Israel’s 1981 surprise strike on an Iraqi nuclear reactor known as Osirak put President Ronald Reagan in a tough spot.
While Reagan was a strong supporter of Israel, Iraq had recently become a de facto friend by going to war with America’s enemy, Iran. The fact that Israel had used US-supplied fighter planes to hit the Iraqi plant boded ill for that nascent friendship.
“Eager to dispel any semblance of collusion in an attack against America’s new de facto ally, Reagan delayed the delivery of additional jet fighters to Israel,” writes historian Michael Oren in his 2007 book “Power, Faith, and Fantasy” on America’s involvement in the Middle East. “He also permitted America’s pertinacious ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick, to confer with her Iraqi counterpart in drafting a Security Council condemnation of the raid.”
But the raid “did not, in the end, impair US-Israel relations … ” concludes Dr. Oren, who has since become the Israeli ambassador to the US.