Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein plotted to kidnap Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin after Israel bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981, a report in Al-Quds Al-Arabi published Friday claimed.
Badie Aref Izzat, a confidant of the former Iraqi leader, told the London-based Arabic paper that immediately after the Israeli Air Force stunned Baghdad with its lightning strike on the nuclear facility outside the capital, Saddam instructed his people to plan a kidnapping of the man responsible — Begin.
The plot was supposed to be carried out by a Palestinian, who would grab the prime minister and flee across the border, presumably through Jordan or Syria, to Iraq, Aref said.
The covert operation was meant to be Saddam’s great revenge against Israel for destroying the Osirak reactor, and he scheduled it for the end of 1981.
But details of the plot were obtained by Western intelligence agencies, Atef said, and Saddam called it off at the last minute.
“One leader of a Western state who was in touch with Hussein explained to him that the kidnapping plan was exposed, and therefore it wouldn’t succeed,” Aref told the paper. The unnamed Western statesman “asked the Iraqi dictator to cancel the plan, and that’s what happened.”
Israeli Air Force F-16 and F-15 fighter jets struck the French-made Osirak nuclear reactor, located 10 miles outside Baghdad, on June 7, 1981. The attack, codenamed Operation Opera, destroyed the reactor, which Israel had feared would soon be capable of producing nuclear weapons.