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How Israel Denied Saddam the Bomb By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, June 11, 2004

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Rodger W. Claire, author of the new book Raid on the Sun - Inside Israel’s Secret Campaign that Denied Saddam the Bomb. Mr. Claire tells the story of Israel’s elimination of Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, a reactor undoubtedly constructed for the purpose of creating nuclear weapons. Visit his website at RaidontheSun.com.


FP: Mr. Claire, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Claire: Thank you for the opportunity to talk to you and your readers. 

FP: You are the first author allowed access to the eight pilots and supporting staff involved in the raid. Summarize for us briefly your new findings.


Claire: Well, there were many, many new findings. Most interesting was the pilots’ heartbreaking disappointment when the first mission in April was killed at literally the last moment as they were ready for take-off on the runway. The lead wingman Yadlin described it as a knife through the heart. Of course, the mission had been compromised by a rival of Prime Minister Menachem Begin in the Labor Party. Also, it had never been revealed that the mission leader Zev Raz overshot his IP, or the point at which the pilots begin their attack run because the marker was an island in a lake in Western Iraq which had flooded and, thus, was underwater. Also, it was never reported that Israel’s most reknowned fighter pilot, Iftach Spector, was suffering from the flu and blacked out over the target, missing the Osirak reactor on his bombing run. 

FP: How did you first become interested in this subject?

Claire: I had first learned the details about the raid on Osirak some years after the mission, from a contact I had in the defense industry here in Southern California while I was a senior editor for Los Angeles magazine. I was told that not only had the IAF exceeded design specs for the F-16 during the mission, but that the attack had indeed put an end to Saddam Hussein’s ambitions to create an “Arab” bomb.

FP: The Israeli Air Force is famously secretive about its operations. How did you become the first person allowed to interview the pilots and officials involved with the raid?

Claire: Yes, the mission remained classified for nearly two decades, until I saw a short piece in the Los Angeles Times in June 2001 on the 20th anniversary of the raid. I thought then that perhaps the IDF was ready to talk, so I contacted the mission’s planner, General David Ivry, who was now the Israeli Ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C., told him of my background and long interest in the mission and asked if I could interview him for a book. He said yes, and we set up a meeting for September 6 & 7, 2001. I held some eight hours of interviews with Ivry and managed to ask enough intelligent questions to establish a rapport. The Israeli Press secretary, Mark Regev, then suggested I talk to Brig. Gen. Rani Falk, the embassy military attaché, who turned out to be one of the backup mission pilots. Gen. Falk eventually put me in touch with mission commander Zev Raz who supplied me with the telephone numbers of all eight pilots. I contacted all the pilots and booked a flight to Israel.

FP: Certain Ronald Reagan cabinet members were outraged that the Israelis used American-made F-16s for the raid. Why? And how did Reagan react?

Claire: Yes, Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who called the raid “reckless” and Defense Sec Caspar Weinberger both thought Israel should be subject to some kind of official rebuke. U.N. Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick approved a U.N. resolution condemning the attack. In the end, further F-16 sales to Israel were suspended (at least for a few months). As for Reagan, he rolled his eyes as his cabinet ministers railed about the raid and, when he saw the satellite photographs of the pinpoint destruction of the Osirak reactor, he declared, “What a terrific piece of bombing.”


FP: You encountered difficulty selling the publication rights in Europe. What happened?


Claire: Every European publisher, including Britain, France, Italy, and Spain, passed on the rights to the book, having never even seen the galleys. Stunned, my agents, The Robbins Office, made inquiries and were told that European readers shied away from anything that put Israeli in a positive light. The publishers were not so much pro-Palestinian as anti-Israeli. But it is no secret that a new wave of anti-Semitism is moving through Europe, fuelled by the European Left and the huge Muslim immigrant populations. Obviously, my book became a victim of that. It is not a political book, it is an exciting, pulse-pounding military tale, revealing what incredible feats a human being can accomplish in the most impossible of circumstances, and that faith and teamwork and duty can overcome almost any obstacle – or any tyrant.


FP: Why do you think anti-Semitism is sweeping through Europe again? And why do you think Jew-hatred has become the new call of the Left?


FP: Why do you think anti-Semitism is sweeping through Europe again? And why do you think Jew-hatred has become the new call of the Left?

Claire: Two reasons: First, the European Left sees the Palestinians as an oppressed and occupied people – and Israel as a bully state that has killed far too many civilians. The socialists have always gravitated to the Arab side, seeing the region as being exploited by imperialist powers which prop up dictatorships and kingdoms. Of course, they don’t take into account that tribal groups being governed by strongmen or principalities has been a millennia old reality in Arabian politics, in existence long before the West came to the Middle East. It also fails to realize that the so-called Palestinian street supports terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah who both have committed to eliminating the “Zionist” state and, thus, have brought any talk of a two-state settlement to a halt.  

Furthermore, it can be easily argued that Europe’s so-called intelligentsia has long been mildly anti-Semitic, drawing from a strain of mistrusting the Jews which dates back to the Middle Ages. Both Vichy France and Nazi Germany exposed the underbelly of this long festering prejudice. In addition, the influx of Middle Eastern emigrants into Europe has also sparked local acts of anti-Semitism, conducted by groups who have brought their long hatred of Israel with them into the West. 

Ironically, my background is French Catholic. But the truth is the truth, regardless of your ethnic and religious background.

FP: What exactly was the relationship between French President Jacques Chirac and Saddam Hussein?

Claire: Their relationship reached back 30 years, when Chirac was French Prime Minister. He first visited Baghdad in 1974, when he and the Iraqi leader worked out a far-reaching trade agreement which made France Iraq's number one trading partner, along with the Soviet Union, later Russia.

The initial deal called for France to sell Iraq a state-of-the-art nuclear reactor that produced enriched uranium as a by-product and which could easily be converted to weapons-grade plutonium. Iraq agreed to pay twice the "list price" for the Osiris reactor, or $300 million. In return, Iraq would sell France 70 million barrels of oil a year at fixed market price, buy 100,000 Peugots and Citroens, in lots of 50,000, hundreds of Mirage fighter planes, sophisticated French radar and anti-aircraft systems. A side agreement also contracted French developers to build a billion dollar resort on the lake at Habbaniya. The deal was sealed when Hussein visited France in 1975, feted as an esteemed internation leader by the French Republic.

The military sales to Iraq would continue up until the Coalition invaded Iraq in March 2003.

FP: How would the world look if the Israelis did not destroy the Osirak reactor?

Claire: The first coalition may have been much more reluctant to come to the aid of Kuwait in ’91 had Saddam Hussein had a nuclear bomb. There is no question he was mad enough to use it. He certainly could have used a threat of a bomb to intimate Saudi Arabia, Iran and other neighbors, changing the balance of power in the Middle East. Would Israel have then let him build more bombs, or would they feel threatened enough to cause a nuclear stand-off? They ramifications are chilling, the options all deadly.

FP: What strategy do you think the U.S. should now pursue in the War on Terror in general and the war in Iraq in particular?

Claire: I believe the solution is two-fold. Number one, we need to defeat the present terrorist cells militarily, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to pressure Pakistan to do even more on its Western tribal frontiers, which harbor al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, perhaps as many as a thousand. Number two, in the long run, we need to engage the European community and the Middle Eastern rulers to reform the madrassas and radical mosques, where extreme Muslim fundamentalism is taught, almost by rote, and instilled into each succeeding generation, creating a breeding ground of new terrorist recruits. This will call for some liberalization of educational doctrine, loosening governments’ tight control on the press and media and reforming the autocracy of nations like Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Arab Emirates, Yemen, et. al.

FP: Mr. Clarie, we are out of time. Thank you for joining us. 

Claire: Thank you as well Jamie.

Previous Interviews:

Marcia Israel-Curley

Prof. Khaleel Mohammed

Mike Adams

Ben Shapiro

Richard Poe

Steven Hayward

Kenneth Timmerman

Victor Davis Hanson

Ion Mihai Pacepa

Phyllis Chesler

Debra Dickerson

Richard Perle and David Frum

John Kekes

Robert Baer

Robert Dornan

Paul Driessen

Stephen F. Hayes

Andrew Sullivan 

Richard Pipes

Rachel Ehrenfeld

Ann Coulter

Laurie Mylroie

Michael Ledeen

Daniel Pipes

Christopher Hitchens

John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr

Kenneth Timmerman

Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.

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