South Africa is no nuclear light weight. It has the world’s fourth-largest uranium reserves and significant experience in fuel production. It sits on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, occupies a temporary seat on the UN Security Council and will be the next chair of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. There is no doubt that given these credentials South Africa could have a significant influence on the ability of the international community to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Unfortunately however, South Africa has been a staunch supporter of Iran’s bid to develop its nuclear infrastructure seeing it as part of a greater struggle against ‘Western imperialism’ and ‘…the inherent discriminatory nature of the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty, which created two distinct groups: the haves and the have-nots.”
But South Africa has gone much further than merely defending Iran’s right to develop nuclear technology. It has in fact sought to strengthen its relationship with the Islamic Republic to the extent that it is fast becoming a key member of the broader anti-Western totalitarian camp.
In May 2006, South African officials and the foreign ministers of Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, and Venezuela met with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.
In August 2006, bilateral cooperation was strengthened when Mottaki met with a number of South African government officials.
During the annual session of the UN General Assembly in September 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and South African President Thabo Mbeki discussed points for strengthening bilateral relations in various fields, including the nuclear field.
South Africa may have also offered to transfer natural uranium to Iran for use in its program, although there is no indication that any such deal has been concluded. So concerned was the United States with these developments that sent its ambassador to the IAEA to South Africa to urge it to take a stricter stance on Iran’s nuclear issue.