Anwar Ibrahim strategy with US to become – Prime Minister of Malaysia
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been telling the world this week that he is “glad to be labelled anti-Semitic.” Dr M’s views on Jews are no secret, but what we know less about, based on new allegations just published, is the way that back in 1997 Dr M’s protégé in Umno, Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, was forging alliances with prominent American Jewish politicians and telling them that he was the real friend of Israel while Dr. M was a Jew-hater.
Many of us were very young when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s fall from Government occurred, and so for the most part all we know about it was what was in the news and what we learned at school and from our parents. We know that Anwar began to undermine and attack Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, tried to take over the Government, and then he was sacked, charged with sodomy and corruption, convicted of both, and spent time in prison.
Now ‘Jonathan Smith’, the author of the online series called The I-Files, has returned to tell that story with new revelations.
He begins by candidly explaining how Tun Mahathir — who, he claims, was grooming Anwar to take over — allowed Anwar to come so close to succeeding in what he describes as all but a coup attempt. Mahathir, the former outsider who had risen to the top by strength of will, “clearly believed Anwar his natural heir as the outsider who’d come in determined to conquer the world. It was yet another case of Anwar being Anwar, being everything to everyone. A master manipulator. He even fooled Dr M.”
He describes Dr M as an “autocrat”, whose obsession with the outward trappings of modernity for Malaysia blinded him to Anwar’s moves to overthrow him, a man who was so intent on bringing Malaysia to fully-developed status that he was willing to trample on the constitution and “tolerated corruption in his mega-projects – Anwar’s corruption, quite often – in the Peninsular and in Borneo, believing the cost was worthwhile. Anything that stood in his way needed to be eliminated or suborned.”
He does not become appreciably more generous to Mahathir through this chapter.
This chapter, which is set against the backdrop of the Asian Financial Crisis that began in 1997, takes us to the Hong Kong meetings of the International Monetary Fund, where Anwar teamed up with U.S. Jewish billionaire George Soros to attack Dr M, and allegedly had secret talks and meetings with Americans aimed at setting the stage for taking power in Malaysia.
The story in full begins with allegations that Anwar worked tirelessly to ingratiate himself to Westerners to prepare for his rise to the top, and how he asked key U.S. Jewish politicians including Paul Wolfowitz for backing in his quest to unseat Dr M and take over as Prime Minister of Malaysia.
“Anwar played them well. Mahathir’s open anti-Semitism was a particular affront to Western leaders, who treat that behaviour as a sickness – a view Anwar nurtured. According to first-hand reports, Anwar actually won over Wolfowitz by seeming to be pro-Jewish and by condemning Mahathir behind his back. Coupled with his bold and eloquent proclamations at various international fora – Shakespeare and TS Eliot quotes at the ready – here at last was the Malaysian for whom the world had been looking: a Malaysian who could prove charming in Washington, D.C. and right-minded in Whitehall, a Malaysian who could mutter to Wolfowitz that it was a shame Mahathir was such a Jew-hater.
When Anwar came to them and let them know that he hoped for change in his country and that Mahathir would soon be gone, they were overjoyed. Anwar made himself into a hero of the State Department and the East Coast Jewish establishment, both Democrats and Republicans.
Anwar began working in secret and in earnest with the American delegation to pave his way to the top, pointing up Mahathir’s ‘dangerous’ talk. Members of the Clinton Administration – from Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin (in Hong Kong) to Defense Secretary William Cohen – told Anwar that Washington was behind him. Wolfowitz and his allies in the Republican Congress also sent their encouragement. Wolfowitz was enthusiastic, according to one of his aides, and determined to see Anwar become Prime Minister.”
Smith then sets the stage for what he clearly perceives as the beginning of Anwar’s eventual downfall: Mahathir’s Italian holiday, an absence during which he entrusted Anwar with the role of Acting Prime Minister — and how Anwar could not see the trap Mahathir had created.
The story is particularly interesting because Smith ties his tale into allegations that have more recently come to light, including those by renegade blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin that Anwar’s faithful, longtime aide Azmin Ali was exonerated of a corruption probe at Anwar’s behest. It also tells how Anwar turned the Anti-Corruption Act into a tool for his own advancement.
One of his first major acts was the Anti-Corruption Act, a facially commendable move designed to replace the 1961 Act and to root-out the perennial corruption in Malaysia’s political system. Of course, we all noticed that he waited until the probe of his political secretary Azmin Ali had been shelved and then appointed cronies to fill every slot created or reformed by the ACA.
This part of the story quickly moves to the Asian Financial Crisis itself, and Smith’s allegations about the battle between Anwar and Mahathir over the International Monetary Fund bailout programme:
“It is here that most observers believe they know the story: Anwar sided with the IMF. He blamed ‘cronyism and corruption’ for the crisis, never explaining how his own cronyism and corruption and the system he created and maintained as DPM was not a key factor. He implemented austerity programmes, including cutting government expenditures and ministerial and government salaries by upward of 20 per cent, and stripping funding from the enormous infrastructure projects into which the country had poured so much effort for so long.
But the real story is deeper. In Hong Kong in September of 1997, the major economies of the world were working desperately to avoid an international financial collapse, and to get the Asian Tigers running again. While there, Mahathir and Soros began taking potshots at each other in the assembled international press, with everything from attacks on preferred policy (Mahathir called for an end to currency exchanges, Soros called for a variation on the IMF prescriptions) to personal attacks.
Into this free-fire zone Anwar leaped. He began immediately explaining away Mahathir’s comments, taking Soros’s arguments as his own, and even occasionally directly undercutting Mahathir with hundreds of reporters about. He portrayed this to the gullible reporters covering the event as his heroic attempt to save Malaysia from Mahathir’s ill-considered rhetoric.”
It is in this context, Smith alleges, that Anwar began actively undermining Mahathir with the Americans and with the foreign media, working to establish that he was the only one who could save Malaysia from the chaos of the Asian Financial Crisis … and Mahathir’s leadership. And of course, Anwar famously renewed his austerity programme, over Mahathir’s explicit directions.
It was in 1997, Smith says, that Mahathir finally realised the extent of the danger before him and began to act. Mahathir, Smith alleges, summoned his closest advisers as far away from Anwar as possible and discussed whether Anwar “could be saved, or whether he was past redemption.”
The story ends there, for now.
As noted above, many of us were too young and too concerned with other matters to follow this story as it unfolded at the time, and we certainly did not have the sources Smith claims to have.
We have been looking forward to this part of the story since the I-Files began, and are happy to finally be at the point of the main action.
We are very much looking forward to the next installment as the gloves came off in the epic battle between Dr M and his once-beloved deputy.