In an incident considered the first of its kind in the world, Israeli F-15 and F-16 fighters targeted the Iraqi Tammuz nuclear reactor on June 7, 1981, and the reactor was almost completely destroyed, with 10 Iraqis killed. and a French civilian, the operation was known as Oprah.
Although Iraq was engaged in a fierce war with Iran at the time, and despite having air defenses, warplanes and a strong intelligence apparatus, it failed to detect the strike and defend the nuclear reactor. Read also Operation Opera.. An Israeli raid destroyed the Iraqi “Tamouz reactor”It aimed to kill Saddam Hussein and destroy Iraq’s capabilities.. Learn about the American Operation Desert Fox Foreign Policy: Why should Israel worry about the Saudi and Emirati nuclear programs?
The Iraqi nuclear reactor, known as the “Tamouz reactor” (Osirac) in French, is located in the Al-Tuwaitha area, 17 kilometers southeast of the capital, Baghdad.
Since the sixties of the twentieth century, Iraq has tried to officially enter the peaceful and perhaps military nuclear club through an ambitious nuclear program, where it exploited its scientific human potential and the wealth that was achieved after the nationalization of its oil in 1973.
In early 1975, France agreed to build two nuclear reactors in Iraq in the Al-Tuwaitha area. They were similar to the nuclear reactors at the Nuclear Research Center of the French Energy Agency (CEA). The first reactor (July 1) had a capacity of 40 megawatts, and the other (July 2) was for training purposes with a capacity of 600 kilowatts.
With the completion of the construction of the Iraqi reactor, the country witnessed the first qualitative military operation in the world, when the Israeli Air Force managed to completely destroy the Iraqi nuclear reactor on June 7, 1981.
Targeting the reactor
The Iraqi historian and professor of modern history at the University of Mosul, Ibrahim Al-Allaf, says that Israel’s targeting of the Iraqi Tamouz reactor was not the first, as with the continuation and escalation of the Iran-Iraq war (the first Gulf War), Iran launched air raids on the Iraqi reactor on September 30, 1980, but it did not hit any Important facilities in the reactor, and the damage was limited to subsidiary buildings.
Al-Allaf (author of the book Nuclear Capabilities in the Middle East) adds in an exclusive interview to Al-Jazeera Net that 9 months after that incident, the Israeli bombing of the reactor came on June 7, 1981, when the bombing led to heavy losses in the reactor.
The Israeli bombing came after Menachem Begin was re-elected prime minister of Israel in 1981, and then took a decision to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor, justifying that the “Tamuz 1” reactor was about to start operational and Baghdad’s attempt to use these reactors to produce nuclear weapons used against Israel must be thwarted. Which managed to produce about 200 nuclear bombs from its original French reactor (Dimona reactor) during 3 decades.
Regardless of how the reactor was targeted and the Israeli planes were able to penetrate the borders of other countries and reach the Iraqi nuclear reactor, many questions arise about the reasons for the failure of the Iraqi intelligence services to detect the strike before it happened, and about the failure of the Iraqi air defenses to confront the Israeli planes, at the very least.
Returning to Al-Allaf, he points out that the so-called Israeli “Opera” operation to target the Iraqi nuclear reactor was very accurate, and far outweighed the Iranian attempt.
He asserts that the Iraqi intelligence and air defenses were not in a position to help them detect the Israeli planes that were flying at different ranges, as they traveled 2,500 kilometers and crossed the airspace of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, at an altitude of no more than 100 feet from the ground without being detected by Jordanian and Saudi radars.
He continues that the Israeli planes were using highly advanced technology, in addition to the fact that the Israeli pilots had been trained for a long time to target the Iraqi reactor.
For his part, Salem Al-Jumaili, director of the American Division of the former Iraqi intelligence service, told Al Jazeera Net that the tasks of the Iraqi intelligence service for protecting the nuclear reactor were limited to 3 tasks, the first related to the security of employees, including checking and collecting information on all individuals working in the nuclear program to ensure the safety of their situation And while working.
As for the second task, according to Al-Jumaili, it was related to the security of the nuclear facility, including controlling the entrances and exits, issuing entry cards, monitoring the facility from the inside, and coordinating with the military force responsible for guarding the reactor and its surroundings.
Al-Jumaili continues that the third mission was related to the security of scientists. After the assassination of the Egyptian nuclear scientist Yahya Al-Mashad in 1980 in Paris, who played a prominent role in the Iraqi nuclear program, the Iraqi leadership took a decision to allocate intelligence officers to accompany and protect the scientists inside and outside the country.
As for security and strategic expert Fadel Abu Ragheef, he attributes Iraq’s failure to defend the reactor to several considerations, the first of which is the political confusion of the former regime in dealing with France unilaterally without referring to the United States and Britain, the pioneers in this field.
Abu Ragheef continues – in his speech to Al Jazeera Net – that the Iraqi intelligence was not global, as it was working against opponents of the regime at home and abroad without working hard to protect national security, pointing out that the pivotal point was represented by the personality of President Saddam Hussein, who always called for Attacking Israel, which prompted it to launch a strike on the nuclear reactor for fear of Iraq’s ability to obtain an atomic bomb
Al-Alaf goes in this direction, as well, who asserts that the Israelis justified the bombing of the Iraqi reactor as self-defense and anticipation of what Baghdad could have done, which threatened the Israeli presence morning and evening, in addition to the fact that Iraq was the only country that did not sign the armistice agreements after the war. 1948.
Al-Allaf details – in his speech to Al-Jazeera Net – that the reactor was targeted by the French technical expert, who gave the coordinates of the reactor to the Israeli intelligence authorities by placing a geographical location device inside the reactor, noting that this novel was confirmed by a book issued by the Mossad in Tel Aviv, afterwards. Many details of the Israeli attack are still vague, especially since the French expert was killed in the air strike, as he did not leave the reactor, and no one knows why.
Despite having strong relations with the Soviet Union at the time, Iraq did not receive any intelligence warning, and this is explained by the security and military expert Muayyad Salem al-Juhaishi, who believes that the operation was purely Israeli, and therefore the international intelligence was not aware of the strike in advance.
Air defenses fail
In addition to the failure of the Iraqi intelligence services, the air defenses failed to detect and repel the Israeli planes, and in this regard, Abu Ragheef believes that Iraq had a Soviet air defense system “SAM-6”, which was considered old and dilapidated at that time, not to mention it was late Technology compared to the American planes used in the air strike.
Abu Ragheef continues that the radar systems failed to detect the aircraft that used electronic warfare and jamming systems, which prevented them from being detected, pointing out that the Israeli strike was aimed, in addition to preventing Iraq from acquiring a military nuclear capability – to maintain the military balance between Iraq and Iran during the war of the two countries that spanned 8 years.
There are many reasons that military experts point out. Returning to al-Juhaishi, he asserts that Iraq, in the midst of its war with Iran, focused most of its security and military attention on the country’s eastern front, and therefore did not expect a military strike from Israel, according to him.
Al-Juhaishi continues to Al-Jazeera Net that the warning batteries and radar systems were rare on the western borders of Iraq from which the Israeli planes came, pointing out that the main Iraqi mistake was in believing that targeting the nuclear reactor would be from Iran, with which Baghdad is fighting a war and not from any other party.