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Reduced Dominance Is Predicted for U.S.
"We are just about alone in terms of the highly developed countries that will continue to have demographic growth sufficient to ensure continued economic growth," Fingar said.
Energy security will also become a major issue as India, China and other countries join the United States in seeking oil, gas and other sources for electricity. The Chinese get a good portion of their oil from Iran, as do many U.S. allies in Europe, limiting U.S. options on Iran. "So the turn-the-spigot-off kind of thing -- even if we could do it -- would be counterproductive."
Nearly absent from Fingar's survey was the topic of terrorism. Since the last such report, the intelligence community has projected a declining role for al-Qaeda, which was deemed likely to become "increasingly decentralized, evolving into an eclectic array of groups, cells, and individuals." Inspired by al-Qaeda, "regionally based groups, and individuals labeled simply as jihadists -- united by a common hatred of moderate regimes and the West -- are likely to conduct terrorist attacks," the 2004 document said.
The new assessment saw a continued threat from Iran, however. Fingar predicted steady progress in the Islamic republic's attempts to create enriched uranium, the essential fuel used in nuclear weapons and commercial power reactors. For now, however, there is no evidence that Iran has resumed work on building a weapon, Fingar said, echoing last year's landmark National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, which concluded that warhead-design work had halted in 2003.
He said Iran's ultimate decision on whether to build nuclear weapons depended on how its leaders viewed their "security requirement" -- whether they thought their government sufficiently safe in a region surrounded by traditional enemies.
Iranians are "more scared of their neighbors than many think they ought to be," Fingar said. But he noted that the United States had eliminated two of Iran's biggest enemies: Iraq's Saddam Hussein and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
"The United States took care of Iran's principal security threats," he said, "except for us, which the Iranians consider a mortal threat."