When the case is made for bombing Iran’s nuclear sites, a word that often comes up is “Osirak” –the name of the Iraqi reactor successfully attacked by Israeli F-16s in 1981. If a pre-emptive bombing run worked 30 years ago, the reasoning goes, it will work today.
But many analysts draw the opposite conclusion from Osirak — including Iran expert Ken Pollack, who spoke on the subject at last week’s Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) forum in Washington D.C.
“The Osirak strike did not turn off the Iraqi nuclear program,” he told the audience. “Instead, it caused Saddam to redouble his efforts. He went from a small, actually quite backwards program that most estimated would take about 10 to 15 years to create a weapon, to a much more aggressive, much more extensive, much better concealed program, going from a single track to six different tracks across the country — at least three of which, the IAEA concluded afterward, could produce a bomb. What prevented the Iraqis from acquiring that capability wasn’t Osirak. It was Desert Storm.”