By Al Jazeera and agencies
November 21, 2008 "Al Jazeera" -- US economic and political power is set to decline over the next two decades and the world will grow more dangerous as the battle for scarce resources intensifies, a report by US intelligence agencies has predicted.
The current global financial crisis is the beginning of a weakening of the US dollar to the point where it becomes "first among equals", said the National Intelligence Council's (NIC) Global Trends 2025 report published on Thursday.
One of the main conclusions of the report is that "the unipolar world is over, [or] certainly will be by 2025", said Thomas Fingar, the NIC's deputy director, at a press conference in Washington DC.
China and India were likely to join the US at the top of a multipolar world and compete for influence, the report added.
Russia's future was less certain, but Iran, Turkey and Indonesia were also seen by the report as gaining power.
"The world of the near future will be subject to an increased likelihood of conflict over scarce resources, including food and water, and will be haunted by the persistence of rogue states and terrorist groups with greater access to nuclear weapons," said the report.
"Widening gaps in birth rates and wealth-to-poverty ratios, and the uneven impact of climate change, could further exacerbate tensions."
The reports are produced every five years and based on a global survey of experts by US intelligence analysts.
This year's was more pessimistic about US status than on previous occasions.
It also highlighted the risk of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East where a number of countries have considered developing or acquiring technologies that would be useful to make nuclear weapons.
"Over the next 15-20 years, reactions to the decisions Iran makes about its nuclear programme could cause a number of regional states to intensify these efforts and consider actively pursuing nuclear weapons," the report said.
It also said some African and South Asian states could wither away altogether and that criminal gangs could take over at least one state in central Europe.
The document also predicted that conflicts of food and water resources could increase but that new technology could help develop a replacement for oil-based technologies.
"Types of conflict we have not seen for a while - such as over resources - could reemerge," it said.
Global wealth was seen as shifting from the West to the energy-rich Gulf states and Russia, and to Asia, the rising centre of manufacturing and some service industries.
Global disparities between the rich and poor would grow, the report said, leaving Africa vulnerable to increased instability.
Rahul Mahajan, a political analyst and author, told Al Jazeera the report was too pessimistic in some areas.
"It seems very pessimistic about the future political prospects of countries in the Third World. It seems to pay little or no attention to indigenous or self-generated prospects for democratisation and greater representation."
Mahajan also said the report was "ridiculously optimistic" about the development of an alternative to oil as a fuel source.
"Its important to remember this is the same group of 16 intelligence agencies that got the Iraq WMD [weapons of mass destruction] analysis so strikingly wrong."