Subject: US Removes Six-Year Arms Embargo Against Indonesia
US Removes Six-Year Arms Embargo Against Indonesia
JAKARTA, Nov. 22 (AP)--The U.S. has removed an arms embargo against Indonesia, ending a six-year ban on military aid to the world's most populous Muslim nation imposed due to human rights concerns.
The Bush administration has long argued that isolating Indonesia, which has been hit by several bombings by al-Qaida-linked terrorists in recent years, wasn't in Washington's strategic interests.
The decision, announced Tuesday in Washington, drew immediate criticism from rights groups.
"President Bush betrayed the untold tens of thousands of victims of the Indonesian military's brutality in Indonesia and East Timor," said John Miller, from the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network.
Congress cut ties with Indonesia's military in 1999 after it was accused of taking part in violence in East Timor during that territory's break from Indonesia's rule in a U.N.-sponsored referendum.
Limited ties had been restored under the Bush administration, but the Indonesian government had long lobbied for the removal of all restrictions.
The State Department used a national security waiver to remove the restrictions, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.
"The administration considers the relationship between the United States and Indonesia, the world's third-largest democracy, to be of the utmost importance," he said.
He said the administration planned to help modernize the Indonesian military and support U.S. and Indonesian security objectives, including counterterrorism, but Washington "remained committed to pressing for accountability for past human rights abuses."
Efforts to restore ties got a boost after the December tsunami, which killed 130,000 people on Indonesia's Sumatra Island. The U.S. and Indonesian militaries worked together to deliver aid to victims.
The Bush administration has argued that the ban should be lifted to help build Indonesia into a bulwark against al-Qaida infiltration in Southeast Asia, where the Jemaah Islamiyah terror group has launched several terror attacks in the region.
Indonesia's underfunded military has long been accused of human rights violations in the course of putting down separatist insurgencies in far-flung regions of the sprawling archipelago.
The Washington Post
Military Ties to Indonesia Resume Too Soon for Some
By Glenn Kessler Washington Post Staff Writer
Acting swiftly with new congressional authority, the Bush administration said yesterday that it has restored military ties with Indonesia, formally ending the last of the restrictions imposed after violence in East Timor in 1999.
The Bush administration has taken a number of steps this year to reward Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, for its cooperation in the battle against Islamic extremists. The United States resumed military training in February and sales of "nonlethal" equipment in May. President Bush also issued a statement with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in May that "normal military relations would be in the interest of both countries."
But lawmakers and congressional aides said yesterday they were surprised the State Department eliminated the remaining restrictions barely a week after Congress approved an appropriations bill that gave Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the authority to waive them. One Senate staff member said lawmakers had anticipated a six-to-nine-month deliberative process, during which the administration would use the possibility of a waiver as leverage to extract concessions from Indonesia.
The State Department cited the "national security interests" of the United States as the reason for waiver, noting that Indonesia plays a strategic role in Southeast Asia and is a "voice of moderation in the Islamic world."
"This is an abuse of discretion and an affront to the Congress," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the author of legislation tying military aid to human rights conditions. "To waive on national security grounds a law that seeks justice for crimes against humanity -- without even obtaining the Indonesian government's assurance that it will address these concerns -- makes a mockery of the process and sends a terrible message. The Indonesians will see it as a clean bill of health."
The restrictions, which affect foreign military financing and sales of lethal items, are largely symbolic; Indonesia currently receives $1 million in military financing for its navy and appears to have no plans to obtain lethal items. State Department officials stressed that the decision does not trigger new assistance and the quality and quantity of any sales will be guided by Indonesia's willingness to address rights concerns.
Human rights experts and congressional aides said the Indian Ocean tsunami, which devastated Indonesia's Aceh region, had helped lessen objections to restoring military ties. Other factors included the government's peace pact with Aceh rebels, counterterrorism cooperation and the fact that the FBI has received renewed cooperation in investigating an ambush in Timika, in Papua, where two Americans were killed.
The Times (UK)
US resumes arms trading with Islam's 'voice of moderation'
THE United States has dropped its military embargo against Indonesia, six years after the Indonesian Army killed 1,500 people in the occupied country of East Timor.
The decision will allow the US Government to provide financial assistance for Indonesia to buy American weapons and to train its officers in American military colleges. It is also intended as a reward for Jakarta’s co-operation in pursuing Islamic militants.
Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said that the lifting of sanctions was “in the national security interests of the United States”.
He said: “Indonesia is a voice of moderation in the Islamic world. The Administration considers the relationship between the United States and Indonesia, the world’s third largest democracy, to be of the utmost importance.”
But the move was bitterly criticised yesterday by human rights groups who contend that the Indonesian military is corrupt, brutal and unaccountable.
“With the stroke of a pen, Secretary (Condoleezza) Rice and President Bush betrayed the untold tens of thousands of victims of the Indonesian military’s brutality in Indonesia and East Timor and undermined efforts at democratic reform,” John Miller, of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (Etan), said.
US military co-operation with Indonesia was restricted after Indonesian troops killed unarmed mourners at a funeral in East Timor in 1991. But the nadir came eight years later after a UN referendum in which 80 per cent of Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia. As soon as the result was announced, Indonesian soldiers and their local militias burnt East Timor’s towns and cities, deported 250,000 of its citizens and killed 1,500. The US Congress, with the EU, suspended military assistance and arms sales almost immediately, although the European embargo was lifted within months.
Since the fall of President Suharto’s dictatorship in 1998, Indonesia has become a democracy, but the Indonesian National Army (TNI) has repeatedly been accused of violating human rights.
In the province of West Papua, where insurgents are fighting a low-level independence struggle, there are frequent allegations of extra-judicial killing, torture and military violence. In 2002 two American teachers were killed, allegedly by Indonesian soldiers. In January the TNI murdered several unarmed guerrillas who had returned to their homes to help the victims of the Boxing Day tsunami in Aceh.
Part of the problem is the TNI’s independence from the Government. Indonesia’s civilian Defence Minister does not have the authority to appoint, discipline or remove officers.
Three developments, however, have persuaded the US Administration to restore military links. President Susilo, a former general, appears to have a genuine wish for reform; and Aceh, where so many of the TNI’s abuses were perpetrated, has been peaceful since an agreement in September.
More important, though, is Jakarta’s co-operation in the War on Terror. At the time of the first Bali bomb three years ago, the Indonesian authorities were regarded as wilfully blind to the terrorist cells in their midst. Since then, however, the police and TNI have worked closely with US agencies, arresting and handing over important prisoners, including Omar al-Faruq, who then escaped from American custody.
1945 Indonesian Army founded after Japanese surrender, to drive out the returning Dutch colonists
1949 Indonesia wins independence
1965-66 500,000 civilians killed in anti-communist massacres supported by the army
1975 Indonesia invades East Timor over the next 23 years 200,000 people died as a result
1984 Army fires on Muslim demonstrators in Tanjung Priok, north Jakarta, killing at least 33
1991 Soldiers kill hundreds of mourners at a funeral in Dili, the capital of East Timor
1999 Army and its militias rampage in East Timor after its vote for independence. Military embargo imposed by US and EU
2000 EU lifts embargo
2005 Ceasefire in Aceh