Friday, September 15, 2006

Iran and Britain, 30 years ago

From the New Statesman's archives: 
As a result of current orders from the US and UK alone, by the early Eighties Iran will have more tanks, warplanes, or helicopters than any state in the world excepting the two superpowers. [..] Congress has estimated that by 1980 up to 60,000 US personnel will be stationed in Iran on defence contracts and while, typically, there are no available British figures [..] (The Iranian Connection, Robin Cook, 10 December 1976; republished 4th September, 2006)
It's true: it's said that in 1980, when Iran was at war with Iraq, there were more Challenger tanks in the Iranian army than in the British (William L.Cleveland, A History of the Modern Middle East, 1994). Of course, by that time they were in the hands of the Islamic Republic.

The final paragraph starts with a phrase that is less likely to be heard these days: 'Socialists can only hope that...' Ah, those were the days! Cook continues:
... can only hope that, despite the efforts of our arms exporters, a more democratic regime will succeed in sweeping aside Reza Shah, and reopen the contracts for hospitals, roads and housing now being sacrificed to maintain the momentum of arms purchases. However, it is certain that they will not concede any such contracts to the Anglo-Saxon world, whom they will never forgive for providing the Shah with the means of repression. We are putting an enormous investment in one man who is making himself an awful lot of enemies.
Update (at 16:45):  those who listen to Radio 4 in the UK will probably be aware that there is a programme coming up on this subject, on Sunday (17 Sep) at 13:30. Further details as I have them.  Update (19 Sept):  it is possible to listen to the programme here - Iran: a Revolutionary State. The series will be on the World Service from 9 Oct, when it will probably be possible to download or podcast the programmes.  Update: Mixed Messages and Secret Diplomacy - Monday 25 Sept, 8.00pm  - ... looks at the tangled relationship between Iran and the United States since 9/11 -  Listen again (Gordon Corera).

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