An article in Sunday's UK Guardian newspaper tells the story of Observer reporter Farzad Bazoft, an Iranian who was hanged in Iraq as a spy 20 years ago by Saddam Hussein.
In penning the article, the author Donald Trelford, who was editor of the Observer when Bazoft was arrested, seeks to "remember a friend and colleague whose death served as a warning to the world about Saddam Hussein".
The official story goes like this:
In September 1989, Bazoft went to Iraq to cover elections in Kurdistan. On the day his press party arrived in Baghdad, a massive explosion occurred at a military complex in the city.
Farzad met the deputy foreign minister, Nizam Hamdoun, and asked to visit the site. He enlisted the help of Daphne Parish, a British nurse he had met on a previous visit. They went on successive days to take photographs and collect soil samples, though they always stayed on public roads.
While waiting for an Iraq Airways flight to London on the 15 September, he was picked up at Baghdad airport and taken for interrogation by Saddam Hussein's Mukhabarat secret police.
On November 1st, the Iraqis issued a tape showing him "confessing" to being a spy for Israel. Earlier the Iraqis had claimed he was spying for Britain. On March 15th 1990 he was hanged.
As a veteran journalist, it is appalling that Trelford is content to limit his analysis of the case of Bazoft to the official story. With the US and Israel winding up the world's press to prepare the public for the first Gulf "war", there was good reason to be suspicious of any reports that demonized Saddam in the 1989-1990 period. With everything we know now about how willing Western politicians are to fabricate rationale for war, it is nothing short of yellow journalism to hold fast to the official story. Worse still is the fact that a much more plausible account of the case of Farzad Bazoft, from a truly reliable source - ex-Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky - has been available to Trelford for 15 years.
From The Other Side of Deception - by Victor Ostrovsky
The Mossad realized that it had to come up with a new threat to the region, a threat of such magnitude that it would justify whatever action the Mossad might see fit to take.
The right-wing elements in the Mossad (and in the whole country, for that matter) had what they regarded as a sound philosophy: They believed (correctly, as it happened) that Israel was the strongest military presence in the Middle East. In fact, they believed that the military might of what had become known as "fortress Israel" was greater than that of all of the Arab armies combined, and was responsible for whatever security Israel possessed. The right wing believed then - and they still believe - that this strength arises from the need to answer the constant threat of war.
The corollary belief was that peace overtures would inevitably start a process of corrosion that would weaken the military and eventually bring about the demise of the state of Israel, since, the philosophy goes, its Arab neighbors are untrustworthy, and no treaty signed by them is worth the paper it's written on.
Supporting the radical elements of Muslim fundamentalism sat well with the Mossad's general plan for the region. An Arab world run by fundamentalists would not be a party to any negotiations with the West, thus leaving Israel again as the only democratic, rational country in the region. And if the Mossad could arrange for the Hamas (Palestinian fundamentalists) to take over the Palestinian streets from the PLO, then the picture would be complete.
The Mossad regarded Saddam Hussein as their biggest asset in the area, since he was totally irrational as far as international politics was concerned, and was therefore all the more likely to make a stupid move that the Mossad could take advantage of.
What the Mossad really feared was that Iraq's gigantic army, which had survived the Iran-Iraq war and was being supplied by the West and financed by Saudi Arabia, would fall into the hands of a leader who might be more palatable to the West and still be a threat to Israel.
The first step was taken in November 1988, when the Mossad told the Israeli foreign office to stop all talks with the Iraqis regarding a peace front. At that time, secret negotiations were taking place between Israelis, Jordanians, and Iraqis under the auspices of the Egyptians and with the blessings of the French and the Americans. The Mossad manipulated it so that Iraq looked as if it were the only country unwilling to talk, thereby convincing the Americans that Iraq had a different agenda.
By January 1989, the Mossad LAP machine was busy portraying Saddam as a tyrant and a danger to the world. The Mossad activated every asset it had, in every place possible, from volunteer agents in Amnesty International to fully bought members of the U.S. Congress. Saddam had been killing his own people, the cry went; what could his enemies expect? The gruesome photos of dead Kurdish mothers clutching their dead babies after a gas attack by Saddam's army were real, and the acts were horrendous. But the Kurds were entangled in an all-out guerrilla war with the regime in Baghdad and had been supported for years by the Mossad, who sent arms and advisers to the mountain camps of the Barazany family; this attack by the Iraqis could hardly be called an attack on their own people. But, as Uri said to me, once the orchestra starts to play, all you can do is hum along.
The media was supplied with inside information and tips from reliable sources on how the crazed leader of Iraq killed people with his bare hands and used missiles to attack Iranian cities. What they neglected to tell the media was that most of the targeting for the missiles was done by the Mossad with the help of American satellites. The Mossad was grooming Saddam for a fall, but not his own. They wanted the Americans to do the work of destroying that gigantic army in the Iraqi desert so that Israel would not have to face it one day on its own border. That in itself was a noble cause for an Israeli, but to endanger the world with the possibility of global war and the deaths of thousands of Americans was sheer madness.
The previous august (1989) a contingent of the Maktal (Mossad reconnaissance unit) and several naval commandos had headed up the Euphrates, their target was an explosives factory located in the city of Al-Iskandariah. Information the Mossad had received from American intelligence revealed that every Thursday a small convoy of trucks came to the complex to be loaded with explosives for the purpose of manufacturing cannon shells. The objective was to take position near the base on Wednesday August 23rd and wait until the next day when the trucks would be loaded. At that point, several sharpshooters would fire one round each of an explosive bullet at a designated truck while they were in the process of loading, so that there would be a carry on explosion into the storage facility.
The operation was quite successful and the explosion generated the sort of publicity the Mossad was hoping for in attracting attention to Saddam's constant efforts at building a gigantic and powerful military arsenal. The Mossad shared its "findings" with the Western intelligence agencies and leaked the story of the explosion to the press.
Since this was a guarded facility Western reporters had minimal access to it. However, at the beginning of September, the Iraqis were inviting Western media people to visit Iraq and see the rebuilding that had taken place after the [Iran-Iraq] war, and the Mossad saw an opportunity to conduct a damage assessment.
A man calling himself Michel Rubiyer saying he was working for the French newspaper Le Figaro, approached Farzad Bazoft, a thirty one year old reporter freelancing for the British newspaper the Observer. Rubiyer was in fact Michel M., a Mossad agent.
Michel told Farzad that he would pay him handsomely and print his story if he would join a group of journalists heading for Baghdad. The reason he gave for not going himself was that he had been black-listed in Iraq. He pointed out that Bazoft could use the money and the break especially with his criminal background. Michel told the stunned reporter that he knew of his arrest in 1981 for armed robbery in Northhampton England. Along with the implied threat he told Bazoft that he would be able to print his story in the Observer as well.
Michel told Bazoft to collect information regarding the explosion, ask questions about it, get sketches of the area and collect earth samples. He told the worried reporter that Saddam would not dare harm a reporter even if he was unhappy with him. The worst the Saddam would do was kick him out of the country, which would in itself make him famous.
Why this particular reporter? He was of Iranian background and would make punishing him much easier for the Iraqis and he wasn't a European whom they would probably only hold and then kick out. In fact, Bazoft had been identified in a Mossad search that was triggered by his prying into another Mossad case in search of a story involving an ex-Mossad asset Dr Cyrus Hashemi who was eliminated by Mossad in 1986. Since Bazoft had already stumbled on too much information for his own good - or the Mossad's for that matter - he was the perfect candidate for this job of snooping in forbidden areas.
Bazoft made his way to the location as he was asked and as might be expected was arrested. Tragically, his British girlfriend, a nurse working in a Baghdad hospital was arrested as well.
Within a few days of his arrest, a Mossad liaison in the US called the Iraqi representative in Holland and said that Jerusalem was willing to make a deal for the release of their man who had been captured. The Iraqi representative asked for time to contact Baghdad, and the liaison called the next day, at which point he told the Iraqi representative it was all a big mistake and severed contact. Now the Iraqis had no doubt that they had a real spy on their hands, and they were going to see him hang. All the Mossad had to do was sit back and watch as Saddam proved to the world what a monster he really was.
On March 15th 1990 Farzad Bazoft, who had been held in the Abu Gharib prison met briefly with the British Ambassador to Iraq.
A few minutes after the meeting he was hanged.
The world was shocked, but the Mossad was not done yet. To fan the flames generated by the brutal hanging, a Mossad sayan in New York delivered a set of documents to ABC television with a story from a reliable Middle Eastern source telling of a plant Saddam had for the manufacturing of uranium. The information was convincing and the photos and sketches were even more so.
It was time to draw attention to Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.
Only three months before, on December 5, 1989, the Iraqis had launched the Al-Abid, a three-stage ballistic missile. The Iraqis claimed it was a satellite launcher that Gerald Bull, a Canadian scientist, was helping them develop. Israeli intelligence knew that the launch, although trumpeted as a great success, was in fact a total failure, and that the program would never reach its goals. But that secret was not shared with the media. On the contrary, the missile launch was exaggerated and blown out of proportion.
The message that Israeli intelligence sent out was this: Now all the pieces of the puzzle are fitting together. This maniac is developing a nuclear capability (remember the Israeli attack on the Iraqi reactor in 1981) and pursuing chemical warfare (as seen in his attacks on his own people, the Kurds). What's more, he despises the Western media, regarding them as Israeli spies. Quite soon, he's going to have the ability to launch a missile from anywhere in Iraq to anywhere he wants in the Middle East and beyond.
After the arrest of Bazoft, Gerald Bull, who was working on the Iraqi big gun project called Babylon, was visited by Israeli friends from his past. The visitors (two Mossad officers) had come to deliver a warning. They were both known to Bull as members of the Israeli intelligence community. The Mossad psychological department had studied the position Bull was in and analysed what was known about his character. It arrived at the conclusion that, even if threatened, he wouldn't pull out of the program but would instead carry on his work with very little regard for his personal safety.
Ultimately, Bull's continuing with the program would play right into the Mossad's hands. Through the bullet riddled body of Gerald Bull the world would be made to focus on his work: the Iraqi giant gun project. The timing had to be right though; Bull's well publicised demise had to come right after an act of terror by the Baghdad regime, an act that could not be mistaken for an accident or a provocation. The hanging of the Observer reporter on March 15 was such an act.
After the reporter's execution in Baghdad, a Kidon (Mossad assassination) team arrived in Brussels and cased the apartment building where Bull lived. It was imperative that the job be done in a place where it would not be mistaken for a robbery or an accident. At the same time, an escape route was prepared for the team and some old contacts in the Belgian police were revived to make sure they were on duty at the time of Bull's elimination so that, if there was a need to call on a friendly police force, they'd be on call. They weren't told of the reason for the alert, but would learn later and keep silent.
When Bull reached the building at 8.30pm, the man watching the entrance signaled the man in the empty apartment on the sixth floor (Bull's floor) to get ready: the target had entered the building. The shooter then left the apartment and hid in an alcove.
Almost immediately after the elevator door closed behind Bull, the shooter fired point blank at the man's back and head. The shooter then walked over to Bull and pulled out of his tote bag a handful of documents and other papers, which he paced in a paper shopping bag he had with him. He also collected all the casings from the floor and dropped the gun into the shopping bag.
In the following weeks, more and more discoveries were made regarding the big gun and other elements of the Saddam war machine. The Mossad had all but saturated the intelligence field with information regarding the evil intentions of Saddam the Terrible, banking on the fact that before long, he'd have enough rope to hang himself.
It was very clear what the Mossad's overall goal was. It wanted the West to do its bidding, just as the Americans had in Libya with the bombing of Qadhafi. After all, Israel didn't possess carriers and ample air power, and although it was capable of bombing a refugee camp in Tunis, that was not the same. The Mossad leaders knew that if they could make Saddam appear bad enough and a threat to the Gulf oil supply, of which he'd been the protector up to that point, then the United States and its allies would not let him get away with anything, but would take measures that would all but eliminate his army and his weapons potential, especially if they were led to believe that this might just be their last chance before he went nuclear.