While some may be asking who Jonathan Smith really is, his I Files may be prompting many people to ask the same question about Anwar Ibrahim.
KUALA LUMPUR: A "book" about opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is being published online one chapter at a time, making provocative claims about not only Anwar himself but the people he has associated with.
The I Files, a book being published chapter by chapter as a blog, is claimed by its author to be an account of Anwar Ibrahim’s rise and fall and rise again as a politician, with descriptions of how he did it and who helped him along the way.
With five chapters published so far (a prologue and chapters one through four), the blog is a first-person narrative by Jonathan Smith, which is likely a pseudonym considering the writer’s claimed intelligence background, which features prominently in each chapter.
The lengthy prologue sets the stage for the narrative as the writer describes his early days as a secret agent in Malaysia and the growing dossier the intelligence community was gathering on Anwar, who is described as “…the greatest, most nimble, most articulate, and ultimately the most flawed opportunist of our times. A chameleon. A charmer. A brilliant but ultimately tragic persona…a Trojan horse for the worst impulses of the Saudis…the man the Wahhabis would fund and guide for decades in their drive to make over Malaysia in their image…”
Chapter one tells the story of Anwar’s early years, describing him as a quiet, pleasant, carefree young man who suddenly and inexplicably became radicalised and “a little frightening”. Smith says Anwar came under the influence of Wahhabi missionaries from Saudi Arabia, a relationship which resulted in the creation and funding of Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM). An Iraqi named Ahmad al-Haj Totonji acted as a broker, getting Saudi funds to Anwar and ABIM.
Chapter two further describes Anwar’s continued funding by the Saudis and his transformation from a radical (who was detained under the Internal Security Act in 1974) to “the consummate Umno man” thanks to then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who, Smith asserts, needed someone with Islamist credentials to undermine Pas and didn’t realise he was being used:
"And so as Anwar advanced in Government, winning plaudits for his time as Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports, he brought into his ranks operatives from his time in ABIM, men whose real allegiance to PAS and the growing influence of Iranian and Saudi radicals was only barely hidden. Because they could truthfully mouth the sorts of things Mahathir wanted to hear, he seemed deaf to the radical threat they presented.
Whatever the source, Anwar’s wealth grew appreciably during this time, as did his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood (in the open) and the Wahhabis (in the background). He learned that working closely with banks tied to those groups could be decidedly lucrative, and he began to develop the taste for international travel that is perhaps his best-known feature" today."
Chapter three gives further details of Anwar’s relationship with Dr Mahathir and his rise through the ranks of both Umno and the government.
Smith says that when Anwar became Education Minister, he was in prime position to further both his own interests and those of the Saudis, portraying himself as a loyal Umno member while working “to make good on his promises to his ABIM followers and to his Saudi friends to bring a purer form of Islam into the Government – and to Malaysia’s youth, and across Malaysian society.”
This chapter describes Anwar’s radical changes to the country’s education system – which Smith calls “Wahhabification” – and his complicated relationship with Dr Mahathir, who is painted as an unwitting accomplice to Anwar’s ambitions. Smith depicts Dr Mahathir as a victim of deceit who was trusting and somewhat indecisive and oblivious to the fact that Anwar was “essentially attempting to Arabise Malaysia”. Smith writes:
"Looking back at the time, I’m still amazed at the extent to which Anwar managed to transform Malaysia. He perceived, correctly, that the future and the present belong to the young. Mahathir, caught up in intra-party combat and his subsequent march through the judiciary, missed this critical moment, and allowed his Education Minister – at the time, more and more his hand-picked successor – to undermine his otherwise-impressive legacy.
Chapter four, despite being described by blogger Syed Akbar Ali as less explosive than the previous ones, is notable for its treatment of Anwar’s accumulation of wealth generally, and in particular his purported ties to Petronas.
Anwar’s financial empire “began with the Saudis, but continued with his marriage,” Smith says, referring to Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah, who “brought a spine of steel, more than a little ambition, and a great deal of wealth through her family’s substantial holdings.”
The chapter also gives details of Anwar’s relationship with Saudi bank Al Baraka and his ascension to Finance Minister and subsequent strengthening of his considerable financial holdings.
Dr Mahathir, meanwhile, was “absolutely blind” to Anwar’s alleged dirty dealings and was “too busy…repairing his coalition to notice the corruption and extremism developing just beneath his nose”.
Smith also depicts Anwar’s ties to Petronas through (Tan Sri) Hassan Merican, who is described as a staunch ally of Anwar – and a former colleague of Wan Azizah’s father – and would become President and CEO of the company after Anwar became Deputy Prime Minister. This, Smith writes, gave Anwar – and by extension his Saudi associates – even more power:
Hassan therefore had full rein on Petronas’s coffers – and, more importantly, its operations. The trickle of underpriced crude…expanded significantly and almost immediately, and all of our intelligence indicated that the missing money was being directed to Wahhabi and radical causes. As time went by, numerous intelligence services, including the Americans, developed credible information that Petronas – which had numerous Anwar allies and friends in its upper echelons – was diverting funds to Anwar front groups at home and abroad.
Between them, they almost singlehandedly created what amounted to an oil mafia, a source of constant graft and kickbacks to fund Anwar’s war chest and to help him in his drive for Mahathir’s seat.
Smith promises more will be revealed in subsequent chapters, about a man whose time in the upper echelons of the Malaysian government was “both a blend of cronyism and radical Islam, and a level of corruption and profit-taking from the public on a scale that would shame a lesser man”.