Published on September 26, 2015
Operation Opera, also known as Operation Babylon and Raid on the Reactor, was a surprise Israeli air strike carried out on 7 June 1981, which destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction 17 kilometers, 10.5 miles, southeast of Baghdad. The operation came after Iran’s unsuccessful Operation Scorch Sword operation had caused minor damage to the same nuclear facility the previous year, the damage having been subsequently repaired by French technicians. Operation Opera, and related Israeli government statements following it, established the Begin Doctrine, which explicitly stated the strike was not an anomaly, but instead “a precedent for every future government in Israel.” Israel’s counter-proliferation preventive strike added another dimension to their existing policy, as it related to the nuclear capability of other states in the region.
In 1976, Iraq purchased an “Osiris”-class nuclear reactor from France. While Iraq and France maintained that the reactor, named Osirak by the French, was intended for peaceful scientific research, the Israelis viewed the reactor with suspicion, and said that it was designed to make nuclear weapons. On 7 June 1981, a flight of Israeli Air Force F-16A fighter aircraft, with an escort of F-15As, bombed and heavily damaged the Osirak reactor. Israel claimed it acted in self-defense, and that the reactor had “less than a month to go” before “it might have become critical.Ten Iraqi soldiers and one French civilian were killed.
The attack was strongly criticized around the world, including in the United States, and Israel was rebuked by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly in two separate resolutions.
After Operation Desert Storm, the free world quietly praised Israel for eliminating Iraq’s Nuclear Treat, including France. Fact is, Iraq had plenty of oil for energy and absolutely no need for a nuclear reactor, except to research and build nuclear weapons.
Video Courtesy of TopGunMilitary YouTube Channel