Margaret Thatcher, elected British Prime Minister in 1979, the year of the Islamic revolution in Iran, has a reputation as one of the most pro-Jewish of politicians; Jimmy Carter has acquired a reputation as one of the least pro-Israel of US presidents. Newly-released documents show the roles are reversed: the ‘Iron Lady’ rebuffed Carter’s appeals to her to protect the Jews of Iran, denying that they were being persecuted. Yet over the next decade, more than two dozen Jews were executed, several jailed for spying, and four-fifths of the community have since fled the country. (With thanks: Frank)
In May of 1979, according to the files, which go online on Saturday on the Thatcher Foundation Web site, Carter appealed Thatcher for “urgent private representations” to Iranian authorities to assure the safety of Iranian Jews.
Thatcher refused, saying the British Embassy did not believe Jews faced organized persecution, and that intervention “could indeed make their position less secure.”
The papers also showed that the former British premier had also refused a more demonstrative response to the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, saying it would do more harm than good.
The files cover the first eight months of Thatcher’s 11 years as prime minister, giving glimpses of her embarking on an ambitious domestic agenda to revive the economy and curb the unions, and engaging with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4.
They were made public by the Thatcher Foundation under rules that allow for keeping documents secret for 30 years.
On Nov. 14, Mr. Carter asked in a cable for “the strongest possible remonstration or action” to pressure Iran, suggesting that Britain consider reducing the number of diplomatic staff in the country.
Thatcher responded a week later that Britain had withdrawn some staff, “but we have not hitherto believed it wise to make a political point of any reduction, partly because we doubt whether the Iranians would be much impressed and partly because of the risk of retaliatory action against those remaining.”