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Thursday, June 01, 2006

25th Anniversary of Osirak Miracle - US was not pleased

Today, the Eve of the Holiday of Shavuoth, is the 25th anniversary of the destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. There are a couple of articles about it in today's paper, and I will give you some teasers and pointers and then let you go and check them out yourself:
American diplomats were initially shocked and displeased with Osirak's destruction, according to vetern diplomat Yehuda Avner in today's Jerusalem Post. Begin justified it as "an unparalleled act of self-defense," as assessment that most of the civilized world hopefully recognizes today to be true.

While the planes were en route, Avner recalls, Begin handed him the summary of the Mossad's psychological portrait of Saddam, "and when I read the opening paragraph my heart thumped against my rib cage. It said: 'Saddam Hussein is a hard-headed megalomaniac, cunning, sophisticated and cruel. He is willing to take high risks and drastic action to realize his ambition for self-aggrandizement. His possession and use of a nuclear weapon will enable him to threaten and strike Israel and, thereby, win supremacy over the Arab world. He is prepared to act at an early opportunity, even in the awareness that retaliation might follow.'" [Something tells me that the same words would be correct regarding Mahmoud Ahamdinadinnerjacket. CiJ].

While Avner was reading this, Begin was "prowling the room, head down, face grim, arms behind his back, his lips moving imperceptibly in the manner of one muttering Tehillim - Psalms." [And knowing Begin, he probably was muttering Tehillim, and that's a major difference between Israel's leadership twenty-five years ago and today. CiJ]

As the waiting continued, Avner writes, Begin also bitterly castigated [Slimy CiJ] Shimon Peres, the opposition leader, for having written to him a few weeks earlier "to ask me to desist from taking action. Hoss gehert aza meisa? [Yiddish for 'Have you heard of such a thing?']," Begin stormed, according to Avner. [In retrospect it's also a miracle that Peres didn't go and spoil it by announcing it to the world. CiJ]

When word finally came through that the target had been hit and destroyed in less than 90 seconds, Begin praised God and phoned the US ambassador, Sam Lewis.

"I have to tell you in all honesty that I suspect some people in the White House will be pretty furious about this," said a shocked Lewis. "Your weaponry was procured from us under the Arms Export Act, for purposes of self-defense only."

"Self-defense?" Begin retorted. "What greater act of self-defense could there be than to demolish Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, designed to bring Israel to its knees, kill our people, vaporize our infrastructure - in a word to destroy our nation, our country, our existence? Over these past months I've told you again and again, Sam, that either the US does something to stop that reactor, or we will have to."

Stressing the resonance and relevance of the Osirak strike given the current international crisis over Iran's nuclear program, Avner notes that Begin, at the end of a cabinet communique he issued shortly before Shavuot began that evening, vowed that Israel would never allow "an enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction against our people" and would take "whatever preemptive measures are necessary to defend the citizens of Israel."

If only we had leaders with Begin's courage today.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Osirak raid, Lieutenant Colonel Zev Raz, feared that the bombers would run out of fuel. While he had no doubt that they would reach Osirak, he feared that he and the other seven pilots would run out of fuel before returning safely to Israel.
"Begin wanted to wait until he had cabinet unity. Ministers Yosef Burg, Yigael Yadin and Ezer Weizman initially did not agree, they did not think it would do any good," Raz told The Jerusalem Post. 'Shimon Peres, to this day, still says it was a big mistake, but in the end, Chief of General Staff Rafael Eitan, Air Force general David Ivry, and Begin himself persuaded the other ministers to go along with the raid." Raz was a soldier, battle-hardened in the Yom Kippur War, and he left the bickering to the politicians. His only concern was completing the mission, and returning home the seven pilots he personally chose for the raid.

"The first person I consulted was my Captain Ilan," Raz said, referring to Ilan Ramon, who became Israel's first astronaut and who died in the Columbia space shuttle disaster in 2003. "Ilan said it was slightly out of range, but we figured out that if we jettisoned the external fuel tanks the moment they were empty, we ridded ourselves of the drag and significantly increased our range."

Dropping the external fuel tanks was dangerous in itself, with the wings of the jets crowded with 1,000 kg bombs. "Now it looks like we had no choice, but at the time it was crazy," Raz said.

"There was war between Iran and Iraq at the time, and the Iranians tried to bomb Osirak, so we thought the Iraqis would be prepared. They had the SA-2 and SA-6 (air defense systems), and the MiG-23 and other Russian and French-made jets, and, on top of that, the place itself was flat and easy to defend. They could see our planes 20 minutes before we bombed the place."

"None of the pilots could believe it, no jet fighters, no radar, no missile systems locking on to us. There was some anti-aircraft fire, but that was ineffective."

Raz describes the bombing as picture-perfect. "All 16 bombs hit dead-on," he says with pride. Iraq's nuclear reactor was demolished.

Unfortunately, as a result of Osirak, the Iranians have spread and buried their reactors, and Raz believes that the only way to attack the Iranian nuclear capability is on the ground. And Shimon Peres, who still thinks that bombing Osirak was a big mistake(!) is still part of the government!

Read the whole thing.

There are more articles about Osirak in today's JPost, but they are not online yet. I wish I could tell you that HaAretz and YNet had any, but so far they don't - at least online. But since they are both LLL, maybe that's not all that surprising either.


At 6:31 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

You should read Raid on the Sun. The planes overflew King Hussein. (Not part of their plan.)
Though the diplomatic corps was furious (including Gen Haig!) Reagan's initial response was supportive.
The misplaced diplomatic anger incidentally, prompted a WSJ editorial "Mushy-mindednes" that even took Dr. Kirkpatrick to task, IIRC.
But when you read the book you can't help but feel that the war against Saddam was necessary.
The other thing you realize is that if not for the great friendship of Reagan for Israel it wouldn't have happened. Israel wasn't getting the necessary intelligence from the Carter administration.


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