Iran finds an ally in
Indonesia By Breffni O'Rourke
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad is
visiting Indonesia as his country faces increased
Western attempts to isolate it from the rest of
the world because of its nuclear program.
His willingness to travel abroad as the
crisis sharpens indicates how much he hopes for
worthwhile results from the visit to the largest
Muslim nation in the world.
arrived in Indonesia on Wednesday and met
Indonesian President Susilio Bambang Yudhoyono,
who said Jakarta had offered to help mediate the
nuclear dispute. "Iran was receptive," Yudhoyono's
spokesman said. Jakarta is on good
with Iran and other Middle East countries, as well
as with the West.
Analyst Shannon Kile of
the Stockholm International Peace Research
Institute said that Ahmadinejad's trip was clearly
connected to what is happening at the United
Nations, where the United States, Germany, Britain
and France are pressing hard for a UN Security
Council resolution that would legally bind Iran to
drop uranium enrichment against the threat of
economic sanctions or military intervention. As a
consequence, he said, the Iranians were courting
Russia and China are opposed to
any UN resolution against Iran. This week,
Washington agreed to let the Europeans first work
out a package of benefits to induce Iran to curb
its nuclear ambitions. As a result, there might
not be a decision on a UN resolution for about two
"Indonesia is an important player
in the Non-Aligned Movement, the so-called NAM
group of states, and Iran for quite a while has
been cultivating the NAM states, countries like
Indonesia and Malaysia, in terms of building
support for its position on its nuclear program,"
At a press conference in Tehran
before his departure, Ahmadinejad used effusive
language to describe the possibilities for
capabilities of the two nations provide extensive
grounds for mutual cooperation," he said. "We know
of no boundaries whatsoever for cooperation with
Indonesia, whether it be in the cultural,
scientific, political, technical or economic
fields. In this trip seven draft agreements for
cooperation will be, God willing, finalized and
signed, and this will open up new horizons."
Analyst Kile said specifically that
Ahmadinejad was seeking a statement of support
from Indonesia that says Iran - as a party to the
nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) - did have
a legal right to the full nuclear-fuel cycle,
including uranium enrichment.
been Iran's position all along, that in enriching
uranium it is behaving well within its NPT rights,
and therefore it refuses to stop these activities,
which the US, among other countries, believes is
aimed at ultimately developing nuclear weapons.
Uranium enrichment is the step that the
West wants to prevent Iran from taking because it
can provide material for nuclear bombs as well as
fuel for nuclear power stations.
standards? Speaking in Jakarta,
Ahmadinejad described Western allegations that
Iran was seeking to build nuclear weapons as
The US and its allies are
"themselves engaged in non-peaceful nuclear
activities", he said. "They expand them day by
day. Another indication of that is that in the
Middle East region they have equipped some powers
and some groups with nuclear weapons, and they
themselves test new types of weapons of mass
destruction every day."
He also said that
his country was willing to negotiate, but that the
US first must drop its "bad attitude".
are not only defending our rights, we are
defending the rights of many other countries," he
said. "By maintaining our position, we are
defending our independence." (Ahmadinejad also
made use of the occasion on Thursday to say that
Israel was a "regime based on evil" and that it
would "one day vanish".)
gone some way toward meeting Ahmadinejad's wishes,
by saying that he believed Iran's nuclear program
was peaceful and that all problems could be solved
through diplomacy. Yudhoyono said Islamic
nations such as Indonesia could assist in finding
a diplomatic solution to the standoff. He
suggested widening the talks in a similar way that
negotiations were with North Korea over its
disputed nuclear-development program.
said Iran was trying - with some success - to
shift the terms of the debate away from the issue
of nuclear proliferation and to one about who has
the right to control access to advanced
technology, including nuclear technology.
"What the Iranians are arguing is that
this [dispute to deny enrichment to Iran] is yet
another example of a discriminatory double
standard employed by the Western industrial
countries; and I think that argument has actually
found some resonance in places like Indonesia and
Malaysia," Kile said.
nevertheless has to tread carefully so as not to
inflame radical Islamic elements at home. The last
thing he would want to do is to lend support to
the fundamentalist Islamic regime in Tehran at the
cost of fanning radicalism in his own nation.
Similarly, Jakarta's ties with the US have
improved significantly over the past year, with
the US even resuming military contacts. Yudhoyono
would not want to jeopardize this.
Enhanced economic relations
While in Indonesia, Ahmadinejad is holding
talks with Yudhoyono and other political and
economic leaders, as well as with cultural and
Energy cooperation is
expected to be discussed. The Indonesian Foreign
Ministry last month said Iran was considering
investing US$600 million in Indonesia's oil and
gas sector. Kile said the Iranians would be hoping
for similar investments from Malaysia.
"Presumably, Iran is looking also for
Indonesia to invest in Iranian oil and gas,
because Iran's gas-and-oil sector has suffered
from chronic underfunding for a long time because
of Western sanctions - especially US sanctions -
presumably that is going to go both ways," he
Aware of Iran's economic troubles,
the European Union's negotiating troika of
Britain, France and Germany is reportedly
preparing a new package of incentives to be
offered to Iran if it halts uranium enrichment.
The document, which could be prepared as early as
next Monday, is also expected to list consequences
for Iran if it does not halt enrichment.
Ahmadinejad is scheduled on Friday to
attend a summit of eight leading developing
countries (the D8) on Indonesia's island of Bali.
The D8 countries are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt,
Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria and Turkey.