a dramatic and unexpected change of course, I fear the future could bring something similar to Lord Grey’s prophecy. Unlike 1914 the terrible destruction will deeply affect the whole world, not only one continent.