Friday, June 15, 2007

The U.S., Anwar & the Foundation for the Future

On May 21, 2007, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim issued a statement, which purported to defend the neutrality and independence of Foundation of the Future, of which is he is currently Chairman. Among other things, he said:

“The Foundation is an independent set-up, involving governments and civil society to support civil society organisations in their efforts to foster democracy and freedom in the broader Middle East and North Africa.”

On the first instance, perhaps, that official statement by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim may take many in. However, the truth is in stark contrast to what he is trying to portray to the Malaysian public, among others.

In reality, The Foundation of the Future (FFF) is not at all independent or free. Its establishment is clearly partisan to the interest of the United States. This is evident as the foundation is being placed under the control of Elizabeth Cheney, the daughter of Dick Cheney, Vice-President of the United States. Elizabeth had, until quite recently, been the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs in the US State Department.

Ms Shaha Ali Riza, who was transferred to take up a position at the U.S. State Department in September 2005, also assists Elizabeth.

Riza’s transfer out of World Bank was an attempt to cover-up and protect her in the scandal relating to a conflict of interest following the revelations about her relationship with World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz.

Riza’s wide expertise in Middle Eastern and North African affairs is attributed to the experience she had gained throughout her tenure as ‘Senior Gender Specialist in the Middle East & North African Social and Economic Development Groups’ and also as ‘Senior Communications Officer in the Middle East and North Africa regional Office (MENA).

While holding both posts Riza had proposed to Elizabeth three names derived from a list of recommended Muslim personalities who were pro-American. The three were seen as the most suitable candidates for the selection committee of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

They were Anwar Ibrahim (Malaysia), Rahma Bourqia (Morocco) and Bakhtiar Amin (Iraq). All of them were duly appointed as members of the board based upon their respective pro-American stance besides being recipients of funding from the government of the United States.

Anwar Ibrahim was appointed as consultant to the World Bank in the areas of governance and accountability. He is also a Distinguished Visiting Professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Since 2004, he has also held lecturing positions at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University and at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.

By virtue of his appointment as Visiting Diplomat in The Council for Foreign Relations in New York, Anwar is widely seen as the “American Ambassador” for the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast-Asia. Within the hierarchy of the U.S. State department, Anwar works under Riza who is in turn answerable to Elizabeth Cheney.

Meanwhile, Rahma Bouqia, the Vice-Chairman of the Foundation is President of University Hassan II Mahommedia in Morocco. She, among other things had received funding worth US$124,000 from USAID and Networks Financial Institute (NFI). She is also an agent for the United States in the fight for women’s rights in Middle Eastern and Morocco.

Bakhtiar Amin is the founder of the Iraqi Institute of Democracy (headquarters in the U.S.), which is sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Endowment of Democracy (NED), The National Democratic Institute (NDI), The International Republican Institute (IRI) and the United States Institute of Peace.

He was appointed by the United States as Iraq’s Human Rights Minister in the country’s interim government after the removal of Saddam Hussein. Bakhtiar is also the Secretary-General of the Kurdish Institute in Paris besides being the Director of the Human Rights Coalition in Washington. In 2003, he was appointed Director of the International Alliance for Justice, which is sponsored by the George Soros Foundation in Paris.