Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Irano-British Chamber of Commerce

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Tehran
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: Embargoed until 1400 local time (1000 London time). The Conservative Central Office press release (610/78) omits the opening of the speech and the concluding section in which MT comments on conditions in Britain. The annotated speaking text itself is headed "Extracts".
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1480
Themes: Conservatism, Defence (general), Economic policy - theory and process, Industry, Monetary policy, Energy, Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

This is my first visit to Iran.

For a long time I have shared with so many people in Britain a keen and growing interest in this country. I was therefore very glad at last to have the chance to come here.

My three-day visit is all too short; but the care and attention which have gone into drawing up my programme will ensure that my time will be fruitfully—and I have no doubt happily—spent. [end p1]

I am glad to be here.

First, because I admire this great country and its people. At an early age I learned something of the conquests of Cyrus the Great … the wisdom of Darius … the splendours of Persepolis.

Later, I came to appreciate the exquisite colour and grace of Persian art and culture, some of whose treasures were recently on view in London through the courtesy of Her Imperial Majesty, the Shahbanou. Can I thank her for the magnificent contribution made by Iran to our Festival of Islamic Art. [end p2]

Second, I am glad to be here because, like others, I have watched the progress of Iran. I have been impressed by the speed and sureness with which an ancient land has transformed itself in a single generation from one of the world's poorer countries into one of its leading military and industrial powers.

Now, like Britain, Iran is concerned to use wisely the revenues from oil and gas; not only for present consumption but to develop new industries for the benefit of future generations. We must both ensure that prosperity continues when the oil wells have run dry. [end p3]

Above all, as a person who hopes soon to lead another great country, I value my brief stay for one special reason.

It has given me the opportunity to learn the views of, and talk with, His Imperial Majesty, the Muhammad Reza Shah PahlaviShahanshah. Surely he must be one of the world's most far-sighted statesmen; whose experience is unrivalled. [end p4]

No other world leader has given his country more dynamic leadership. He is leading Iran through a twentieth century renaissance. On the occasion of the 2500 anniversary of the Iranian monarchy, he was right to say—and with justifiable pride—that “after the passage of twenty-five centuries, the Iranian flag is flying today as triumphantly as it flew in the glorious age of Cyrus.” [end p5] UK press release begins:

“Today, Iran is the strongest power in the Middle East. She holds a key strategic position in the defence of the Western World. Her strength and resolve are vital to our future.

Iran has been the West's most resolute and stalwart ally in this crucial region. First in the Baghdad Pact; later in the CENTO alliance.

She also forms a bridge between the Arab world and India and Southern Asia where her financial aid is a material factor in the Third World's development programme. [end p6]

Like us, Iran is also concerned with what is happening on the Continent of Africa. There, the Communists have launched a new push.

Coming so soon after their victory in Angola the appearance of Cuban troops in the Horn of Africa is a dangerous development. It is bound to be especially disturbing to Saudi Arabia, Oman and all our friends in the Persian Gulf.

What exactly is the business of these Cuban troops in Africa? What precisely is their mission, ten thousand miles away from their Caribbean home?

It can hardly be described as “defensive” . Cuba has no citizens to protect, no investments to secure, no trade of any consequence in the Horn of Africa. [end p7]

The cost of this dangerous adventure cannot possibly be borne by the fragile Cuban economy. Their intervention has been planned and financed by others who are not concerned with the welfare of the Africans either in Angola or Ethiopia. Their aim is to spread world Communism, not be persuasian, but by force!

Angola gave us due warning. Events in the Horn of Africa confirm what we are up against: powers which accept no limits to their aim to dominate other peoples, either directly or by proxy or by subversion. [end p8]

The time has come for all who are concerned for the peace and stability of Africa to join together in resisting this new imperialism. As the Shahanshah has put it, there is a need for the Western powers to “collect themselves and draw a line beyond which they are not willing to retreat.”

Some of the equipment needed for Iran's enormous contribution to defence has come from Britain. It is also a source of pride that British contractors are going to build the new military industrial complex at Isfahan; and have helped to construct the dockyard at Bandarabbas. [end p9]

Defence sales generate employment in Britain, which we badly need. Iran's purchases of British fighting vehicles provide many thousands of jobs throughout our engineering industries.

Thanks largely to the growth of the Iranian economy, trade between us has increased enormously in Tecent years.

Iran has become by far our largest market in the Middle East. Counting the “invisibles” , our sales to Iran now amount to more than £1 billion a year. We should like to do even better. [end p10]

It is to our capital goods industries, notably to our engineering companies and to transport, chemicals and electronics that I look for larger sales as the Iranian economy expands.

Overall, success will increasingly lie in industrial and commercial cooperation. Indeed, some seventy joint ventures are already functioning. I am aware that recently some anxieties have arisen about setting up new partnerships. But I am confident that any problems can be overcome. [end p11]

Cooperation will work to the benefit of both Iranian and British interests. We must combine British technology with Iranian enterprise, and help build new manufacturing industries. These will enable our two countries to increase trade with one another over the years.

Also, we must continue to help in providing training in the many skills which will be vital. So we welcome the large number of young Iranian students and apprentices at our colleges and universities. UK press release ends. [end p12]

You will expect me to say a few words about Britain.

We are a very stable, steady, calm people. Those are great assets in a world where change is constant and where fashionable if transient doctrines can sometimes threaten old values.

We have learned how to combine the old with the new; learned that the surest basis for progress is to start by conserving the best of the past and to use it as a foundation for testing and developing new ideas and technologies. [end p13]

We have no time for extremes or extremists. At a time when we hear a lot about ‘Euro-Communism’ in France and Italy it is noteworthy that not Communist has been returned as a Member of Parliament in Britain for many years. Such political creeds are rejected.

My generation wants the same thing for our children as our parents wanted for us. A better start, a wider choice, a higher standard of living. But above all we want them to live in a society,

— where our traditional rule of law is upheld—a just and impartial law; which has truly been the guardian of our liberties. [end p14]

A society—where relations between individuals are conducted on a basis of integrity and trust;

— where we can use our own initiative and develop our own talents,

— where we can advance on merit through our own efforts;

— where our tradition of voluntary service to others is maintained and

— where we can be proud of our country because she stands and is known to stand for those things. [end p15]

Troubles? of course we have them.

Who hasn't—whatever their stage of development, whatever their standard of living?

We were first into the Industrial Revolution. We were first to experience all its problems. I believe we shall be the first to come through them and because of that experience we shall be the first to learn that self government (as Democracy is called) must have self-discipline, that most difficult of all virtues. [end p16]

Economic problems, yes. They are always with us. We don't produce as much as we could. Personal Tax is too high. Success does not receive its just rewards. Inflation is referred to as an economic or monetary problem. It isn't. It is a political and human one. Political because politicians have a habit of promising the people more than they can produce and human because in spite of everything some people are still willing to believe that they can get something for nothing.

We talk about stimulating the economy but you can't stimulate economies—only people. That was why I spoke first not of economies but of the spirit and character of the people for they make the character of the nation. [end p17]

In a world full of upheaval and uncertainly Britain will still be there, steady, sure and unwilling to yield to those who would menace their freedom and democracy.

As the Shah said of Cyrus and Iran after the passage of twenty-five centuries, so might it be said of Britain albeit after a shorter period. “The torch thou kindlest has never died in spite of the storms of history. Today it casts its light upon this land more brightly than ever and as in thy time its brilliance spreads far beyond” its national boundaries.