State Dept. Issues Waiver, Resumes US Military Sales to Indonesia
The recent tsunami also triggered a wave of military contacts and cooperation between the USA and Indonesia, with American naval forces serving as the backbone of on-the-ground relief efforts. Overall relations and public sentiment on both sides improved considerably. Nevertheless, the US House and Senate recently decided to include the Senate’s prohibitions on lethal military equipment sales to Indonesia in the 2006 Foreign Operations Act until key conditions regarding accountability, human rights, and civilian control of the military were met. Now, the US State Department has exercised its authority under that law to waive those restrictions “in the interests of US national security.”
There’s a lot going on here.
This is the third time this year that the State Department has expanded U.S. military dealings with Indonesia. It allowed the resumption of training and educational exchanges between the U.S. and Indonesian militaries in February 2005, and approved renewed sales of non-lethal military equipment to Indonesia in May 2005. May also saw a meeting between the presidents of Indonesia and the USA, during which they pledged to renew and strengthen their frayed military ties.
As noted by the map, the collection of islands that constitutes Indonesia sits astride the Straits of Malacca. They’re a major choke-point for global shipping and trade, with a long history of piracy and growing reports of al-Qaeda activity as well. The State Department cited Indonesia’s role in securing that key sea lane, as well as rapid progress toward meeting key conditions laid out in 2004. Concern was also expressed that with Indonesia embarking on oil-fuelled defense modernization, the vacuum for military sales to the country could be filled by China and/or Russia, who has already begun supplying Indonesia with advanced SU-27SK and SU-30MK jet fighters.
In contrast, human rights groups were far less pleased by the American decision, criticizing the government for throwing away a key leverage point.
The Indonesian charge d’affaires in Washington, Andri Hadi, says Indonesia’s top priority now that the latest restrictions have been waived is to buy parts for its F-16 fighter jets, only 4 of which can still fly.