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raid on the sun

This weekend I finished reading Raid on the Sun: Inside Israel’s Secret Campaign that Denied Saddam the Bomb by Rodger W. Claire. It is the inside story of a secret Israeli mission that in 1981 took down Saddam’s first, biggest (and, as it would turn out, most successful) nuclear weapons project by destroying the Osirak reactor (Osirak being the Arabic conversion of Osiris, the Ancient Egyptian god). The Israeli Air Force used eight of the then-new F-16s for the mission, taking the planes beyond the limits of their stated capabilities, so much so that for years afterwards the pilots and those involved in the mission (which, even as it was executed, were never more than a few dozen people) would have to constantly live with rumors that they hadn’t in fact done it the way they had, but that they had used any number of other exotic options (for example, that commandos had planted the explosives on the ground, something pretty far-fetched given the situation in Iraq at the time).

The raid also had very significant geopolitical consequences that extend through to the present day, most obviously in the current war in Iraq (or rather, how the current war started) but also in the Iran-Iraq conflict of the 80’s, the Gulf War, and the balance of power in the middle east.

Anyway, it’s one of those true stories that reads like a thriller, highly recommended if you’re into this sort of thing.

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