Tuesday 13 April 2010

Mr Najib Goes To Washington

Go to KL in the day time and you will see hundreds of Middle Eastern nationals thronging the streets and shopping malls. Jalan Bukit Bintang in the late night is transformed into Arab Street with street vendors selling all sorts of ware catered to the taste of Middle Eastern prospects.

The thousands of them can't just be tourists on temporary sojorn in Malaysia can they? A quick survey at the hundreds of condominiums and apartments in KL will confirm that many of them are from Iran and are in Malaysia for the medium to long haul. Thousands are students while many are actually working here. I have met some who say they have run away from Ahmadinejad's Iran yet most are here at the encouragement of their own government and because they find Malaysia conducive and welcomes them with "open arms".

This "open door" policy to Iranians probably caused the kind of confusion amongst our civil servants that one seemingly clueless clown, Mohd Arshad Manzoor Hussain, a 35-year diplomatic veteran got sacked for voting against UN IAEA proposed sanctions on Iran.

Apparently, Malaysia’s IAEA mission had been instructed to vote in line with the position of the Non-Aligned Movement of developing nations, which has historically opposed Western-driven international actions to isolate Iran, a fellow member of NAM. When the vote was held, Arshad was said to be surprised to see NAM members Egypt, Pakistan and South Africa abstain, and India vote “yes”. It seemed Arshad had no time to double-check policy with his capital, and so voted against as originally instructed. He probably should have abstained but emotions may have got the better of him. In any case, this speaks wonders for Malaysia's management of its foreign policy.

Still, the bottom line is, Malaysia has good ties with Iran. As recent as 31st March, Bernama reported:
"Iranian Envoy Looking Forward To A Stronger Relationship

By Faridah Abd Rashid

KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 (Bernama) -- Newly-appointed Iranian ambassador to Malaysia Prof Dr Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi is looking forward to a stronger relationship between Iran and Malaysia, which could lead to both countries being more influential in the Islamic world and globally.

Both being Muslim countries, Iran and Malaysia had always worked hand-in-hand in terms of ideas relating to international issues affecting the Muslim world and global issues at large, said the envoy who received his credentials from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong last week. Read more here...  
Fast forward almost 2 weeks and we find Mr. Najib in Washington. Read the article below from the Bangkok Post today headlined, "US, Malaysia take anti-Iran stance".
Although, the IAEA fiasco already showed Malaysia's official stand why do I still get the feeling that someone's balls is in another person's hands and they are not by any chance being pleasureably fondled? Would we have voluntarily supported the vote to sanction? Bear in mind that Mohd Arshad was a 35-year diplomatic veteran.
Is this what happens when one carries too much baggage to Washington? Today we can sell the Iranians, tomorrow can we be forced to sell our souls? Or do we have a soul left? 
This is in today's Bangkok Post:
US, Malaysia take anti-Iran stance

Published: 13/04/2010 at 03:48 AM
Online news: Breakingnews

WASHINGTON : Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak agreed in talks with US President Barack Obama on Monday that the global community should send a "clear signal" to Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.

The United States is leading an effort to toughen sanctions within weeks on Iran over its nuclear programme, which the United States and allies say is aimed at producing weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

Obama and Najib met ahead of the start of a landmark 47-nation summit in Washington on Monday aimed at depriving terror groups of nuclear weapons, among other objectives.

"The President and the Prime Minister agreed on the importance of Iran strictly abiding by its obligations under the international nuclear non-proliferation regime," a White House statement said.

"The two Leaders also agreed on the need for the international community to send a clear signal to Iran that while it has the right to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy, Iran should not use this right to develop nuclear weapons capability as stated in UNSC and IAEA resolutions," the statement said.

Iran, which is at loggerheads with the United States over its atomic programme, is not represented at the nuclear summit.

But the US State Department has said that efforts to pressure Iran to give up its nuclear programme will be a "significant" topic during the talks.

Iran has been under mounting global pressure to abandon its nuclear programme, with Western powers fearing it wants to build an atomic bomb. Tehran says the programme is peaceful and only meant to produce energy.

Iran has already been slapped with three sets of United Nations Security Council resolutions, and the spectre of more looms, spearheaded by Washington and some western nations.

Ahead of Najib's arrival in Washington, Malaysia passed a law to curb the trafficking of nuclear weapon components after being linked to illegal supply of sensitive technology to countries including Iran and Libya.

The Strategic Trade Bill, approved by Parliament about week ago, provides for prison terms of at least five years and fines of millions of dollars for those illegally bringing in or exporting material that could be used to make weapons of mass destruction.

The new law follows the government's denial late last year of involvement in the illegal 2008 export of nuclear weapons to Iran although it confirmed the involvement of one of its nationals.

Najib also stated in the talks with Obama that Malaysia was ready to consider "capacity building" in cooperation with Afghanistan through the training of police, military personnel and civilian administrators, the White House said.

Malaysia at present provides training to Afghan teachers and public officials.

Local newspaper The Star sells a different tack. I think we can see why:

Najib and Obama in historic bilateral meeting


WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and US President Barack Obama met in a historic bilateral meeting here, paving the way for a new era in Malaysian-American ties.

The two leaders looked relaxed as they settled down to their first ever bilateral meeting at 11.30am yesterday (Malaysian time 11.30pm) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Centre where Obama is hosting the inaugural two-day Nuclear Security Summit.

Najib and Obama talked for 40 minutes, longer than their scheduled half-hour meeting, flanked by Acting Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, who is Information Communi-cation and Culture Minister, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

They spoke about trade between their countries, security in the Asian region and Malaysia’s role in the Islamic world.

Najib and Obama: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak meeting US President Barack Obama at the Walter E. Washington Convention Centre ahead of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, sending clear signals of a fresh spring in relations between Malaysia and the United States. The two leaders spoke for 40 minutes. Najib and Chinese President Hu Jintao are the only leaders from Asia to meet Obama on the sidelines of the summit. — Reuter

Also in the Prime Minister’s delegation for the meeting were Foreign Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Rastam Mohd Isa and Malaysian ambassador to the United States Datuk Seri Jamaludin Jarjis.

Najib is among more than 40 world leaders attending the summit but only one of two Asian leaders granted a face-to-face meeting with Obama. The other leader is Chinese President Hu Jintao.

It was a hectic day for the prime minister who began his day with an early morning meeting at the Four Seasons Hotel with US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinburg and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman who paid a courtesy call on him.

The Prime Minister then headed to the convention centre for his meeting with Obama and later was hosted to lunch by US vice-president Joe Biden at the Naval Observatory.

He is slated to hold a bilateral meeting with his New Zealand counterpart John Key at the convention centre in the afternoon before attending a welcoming reception by Obama for all invited heads of government.

In the evening, Najib will attend a Heads of Delegation working dinner chaired by Obama where the discussion topic is “Threat of Nuclear Terrorism”.

At the summit, Najib is expected to stress on Malaysia’s stance that any nuclear programme should be used only for development and peace.

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