Friday, July 9, 2010

Timing Is Everything

The United States arrest of 10 alleged spies accused of carrying out 'deep-cover assignments' for years for the Russian intelligence services came at an inconvenient time. The arrests were made in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and in northern Virginia, just outside the US capital Washington, following what the Justice Department described as a 'multi-year' investigation in coordination with the FBI. Only days earlier, President Barack Obama had lavished praise on his visiting Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev as a "solid and reliable partner."

Muhammad Fadil Abdul Hamid "did not undertake nor did he have any plans to undertake jihadi-related activities in Singapore", said a Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman. Yet the 20-year-old full-time National Serviceman in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will be the youngest to be held under the Internal Security Act (ISA). His trangression was making contact online with a radical preacher, expressing his desire to fight in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is coincident that shortly after, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong  made another trip to USA, this time with wife and head of Temasek Holdings, Ho Ching. The Americans will probably welcome a good story about the fight against terrorism. Or maybe the Mrs just wants to be interviewed by Charlie Rose, a follow up act of the precedent set by her father-in law and husband.

Relationship with the USA weren't always cosy. In August 1965, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew launched his famous attack on the Americans and their lack of civilisation. He cited 3 incidents (No Man Is An Island, James Minchin, page 158):
1) An alleged CIA attempt to bribe a Singapore Special Branch officer some years earlier;
2) Failure of State Department officials to offer him and Goh Keng Swee the "courtesies of protocol" at US airports when they flew in to appear before the United Nations for the merger discussions;
3) The "impudence and impertinance" of American specialists expecting someone close to him (his wife Kwa Geok Choo) to fly to Switzerland or the US for (gynaecological) treatment. This was before the time of SIA and their Boeing jets which could be converted into a flying hospital for one with a simple phone call.

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