Monday, August 17, 2015
Book Review: First Strike
New York: Summit Books, 1987
Category: Israel Air Force - History
Whereas Dan McKinnon's book on Israel's 1981 Osirak nuclear raid was focused on the perspective of the pilots, Shlomo Nakdimon's book is focused on the wider political battle which both preceded and followed the raid. This is the story of Israel's diplomatic campaign to prevent Iraq from obtaining the Osirak research reactor from France - one of the largest research reactors in the world - as well as to prevent the delivery of plutonium separation cells from Italy. This is the political battle in Europe and Washington to dissuade the French from delivering the enriched uranium fuel that would allow the research reactor to become the plutonium factory that Saddam Hussein intended it to be. And this is the story of the internal political wrangling within Israel between those who insisted that the Iraqi reactor be eliminated and those who feared the political fall-out of an Israeli raid, preferring instead to trust promises from France to prevent Iraq from producing nuclear weapons at the plant.
All of these elements are part of the wider story surrounding Iraq's quest for nuclear weapons. It is a story clearly laid out by this book. Despite this, however, the real-world, human immediacy of these events gets lost somewhere between the diplomats and the politicians - which is why I have to give this book an "average" rating. This is still an important part of the story behind Iraq's nuclear weapons program - but it's not nearly as gripping as the first-hand accounts of those actually charged with carrying out the Osirak reactor raid.