KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 7 — Malaysia blocked Iran from its 2008 Defence Services Asia (DSA) exhibition after the United States threatened to pull out from the military arms show, according to a leaked diplomatic cable.
In the cable penned by US Ambassador to Malaysia James Keith, he said he told then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of the impending US withdrawal after Iran appeared ready to display large artillery shells and missiles.
“Within 90 minutes, Defence Ministry Secretary-General Abubakar informed DATT that Malaysia had rescinded its approval for the Iranian exhibit because Iran had ‘broken its promise’ by displaying unauthorised items,” said the cable, likely referring to the embassy’s defence attaché.
The April 2008 document leaked by whistleblower site WikiLeaks and published by the Malaysia Today news portal today also said then foreign minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim, acting on instructions from Abdullah, telephoned Keith and confirmed the same decision and rationale.
According to the diplomatic note, the final decision on April 22, 2008 was made following “a week of decisions in favour of Iran and reversals, and continuous interventions by the Embassy and our UK and French counterparts.”
“The Malaysians reached a compromise with Iran on April 19 and again on April 21, allowing Iran to display certain small arms and defensive gear,” Keith wrote, noting that this was still in violation of United Nations sanctions against Iran.
He added that although the defence ministry said it was “hurt and offended” by Iran’s exhibit, “it remained unclear how and on what basis Malaysia drew the line between acceptable and unacceptable military items for DSA display.”
Keith also told Washington that “another serious concern pertains to the import from Iran into Malaysia of various arms and arms related items”, which he called a clear violation of United Nations sanctions regardless of the exhibition.