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France's Iranian Nuclear Obsession

Politics / France Jan 07, 2014 - 04:58 PM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


The Obama Administration Just Might Think

Writing for Wall Street Journal January 7, the former International Herald Tribune editor and Bilderberg Club member John Vinocour said that it looks awfully evident that France's hardline on Iranian nuclear proliferation has been outsmarted by the Iranians – and has even been used by the Obama administration to do what it can to increase the President's tattered public approval ratings at home. Vinocour wrote that if the US “takes over the show” in negotiating with Tehran, “In this case, the Obama administration just might think that France, with its irritating vision of itself as the world's guardian of nuclear non-proliferation, could be dismissed as a strategic nag, increasingly alone, and no longer Washington's co-equal in dealing with Tehran”.

France already consoled itself with Saudi petrodollars. It can comfortably go it alone with Saudi Arabia as its major arms-buying partner in the Middle East - committed to overthrowing the al-Assad regime in Syria and installing a hardline Islamic fundamentalist “caliphate”. As the Wahabite Kingdom less comfortably for France is also trying to do in a string of former French colonies in Africa, which include Mali and the Central African Republic – two countries where French troops are battling Saudi-financed jihadists!

Without a single trace of irony, Hollande-fan John Vinocour says that France is “struggling to halt a jihadist takeover of the broken and lawless Central African Republic”, and because France will need more US military support in its African adventure fighting Saudi funded rebels, Paris will have to stop “butting heads with the Americans on Iran”. If not, he goes on to say, France's so-called mission in Africa could become a shambles, but Vinocour was far too Hollande-friendly to say that many persons in France think the “mission” started out that way, and will end that way.

France and Nuclear Proliferation

President Hollande's hardline on Iranian nuclear proliferation was declared, by himself, to be a constant or “historic” refusal to tolerate or encourage any country – outside the 5 UN Security Council declared nuclear powers – to obtain the means to build or acquire nuclear weapons.

This however and in fact is a travesty of France's historical role as the chief enabler of Israel's atomic weapons program.

Only published for the first time on 17 November 2013 by the French weekly news magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, the long and detailed report of the summit meeting between Charles de Gaulle and David Ben Gurion of Israel – held in France in June 1960 – was supplied to the news magazine by a former close aide of de Gaulle from the 1940s, who had accompanied de Gaulle throughout his political career. The 1960 meeting had French-Israeli nuclear cooperation high up the agenda. Ben Gurion wanted France to continue and intensify this secret aid that had started in 1956.

From 1956, French companies and its State nuclear commission (the CEA) started building a heavy water moderated, plutonium reactor at Dimona. Exactly the same type later used by Pakistan, built by Canada, for its own atomic weapons program, and the same type Iran wants to build at Arak. The terms of the secret 1956 contract and agreement included the condition that when or if Israel utilized its French-built plutonium separating workshops, built in 1957, to produce bomb-grade plutonium and then produce nuclear weapons, Israel would demand France's approval to go ahead.

There was no condition in the agreement of 1956 whereby Israel must not produce weapons – only the requirement that Israel must notify France of its intention to produce them. In his meeting with de Gaulle at the Elysees Palace, Ben Gurion in late Spring 1960 declared that Israel wanted France to accelerate its works at Dimona and the linked plutonium separating facility, with the goal for Israel of rapidly producing its first nuclear weapon.

De Gaulle had a carefully nurtured public image of friend of the oil exporting Arab countries and oil-rich Iran, and of being neutral or hostile to Israel, but his response to Ben Gurion's declaration was to politely ask why Israel wanted the bomb. The verbatim account of their meeting of 53 years ago, published for the first time in 2013, says that both leaders were entirely frank on their positions and throughout the meeting were cordial with each other. Ben Gurion said the USSR's supply of advanced MIG 19 fighter jets to Nasser's Egypt made Israel totally vulnerable, because Israel had no equivalent airplanes. Egypt could bomb Tel Aviv or Haifa, and destroy Israel's three-only military air bases whenever it wanted. Within an hour, Israel would be destroyed, he said.

 The verbatim account of the meeting says that de Gaulle understood the mortal anguish of Israel and, being a declared nuclear power itself, said France would never permit any nation to destroy Israel. But he conceded that even using French nuclear-armed retaliation, this would be too late to save Israel.

De Gaulle also recognized that if Israel had the bomb, this would be the ultimate deterrent – but added this would only be true until Nasser's Egypt itself had either developed nuclear weapons, or acquired them, probably from the USSR.  De Gaulle, according to his aide's word for word account, neither accepted nor rejected the Israeli request for further and deeper nuclear cooperation. He certainly did not terminate the ongoing French nuclear aid to Israel. Ben Gurion for his part, the account states, openly lied by saying that Israel would always and only utilise Dimona and the plutonium-separating facility “for scientific purposes”.

Second Thoughts – The French Special Side Dish

The verbatim report of the de Gaulle-Ben Gurion summit makes it clear that nothing was decided at this long and secret-agenda meeting. On both sides, facesaving played a key role. De Gaulle neither accepted nor rejected the Israeli demand for more and faster French nuclear construction work. Ben Gurion openly lied, but in a diplomatic way, after stridently saying how much Israel needed the bomb, by claiming the French-built nuclear installations would always and only be used for scientific work and producing electricity. 

De Gaulle was under political pressure inside France, on the secret aid to Israel. Very soon after his Ben Gurion meeting, he received the then-minister for Nuclear Affairs (Affaires atomiques), Pierre Guillaumat who proposed what French call “couper la poire en deux”, some for us, and some for them. If France pulled out of its secret nuclear aid to Israel, Guillaumat noted, it would be held to pay several billion French Francs in non-performance of its contract for the works. But if France continued with the works, Israel would produce the bomb. Thus he suggested to de Gaulle that France must immediately operate political damage-limiting measures, namely to stop the works at the plutonium-separating facility but continue with the Dimona reactor works.

In that way, France could claim it had not been fooled by Israel, and also had taken steps to slow or prevent Israel from building atomic weapons. To Israel, it could claim it had not abrogated the terms of their secret contract.

By 12 January 1961 de Gaulle swung around to this position, and announced it as his own, in a special restricted-member National Council meeting at the French parliament. Somewhat incredibly, this formal and disclosed French position was coordinated with the bizarre public declarations of Shimon Peres, then-director of the Israeli national military program for atomic weapons development, made at the same time. Peres said that French-Israeli nuclear cooperation was now being extended and intensified “for seawater desalination and the development of the Negev desert”, as well as for scientific research and electricity generating.

Fifty-two years later, in Jerusalem, President Shimon Peres of Israel received President Francois Hollande for a warm and friendly “meeting of minds” on the gravity of the Iran nuclear threat!

The Nuclear Cat Out of the Bag

Probably of slender interest for a journalist with slender knowledge of nuclear science and technology like Vinocour, and certainly of no interest to a politician like Francois Hollande, the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters have fully proven, if proof is needed, that large-sized civil nuclear power plants are Doomsday Machines. To be sure, average journalists and politicians are only interested in nuclear devices which go “bang”, calling them devastating weapons, but the economic damage from each of these two civil nuclear disasters is measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

The world's civil reactor fleet of about 440 operating reactors produces around 36 tons of plutonium, every year. Puny military-use heavy water reactors able to produce a few kilograms of plutonium per year, the amount needed for one Hiroshima-sized bomb, are in the Boy Scout's department for damage-potential.

Producing nuclear weapons is not necessary if your enemy possesses nuclear reactors. You use missiles, aerial bombing, drone attack, ground-based attack by kamikaze if needed, to take out and destroy your enemy. They will suffer maximum-credible economic damage. As the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters have also proven, it is not even necessary to declare a war, to produce devastating nuclear damage! Nuclear hubris or technological arrogance – a French specialty – is all that is needed to produce nuclear catastrophe.

To date, the Fukushima disaster is estimated by several experts as having releasing more nuclear contamination than from all weapons testing by the UN Security Council 5 declared nuclear powers throughout the 1960s.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2013 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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