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South Africa’s Double Game on Iran

South Africa’s emergence from apartheid was among the greatest moral victories of the 20th century. How sad it is, therefore, to see how the South Africans have squandered it. In recent years, the South African government has cozied up to such regimes as Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya and Bashar al-Assad’s Syria. Far from being a moral authority, Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu has subscribed to numerous anti-Semitic tropes.

South Africa has long maintained cordial if not friendly relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Iranians have long sought to cultivate African countries with votes on the IAEA Board of Governors or the Security Council. A recent lawsuit by Turkcell against a South African phone company has shed new light on the depth of the relationship, however. According to Bloomberg:

Turkcell, which initially was awarded the Iranian mobile- phone license, sued its Johannesburg-based rival yesterday in federal court in Washington for $4.2 billion in damages. The suit includes numerous alleged internal MTN memos that detail the company’s efforts to win the Iranian business after losing the bid to Turkcell in February 2004… MTN prevailed upon the South African government to abstain from three votes on Iran’s nuclear energy program at the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna in 2005 and 2006, according to the complaint. The Iranian communications ministry allegedly told MTN it was withholding its license until it saw how South Africa voted at an upcoming IAEA meeting.  South Africa’s representative to the IAEA, Abdul Minty, abstained from an IAEA vote on Iran on Nov. 24, 2005. The license was delivered three days later, the complaint states.

The story continues to describe how the South African government greased the deal with helicopters, artillery, communications equipment, and radar technology.


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