Lockerbie Novel: It Was Iran, Not Libya - Spectator Blogs

5 February 2013

From a very entertaining New York Times profile of Gerard de Villiers, the French novelist who, though little known in this country, is seemingly better connected in the spy world than any mere hack novelist has any right to be:

Why do all these people divulge so much to a pulp novelist? I put the question to de Villiers the last time we met, in the cavernous living room of his Paris apartment on a cold winter evening. He was leaving on a reporting trip to Tunisia the next day, and on the coffee table in front of me, next to a cluster of expensive scotches and liqueurs, was a black military-made ammunition belt. “They always have a motive,” he said, absently stroking one of his two longhaired cats like a Bond villain at leisure. “They want the information to go out. And they know a lot of people read my books, all the intelligence agencies.”

Renaud Girard, de Villiers’s old friend and traveling companion, arrived at the apartment for a drink and offered a simpler explanation. “Everybody likes to talk to someone who appreciates their work,” he said. “And it’s fun. If the source is a military attaché, he can show off the book to his friends, with his character drawn in it.” He also suggested that if the source happens to have a beautiful wife, she will appear in a sex scene with Malko, and some of them enjoy this, too. “If you have read the books,” he said, “it’s fun to enter the books.”

I asked de Villiers about his next novel, and his eyes lighted up. “It goes back to an old story,” he said. “Lockerbie.” The book is based on the premise that it was Iran — not Libya — that carried out the notorious 1988 airliner bombing. The Iranians went to great lengths to persuade Muammar el-Qaddafi to take the fall for the attack, which was carried out in revenge for the downing of an Iranian passenger plane by American missiles six months earlier, de Villiers said. This has long been an unverified conspiracy theory, but when I returned to the United States, I learned that de Villiers was onto something. I spoke to a former C.I.A. operative who told me that “the best intelligence” on the Lockerbie bombing points to an Iranian role. It is a subject of intense controversy at the C.I.A. and the F.B.I., he said, in part because the evidence against Iran is classified and cannot be used in court, but many at the agency believe Iran directed the bombing.

Now, of course, this hardly proves the case one way or another but it is another small, but telling, data point supporting the suggestion that we still don’t know the full truth about Lockerbie. The Iranian involvement – or putative Iranian involvement – has long been a staple part of the discussion in this country but it’s less widely held, I believe, in the United States. Which makes it interesting that so many people at Langley apparently now give credence to the Iranian dimension to the plot.

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  • John Hall

    I have always thought it very suspicious that the Americans were so willing to admit to shooting the Iran Air 655 down. Let’s face it, the Iranian plane was in its own air space and doing nothing wrong. Did the Americans really do it? Or did they prefer to take the blame, rather than let the real truth of what actually happened get out into the public domain. Afterall, if as I suspect, they didn’t really shoot it down, then what did hit the plane? Could it have possibly been the same thing that brought the PA 103 down? Maybe it was nothing at all to do with mistaken missiles or terrorism. JOHN HALL SPACE DEBRIS

  • Eddie

    I remember reading a decade ago a convincing argument that Iran did Lockerbie in revenge for the shooting down of an Iranian passenger jet.
    This is the opinion of the father of the girl who died in Lockerbie (called Jim, sorry can’t remember the surname!) and many others, I think Robert Fisk maybe, and many others. Old news.
    I have believed this is the more likely version of the truth since then. The USA does not want to face this, because their disgraceful shooting down of a passenger jet – for which they never apologised or paid compo (in fact they gloated and celebrated) caused the revenge act of Lockerbie really.

  • Sherman Ellen

    but you see they can use one plane crash to topple two countries and that should not be allowed to happen regardless of who the culprits were. On the one hand I am relieved that Libya is exonerated, on the other – I hate war and all its accoutrements.

  • Mr Smith

    ‘Now, of course, this hardly proves…’

    a true Alex Massie essay: 3 paragraphs of NYT sandwiched between an intro and an equivocation.

  • mikewaller

    The real scandal is the sheer folly of the members of Congress who awarded a medal to crew of the Vincennes, the ship which mistakenly shot the Iranian airliner down. A prompt apology and compensation would have probably meant no Lockerbie. Not that such folly is uniquely American. When General Reginald Dyer, the officer directly responsible for the 1919 Amritsar massacre, returned to the UK he was given £26,000 that had been raised by public subscription and the appellation, “The Hero of Amritsar”.

  • FF42

    The Iranian involvement has long been a staple part of the discussion in this country but it’s less widely held, I believe, in the United States.

    The Iranian connection – through a Syrian proxy – was the US official explanation until they discovered new evidence that implicated Libya. This new evidence came to light at the exact moment the US and Syria established a friendly relationship following Syria’s entry into the first Gulf War.

  • Matthew Wilson

    Hasn’t Private Eye’s extensive coverage of Lockerbie over many years consistently pointed to the Iranian connection?

    Douglas Murray’s Wall Street Journal article couldn’t be more timely.

    • John Welsh

      That’s correct. I haven’t read anything here that wasn’t in Paul Foot’s report.

    • Patrick Haseldine


      [Article by Paul Foot in ‘Private Eye’ magazine, 2 April 1999]

      Looming over the prospect of the trial of two Libyan suspects for the Lockerbie bombing are two dreadful questions which haunt the intelligence communities on both sides of the Atlantic.

      1. Why has Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa, shown such a lasting and dedicated interest in Lockerbie? True, he was for some of the time head of the Organisation of African Unity. True, he feels he owes the Libyans a debt for their long opposition to apartheid. But on their own these explanations can’t explain the enormous amount of time and travelling Mandela has devoted to talks with the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi.

      2. Why has Gaddafi conceded, and released [for trial] the suspects in what seems like a climbdown? True, he was irritated by UN sanctions; but these hardly explain his uncharacteristic bowing the knee to the hated Americans.

      Could the answer to both questions have anything to do with the most enduring mystery about Lockerbie: the warnings received before the bombing of a likely attack on a US airliner in revenge for the shooting down by the US Navy of an Iranian airliner in the Gulf, with the loss of many lives, a few months before Lockerbie?

      The most persistent of all the ‘warning’ stories comes from South Africa. On 21 December 1988, the day of the bombing, the South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha was in London with a large entourage. The rumour was that they had planned to go to the US on Pan Am 103. But at the last moment had switched to a later flight. Had they been warned off?

      Could it be that President Mandela has more information about this last-minute switch and that he has passed on the information to Colonel Gaddafi?


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