Mahathir's foreign policy has been molded by his anticolonial beliefs and by his strict leadership. He has increased ties with other Asian nations, making Malaysia a senior member of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and has improved ties with traditional opponents Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore. He has called for a "Look East" orientation among Malaysians to model themselves on the work ethic and success of the South Koreans and Japanese. Although he is the leader of a Muslim nation with strong ties to the Middle East, he is hostile to Islamic fundamentalism. Some of his foreign policies strained relations with Western nations. For example, he banned The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, which he denounced as "Zionist" for printing unfavorable editorials. Mahathir's government's treatment of Anwar Ibrahim was widely condemned internationally.
Following the attacks on New York's World Trade Center on 11 September 2001, Mahathir, as a Muslim leader, publicly denounced all acts of terrorism and provided intelligence to the United States. However, he was a vehement critic of the U.S. war on Iraq, calling for a campaign of pressure to stop the war. Addressing an economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2003, Mahathir warned that the United States had locked the world into a "Third World War," with civilians suffering the consequences. He also warned Malaysia's neighbors not to "use Malaysia as a battlefield," which may have been directed at Singapore or Australia. There had been accusations that Malaysia had been used for fund raising for Indonesia's Muslim extremist groups, which could cause Singapore, Australia, or Indonesia to seek antiterrorism operations within Malaysia.