Margaret Thatcher and West Asia

Margaret Thatcher was a true Cold War Amazon. Her perception of world politics was seriously affected, if not determined by the global competition between the West and the Soviet Union. This bipolar world view lent itself to thinking in dichotomies: good versus evil, justice versus terrorism, freedom versus socialism. Many commentators have argued that her ability to act forcefully in the name of an “ideal” was one of the great strengths of the Iron Lady.

One quote sticks out in the obituaries: As the world debated over how to deal with the annexation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein in 1990, Thatcher is reported to have warned Bush senior, “Don’t go wobbly on me, George” in the build-up to Operation Desert Storm in 1990. At the time, there were no easy solutions, but the Thatcher government never really followed a principled strategy when it came to the international politics of the non-Western world.

In particular, there was no hint of any “idealism” when it came to Thatcher’s foreign policy preferences in the Arabian Gulf. The occupation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein in 1990, for instance, cannot be isolated from the immense support that his regime received by the West, in particular by the Thatcher government, whichaided and abetted his military campaign against Iran throughout the mid-1980s.

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