The former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, personally ordered the swift execution of Farzad Bazoft, an Iranian-born freelance journalist working for The Observer in early 1990, shortly before the first Gulf War, even as the Government of Margaret Thatcher was scrambling to win him clemency, new recordings have revealed.
Just how hopeless were Britain’s efforts to intervene is clear from passages pulled from an archive of conversations between Hussein and members of his inner circle first seized by the US after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, parts of which now have been released to researchers.
More broadly, the transcripts, spanning many years, show also how hapless Saddam was in misreading diplomatic realities and in allowing paranoia to cloud his thinking.
Mr Bazoft was taken into custody after reporting a story for his newspaper about an unexplained explosion at a military complex south of Baghdad. The Iraqi leadership seemingly drew the conclusion, which was erroneous, that the reporter was spying in Iraq on behalf of Israel. The case drew worldwide attention and winning back Mr Bazoft’s freedom became a top priority of British diplomacy.
The notion Hussein would have any concern for the British pleadings was misplaced, however. The recordings show him voicing frustr…