Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cheese eating ... mercenary reactor bombers? 

So I'm reading Edward Luttwak's essay on Iran ("Three Reasons Not To Bomb Iran -- Yet") from the May issue of Commentary (of which more later), and I stumble across this rather startling passage (bold emphasis added):

In 1975, the Shah contracted with the French for enriched uranium and with Germany’s Kraftwerk Union consortium of Siemens and A.E.G. Telefunken, as well as with ThyssenKrupp, to build the first two pressurized light-water reactors and their generating units near Iran’s major port city of Bushehr. Work progressed rapidly until July 1979, when, after an expenditure of some $2.5 billion, the Germans abandoned Bushehr because Iran’s new revolutionary rulers refused to make an overdue progress payment of $450 million. It seems that Ayatollah Khomeini opposed nuclear devilry—and besides, anything done by the Shah was viewed with great suspicion.

At that point, one reactor (Bushehr I) was declared by the Germans to be 85-percent complete and the other (Bushehr II) 50-percent complete. Both were subsequently damaged during the war with Iraq that lasted until 1988, chiefly in air strikes flown by seconded French pilots. Siemens was asked to return to finish the work but, knowing that the German government would never allow the contract to proceed, refused.

I admit, the information that actual French pilots flew for Saddam's Iraq against Iran came as something of a surprise. Am I the only person out here who did not know that? Have you guys been giggling behind my back all this time? I don't think that's very nice...


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Sep 13, 10:09:00 PM:

Perhaps suprising, perhaps true, perhaps none of the above.
German pilots flew for Franco's air force in the Spanish Civil War (according to Adolph Galland in "The First and the Last")
American Army Air Force pilots were 'seconded' to fly in China prior to the US entry into WWII to gain combat experience and help the Chinese.
The Soviets flew MiG-15's in Korea against us in the Korean War for the same reasons.

So I guess that is would not be that unusual for French pilots to be 'seconded' to Iraq to fly French made Mirage fighter-bombers to gain combat experience, and to advance French mercantilism. If Luttwak is actually correct.

Sometimes we think that the world has somehow 'changed' since the Cold War, etc. Yet national governments have, and still, coldly pursue their own 'interests'.

Consider that Ayatollah Khomeini wound up in Paris in 1978 (before he returned, Lenin-like, to Iran to invoke the second revolution in 1979, after the Shah was deposed) after he had lived in exile in Najaf (Iraq) for years with Ayatollah al-Sistani (also an Iranian), because the Shah complained to Saddam Hussein about the trouble he was causing, and at that time Hussein was deathly afraid of the Iranians.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Sep 13, 10:27:00 PM:

Jeez Who Knew?

Maybe this explains Saddam sending the Iraq Air Force over to Iran to avoid the USA air attacks at the being of the 1st Gulf War(I'm being very snarky here:). If I'm correct the pilots are still in Iranian prisons for war crimes against the Iranian people(I wonder if this was brought up between the two prez in the "summit" in Iran)I'm sure if any French pilot was captured he speaks perfect Farsi today. If Saddam can send the Iraq air force to a enemy(muslim brother) that he fought for over 9 years what does that say about WMD?
Mike S  

By Blogger viking kaj, at Thu Sep 14, 12:24:00 AM:

German, French, and other European armaments companies have had their hands in the Middle East for years. When I was living in Sweden in the 1980's new graduates of the KTH (Royal Technical University, Sweden's MIT) were getting offers of $ 100k per year (tax free) fresh out of school to work on building turn key armaments factories in BOTH Iraq and Iran. Don't foget that Nobel was a Swede and his company soldiered on after he died. It's a little known fact that the standard laser-guided small guns on many American destroyers and frigates are actually built by, or are based on, a Bofors design. Sweden was also building and selling U-boats to South Africa pre Apartheid, and is perhaps the only small country that is building a latest generation fly-by-wire fighter (the Viggen) on its own.

In the 1980's there was no bigger arms bazaar than the Le Bourget airshow. "Technical Advisors" during the cold war often ended up flying military missions as private contractors. Given the long French involvement in the Middle East, ie. Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, and their interest in selling the Dassault Mirage during the 1980's I would be extremely surprised there were no French Pilots flying in those areas.

BTW, one of the reasons why Donald Rumsfeld was perhaps surprised that no WMD's were found in Iraq was because he arranged for the US government loans that in part used to finance the gassing of the Kurds and Iranians. Rumsfeld was a special envoy to Iraq designated by the Reagan Administration on behalf of the Bechtel corporation. He was personally responsible for providing close to a half billion in loan guarantees for a pipeline that would have avoided the Shat Al Arab by going northward from the fields in Kurdistan through Turkey to the Mediterranean. The pipeline was never built, but Saddam drew on the guarantees to finance the war on the Kurds and the Iranians.

So the Germans, the French, the Swedes, et. al. were not the only ones playing both sides of the street in the 1980's...  

By Blogger viking kaj, at Thu Sep 14, 12:29:00 AM:

A quick update, the 4th generation fighter is the Gripen, the older 3d generation fighter is the Viggen, sorry for any confusion.  

By Blogger Cutler, at Thu Sep 14, 05:26:00 AM:

I hadn't heard it either.

A quick google pulls up some hits, in particular:


Which is unconfirmed.  

By Anonymous davod, at Thu Sep 14, 07:35:00 AM:


The Grippen is a 3 1/2 generation fighter.  

By Blogger sirius_sir, at Thu Sep 14, 08:15:00 PM:

Good catch, TH.

The things one learns coming here--and I'm refering to the comments, too.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Sep 14, 09:16:00 PM:

Sirius, the commenters here, left and right, are very good. We have some of the best commenters around, I think. Keep it up!  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Sep 15, 03:57:00 AM:


The pipeline was never built....Saddam drew on the money to attack the Kurds & Iranians?

Got any thing to prove this? First I've heard of it.

Mike S  

By Blogger viking kaj, at Sun Sep 17, 12:00:00 AM:

Rumsfeld's various visits to the Middle East in the early 80's are well documented. There are a number of photos generally available, even on the web, of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam. As regards the details of what went on in those meetings, it's hard to tell. Most of the NSA memos relating to the meetings which have been made available are so heavily redacted as to be nearly useless. There are a number of items available on the NSA archive site at GWU.

It is fairly clear that we did provide both financial and military assistance to Saddam, some of which came through various loan guarantees. For example, we did eventually supply a number of modified military helicopters which were converted back by the Iraqi's, the general supposition is at least some of these were used to gas the Irani's and Kurds. Of course once the money goes in the door it is hard to say where it got used afterwards. I think we are still trying to trace some of the oil for food money that went into Iraq in the 1990's and was diverted.

As regards Bechtel, the pipeline was never built, but they did end up building a chemical plant on the outskirts of Baghdad later in the decade. One item that tends to make me particularly suspicious is that Bechtel has seen fit to deny any connection between Rumsfeld, the pipeline, and the Kurds in the FAQ section of its company website. If there is nothing to be worried about, why have they gone out of their way to deny it?

As a libertarian, I am ashamed that American dollars and weapons have been used by military dictatorships around the planet to thwart the aspirations of peoples to free themselves, such as the Kurds. We are just as guilty of supplying the Turkish military dictatorship of the early 1980's in this regard as we were of supplying Saddam. And as I recall when we had to finally go after Iraq, the Turks were far from a stallwart NATO ally.

If you are interested in learning more about the struggles of the Kurds I can recommend Kevin McKiernan's new book. There is also some mention of Rumsfeld' activities there.  

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