25.06.2024 Author: Nguyen Kien Van

Malaysia Defies Western Sanctions on Iran

Malaysia Defies Western Sanctions on Iran

Malaysia only recognizes sanctions imposed by the United Nations and not by any individual country, Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution says.

On May 16, a US delegation led by Brian Nelson, the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, visited Kuala Lumpur to discuss sanctions against Iran. The US accuses Iran of using Malaysian companies to finance militants in the Middle East.

What do we know about US accusations against Iran?

The US claims that trade between Malaysia and Iran has skyrocketed since the outbreak of the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas. Western nations allege that Iran financially supports Hamas and Hezbollah, opponents of Israel. The US highlighted the death of over 3,000 Israelis since October 7, 2023, in the ongoing conflict. 30,000 Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip, however, do not seem to bother the US at all. Instead, the focus remains on Iran and its proxies, including Hamas, allegedly receiving funds through the Malaysian financial system.

US efforts to intimidate Malaysia with sanctions over its economic relations with Iran have faltered

The US is concerned that Iran can continue selling oil by transferring it from ship-to-ship in international waters to disguise its origin. Countries that do not adhere to US sanctions, or choose to ignore them, facilitate this process. Brian Nelson identified Malaysia as one such country, allegedly involved in transporting Iranian oil and raising funds for groups the US deems terrorist organizations.

What do Malaysian officials think in this regard?

Following the meeting with the US delegation, Malaysian officials reiterated that they would not comply with sanctions imposed by any country other than those from the UN Security Council. Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail emphasized Malaysia’s commitment to combating terrorism financing. He acknowledged the US concerns about “illegal supplies” of Iranian oil through Malaysia, but reiterated Malaysia’s stance on adhering only to UN-imposed sanctions. The US delegation respectfully accepted Malaysia’s position.

Solidarity Among Muslim Countries

Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country, has consistently supported a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and condemned Israel’s actions, which have resulted in numerous Palestinian casualties. Malaysia backed Iran’s use of drones and missiles against Israel on April 13, with Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim calling it a legitimate response to Israel’s “barbaric attack” on the Iranian consulate in Damascus.

Back to Kuala Lumpur Airport

By the end of the meeting, the US delegation appeared to recognize their failure to sway Malaysia. Saifuddin Nasution Ismail reaffirmed Malaysia’s commitment to counter-terrorism financing at both ASEAN and global levels, stressing Malaysia’s adherence to the rule of law and expressing hope that the US would acknowledge this.

Once again, US efforts to intimidate Malaysia with sanctions over its economic relations with Iran have faltered, highlighting Washington’s persistent hegemonic ambitions. If other Southeast Asian nations were to similarly defy US pressure, ASEAN could emerge as a robust and independent force in the region.


NGUYEN Kien Van, political observer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook


Related articles: