Theresa May: The Thatcher Nightmare Returns.

There were many in Britain who breathed a huge sigh of relief back when, on 28th November 1990, Margaret Thatcher was finally ousted from her position as Prime Minister after more than a decade in power. Following her death in April 2013 it seemed both she, and the “Thatcher Years”, had been laid to rest forever.

Now, suddenly, Margaret Thatcher is alive and well, resurrected, reincarnated even, in the body of one Theresa Mary May (nee Brasier) of Eastbourne, West Sussex, who, via a succession of unfortunate events that may be encompassed under the infamous portmanteau, “Brexit,” has risen yet again to that pinnacle of British power once occupied by the aforesaid Thatcher personage.

Theresa May’s persona is so “a la Thatcher” as to be virtually indistinguishable from the original. Her speech to the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council this week was scarcely conveyed by the British rags, but the BBC’s report gives a hint of the “Thatcher” rhetoric:

Theresa May has said she is “clear-eyed” about the threat posed by Iran to the security of the Gulf and wider Middle East, in a speech in Bahrain…But she added that the UK would work with Arab Gulf states to counteract Iran’s “aggressive regional actions”.
Speaking at summit of the Gulf Co-operation Council – comprising Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain – Mrs May also said the UK wanted to “make a more permanent and more enduring commitment to the long-term security of the Gulf” and would invest more than £3bn in defence spending in the region over the next 10 years.
“Gulf security is our security,” she said.
“Extremists plotting terror attacks here, in this region, are not only targeting the Gulf but, as we have seen, targeting the streets of Europe, too.
“Whether we’re confronting the terrorism of al-Qaeda, or the murderous barbarity of [so-called Islamic State], no country is a more committed partner for you in this fight than the UK.” [1]

It’s good to know that May is ‘clear-eyed’ about the threat from Iran. It’s just a shame she can’t explain it to the rest of us. Iran is a nation comprised of 95% Shiite Muslims. Between them, Saudi Arabia and Qatar (mainly Salafi Sunni), Kuwait (60-65% Sunni), UAE (85% Sunni), make up Arab nations with a dominant Sunni populace. Bahrain is 70% Shia, but with a Sunni ruling family, and Oman is mainly Ibadi Muslim, difficult to categorise as either Sunni or Shia, but certainly a more liberal form of Islam that is highly tolerant of other religions.

So, where does this Iranian threat manifest itself? It’s really hard to pin down, but basically there’s a power struggle between Sunni Saudi Arabia with its allies, and Shia Iran. The West, because of its oil requirements, backs the Sunni side of the equation, despite all terrorist attacks on Western nations having emanated from Sunni strongholds. Let’s not forget that all, bar two, of the 9/11 attackers were Saudi citizens.

Iran could be considered the most dominant nation. It’s slightly smaller than Saudi Arabia (636,400 square miles, compared to 830,000 square miles) but with nearly three times the population (Iran – 78,000,000 compared to Saudi, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman together only managing 47,000,000), but the Saudis are awash with Western military equipment, including the latest aircraft and weaponry. The U.S. showered Iran with its latest military gear back in the seventies when the Shah was still in power, including nuclear power stations (the start of Iran’s nuclear programme) but the U.S. technicians required to service this highly-technical equipment left after the revolution. Since then Iran has had to rely on Russia, North Korea and China for most of its military hardware, though it’s now in a position technologically to manufacture much of its own.

But Iran has never shown outright aggression towards its Sunni neighbours. In fact, the proverbial boot has tended to be firmly planted on the other foot, with Saudi Arabia quick to foment unrest against Iran at every opportunity. In January this year they executed a prominent Shia cleric, ostensibly on terrorism charges, which resulted in a war of words between the two nations and some protesting in the streets. But both governments tend to fight their battles via other’s conflicts, with Syria being the obvious one – Iran supporting Shia president Assad, and the Saudi royals aiding the Sunni rebels.

And then, of course, there’s Yemen. One hears a lot on news broadcasts about Yemen’s Houthi rebels and how they’re supported by Iran. Iran has supplied some arms to the Houthis, but they’re certainly not fighting a proxy war on Iran’s behalf.

As Prof. Thomas Juneau (University of Ottawa) wrote in the Washington Post this year:

The Houthi’s takeover of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, in September 2014 prompted Iran to increase its support. It now appears that small numbers — perhaps dozens — of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers, with assistance from Lebanese Hezbollah, have set up a train and equip program for the Houthis. There have also been reports of intensifying shipping activity between Iran and Yemen.

This assistance, however, remains limited and far from sufficient to make more than a marginal difference to the balance of forces in Yemen, a country awash with weapons. There is therefore no supporting evidence to the claim that Iran has bought itself any significant measure of influence over Houthi decision-making.[2]

The Houthis support the ex-President, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Why they should choose to ally with this guy is unclear. During his presidency he amassed a fortune – around $30 billion in total – while most of his countrymen, women and children, lived on the verge of starvation.

The Houthis subscribe to a branch of Shia Islam called Zaidism, and Saleh is Zaidi, which may be one reason. The present president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, is a Sunni and thus favoured by Saudi Arabia where it’s believed he is now hiding, pending a final outcome to the conflict which may allow his return.

The arrival of al Qaeda(AQAP) in Yemen forced the Houthis into action. AQAP (extremist Sunni) started persecuting the Shia Houthis who felt President Hadi wasn’t doing enough to protect them, so they ousted him and are fighting to reinstate Saleh as president. This puts them on the wrong side of al Qaeda, ISIS – who are also present in Yemen – and Saudi Arabia, backed by their Arab allies and the West.

The religious aspect of Yemen’s conflict is only part of the problem. It’s one of the poorest nations on earth, despite oil making up 90% of the economy (which explains where ex-President Saleh’s huge fortune originated). Water shortages are serious. Major cities are expected to run out of water within a few years. It’s a grim place for the 54% of the populace living on less than $2 a day.

But Theresa May is quite happy to support the Saudi war against the Houthis, the war crimes being committed, the hospitals bombed, civilians slaughtered by the thousand. She’s happy to provide military hardware, and money – three billion pounds Sterling over the next ten years, though given the opulence of Saudi Arabia and most of its Arab friends, one might suggest they could pay for their own security.

Mrs May said she was determined to build further on the trade and investment relationship between the Gulf and the UK.
“Just as Gulf security is our security, so your prosperity is also our prosperity. Already the Gulf is a special market for the UK.”
She said that last year trade between the UK and the Gulf was worth more than £30bn and, at the same time, Gulf investment in the UK was helping to regenerate cities from Aberdeen to Teeside and Manchester to London.
Speaking on the final day of her trip to Bahrain, she recommended ongoing vigilance towards Iran.
“As we address new threats to our security, so we must also continue to confront state actors whose influence fuels instability in the region,” she said.
“So I want to assure you that I am clear-eyed about the threat that Iran poses to the Gulf and the wider Middle East; and the UK is fully committed to our strategic partnership with the Gulf and working with you to counter that threat.”
She alleged that Iran’s activities include:
Sending fighters including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps ‘Qods Force to Syria to shore up President Bashar al-Assad
Providing support to the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen, and so working against the interests of the international community in bringing about peace and stability in the country
Undermining stability in Lebanon and Iraq
Mrs May added: “We secured a deal which has neutralised the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons for over a decade. It has already seen Iran remove 13,000 centrifuges together with associated infrastructure and eliminate its stock of 20%-enriched uranium.
“That was vitally important for regional security. But we must also work together to push back against Iran’s aggressive regional actions, whether in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Syria or in the Gulf itself.” [1]

May presents three examples of Iran’s ‘threats to the Gulf’: Syria, where Iran is supporting the Shiite government of Assad that is, in turn, supported by a majority of Syrian citizens**; the Houthis in Yemen, as already discussed, and the ‘undermining’ of Lebanon and Iraq.

It could be argued that the British and Americans between them have done more to undermine both nations (particularly Iraq!) than Iran could ever achieve. The truth is, of course, that Iran stepped into the breach to help Iraq deal with the threat from ISIS. The U.S. turned a blind eye to the atrocities perpetrated by this Sunni band of thugs until Iran got involved. Then, suddenly, Barack Obama saw fit to dispatch U.S. ‘military advisers’ in large numbers and ordered ISIS strongholds to be bombed by U.S. aircraft. The purpose: to warn Iran from gaining any further foothold in Iraq, despite there being no shred of evidence to suggest they might do so.

Theresa May is faithfully quoting U.S. foreign policy for the benefit of the West’s Arab ‘allies’. Iran is the Middle Eastern fall-guy for American pain because Iranians dared to depose the U.S. puppet Shah, and make Jimmy Carter look foolish by taking control of the Tehran embassy back in 1980.

One cannot help but hear the strident tones of Margaret Thatcher resounding through this speech. Like Thatcher, May is an advocate of U.S. foreign policy. Wherever the superpower leads she will follow. Her speech is straight out of the Pentagon Handbook for Foreign Allies.

The U.S. set its military sights on Iran back in 2002. The invasion of Iraq was a planned prelude to invading Iran, unless it was prepared to capitulate to U.S. pressure. The whole venture proved a military disaster from start to finish, serving only to fuel the venom and hatred towards the West that has created the present situation in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and other Middle Eastern nations today. Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies are using the West to further their powerbase in the area; their aim, Sunni domination of their Shiite rivals.

America and its Western allies are hellbent on helping them do so. Theresa May, just like Margaret Thatcher before her, is determined to be top of the pile when fealty to the United States is demanded. Ronald Reagan was Margaret Thatcher’s American beau. Can we expect to see a similar meeting of minds between Donald Trump and Theresa May?

Or, was one nightmare enough?

** Syria-Poll-Table

[1] “Theresa May ‘clear-eyed’ over Iran threat” BBC, December 7th 2016

[2] “No, Yemen’s Houthis actually aren’t Iranian puppets” Washington Post, May 2016

3 Replies to “Theresa May: The Thatcher Nightmare Returns.”

  1. Thanks for a straightforward account of what’s what in the ME – but even your plain explanations have my head spinning. I have not ever been able to get my head around what goes on in that part of the world, since as long ago as the 1950s when my brain started to get into gear.

    With regard to PM May, the late and unlamented Mrs Thatcher, Donald Trump Prez-elect, and Prez long-gone Reagan and their potential for meeting of minds; my own mind automatically clicked onto their astrology. I know you don’t hold with such ideas, but …

    Thatcher and Reagan were Sun Libra and Sun Aquarius respectively – those two signs are both Air signs, mentally oriented. May and Trump are Sun Libra and Sun Gemini respectively – again two mentally oriented signs. Though Trump and May are really, really different in style, they will enjoy a certain compatibility. I’d not be at all surprised if, in time, a bond similar to that old Thatcher-Reagan one were to develop – if Trump survives without impeachment or other impediment, that is.

    May the gods help us all!

  2. Twilight – In this instance I truly hope your astrology is way off the mark. Trump and May – a meeting of minds? As you say: may the gods help us all!

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