Why Indonesia Could Be the Next Country to Normalize Its Ties with Israel

In the 1950s, Indonesia—the world’s largest Muslim-majority country and its fourth most populous—placed itself firmly on the side of the Arab world and what was then known as the “nonaligned bloc” against Israel. But in the 1980s, Jakarta began buying military equipment from Israel; civilian commerce, and then other forms of cooperation, followed. The two countries, however, still do not have formal diplomatic relations. Amotz Asa-El delves into this history, identifies a clear pattern of ever-warmer ties, and argues that Indonesia should, and perhaps will, follow in the footsteps of the UAE, Bahrain, and others:

Back when Indonesia chose to treat Israel as a mistress, rendezvousing with it only in the dark, the Jewish state was still ostracized by two superpowers, China and the Soviet Union, as well as the rest of the Eastern Bloc, and also India, which until 1992 refused to admit an Israeli ambassador. Today this history is so distant that to younger Israelis it sounds like prehistory.

This means that by shunning Israel the way it does, Indonesia is relegating itself to the company of economic laggards like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Indonesia, with 270 million people sprawled on more than 17,000 islands between Oceania and China, is in a position to become a major world power. Shunning Israel will not serve that cause.

Like almost any other country, Indonesia is threatened by Islamist violence. But unlike any other country, it is in a position, as the world’s largest Muslim-majority state, to inspire a great reconciliation between Islam and the rest of mankind. That is indeed what its leaders seem to be aiming for.

However, shunning the Jewish state is, for millions of Jews worldwide, an affront, and thus hampers Indonesia’s potential role as a leader of . . . interreligious reconciliation. This is Indonesia’s strategic calling, and its leaders know this. That is why the next Abraham Accords will be signed between the world’s largest Muslim domain, and only Jewish state.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Indonesia


Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy