Only where dealing in arms was concerned did she display the kind of recklessness and lack of scruple that is now being blamed for the global financial crisis, and that she did from the beginning of her first term of office. On 29 January 1981 a meeting of the overseas and defence committee of the cabinet, chaired by Thatcher, agreed to interpret the Anglo-American ban on exporting arms to either side in the Iran-Iraq war more flexibly than was honest. Within months the arms-trade subsidiary of the Ministry of Defence was building an integrated weapons complex in Basra, and over the following years the "defence allocation" to Iraq continued to multiply. Iraq did not pay up; the extent of the defaulting is not known, but this particular toxic debt had probably grown close to £3bn by the time the Iraqis invaded Kuwait and all bets were off.
The deals Thatcher made later, and apparently off her own bat, were impenetrably secret, the amounts of money vast. She sold armaments to King Hussein of Jordan, President Suharto of Indonesia and President Pinochet of Chile, offering them massive amounts of easy credit and the full support of the export credit system. In April 1985, after a series of meetings with the Saudi defence minister's son, one of them when she was away from Westminster on holiday in Salzburg, she set up the Al-Yamamah contract worth £40bn, to be paid partly in oil. It is has been reported that her son, Mark Thatcher, was paid commission of between £12m and £20m, although he has denied it.