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Fooled into Bombing Libya

The following is from Victor Ostrovsky’s The Other Side of Deception, (Harper Collins, New York 1994) pages 113 to 117. [*]

“It’s the old Trojan dick trick.” He [Ephraim] lit a cigarette.

“What’s that?” ... I’d never heard it called that before.

“I knew that would get your attention,” he said, grinning. “Shimon activated Operation Trojan in February of this year [1986].”

I nodded. I’d still been in the Mossad when that order was given, and because of my naval background and acquaintance with most of the commanders in the navy, I participated in the planning for the operation as liaison with the navy.

A Trojan was a special communication device that could be planted by naval commandos deep inside enemy territory. The device would act as a relay station for misleading transmissions made by the disinformation unit in the Mossad, called LAP [LohAma Psicologit – psychological warfare], and intended to be received by American and British listening stations. Originating from an IDF navy ship out at sea, the prerecorded digital transmissions could be picked up only by the Trojan. The device would then rebroadcast the transmission on another frequency, one used for official business in the enemy country, at which point the transmission would finally be picked up by American ears in Britain.

The listeners would have no doubt they had intercepted a genuine communication, hence the name Trojan, reminiscent of the mythical Trojan horse. Further, the content of the messages, once deciphered, would confirm information from other intelligence sources, namely the Mossad. The only catch was that the Trojan itself would have to be located as close as possible to the normal origin of such transmissions, because of the sophisticated methods of triangulation the Americans and others would use to verify the source.

Here Mr. Ostrovsky describes in detail how in mid February 1986 the Mossad planted a radio relay device – the “Trojan” – in a rented apartment in Tripoli, the capital of Libya. However interesting, we cut to the consequences. One over-long paragraph has been broken up for clarity.

By the end of March, the Americans were already intercepting messages broadcast by the Trojan, which was only activated during heavy communication traffic hours. Using the Trojan, the Mossad tried to make it appear that a long series of terrorist orders were being transmitted to various Libyan embassies around the world ... . As the Mossad had hoped, the transmissions were deciphered by the Americans and construed as ample proof that the Libyans were active sponsors of terrorism. What’s more, the Americans pointed out, Mossad reports confirmed it.

The French and the Spanish, though, were not buying into the new stream of information. To them, it seemed suspicious that suddenly, out of the blue, the Libyans, who’d been extremely careful in the past, would start advertising their future actions. They also found it suspicious that in several instances Mossad reports were worded similarly to coded Libyan communications. [Mr. Ostrovsky intersperses the following fact through what follows: Some of the Mossad-generated messages implicated the Libyans in the La Belle discotheque bombing in West Berlin on April 5, though the messages came after the attack.] They [the French and Spanish] argued further that, had there truly been after-the-fact Libyan communications regarding the attack, then ... [it] could have been prevented, since surely there would have been [likewise] communications before, enabling intelligence agencies listening in to prevent it. Since the attack wasn’t prevented, they reasoned that ... the “new communications” must be bogus.

The French and the Spanish were right. The information was bogus, and the Mossad didn’t have a clue who planted the bomb [in the La Belle discotheque] that killed one American serviceman and wounded several others. But the Mossad was tied in to many of the European terrorist organizations, and it was convinced that in the volatile atmosphere that had engulfed Europe, a bombing with an American victim was just a matter of time [and they could take advantage of it, per above]. Heads of the Mossad were counting on the American [Reagan’s] promise to retaliate with vengeance against any country that could be proven to support terrorism. The Trojan gave the Americans the proof they needed.

The Mossad also plugged into the equation [Muamar] Qadhafi’s lunatic image and momentous declarations, which were really only meant for internal consumption. It must be remembered that Qadhafi [Libya’s dictator] had marked a line in the water at that time, closing off the Gulf of Sidra as Libyan territorial waters and calling the new maritime border the line of death (an action that didn’t exactly give him a moderate image).

Ultimately, the Americans fell for the Mossad ploy head over heels[,] dragging the British and the Germans somewhat reluctantly in with them. Operation Trojan was one of the Mossad’s greatest successes. It brought about the air strike on Libya that President Reagan had promised – a strike that had three important consequences. First, it derailed a deal for the release of the American hostages in Lebanon, thus preserving the Hizballah (Party of God) as the number one enemy in the eyes of the West. Second, it sent a message to the entire Arab world, telling them exactly where the United States stood regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. Third, it boosted the Mossad’s image of itself, since it was they who, by ingenious sleight of hand, had prodded the United States to do what was right. [More than a hint of sarcasm there.]  It was only the French who didn’t buy into the Mossad trick and were determined not to ally themselves with the aggressive American act. The French refused to allow the American bombers to fly over their territory on their way to attack Libya.

On April 14, 1986, one hundred and sixty American aircraft dropped over sixty tons of bombs on Libya. The attackers bombed Tripoli international airport, Bab al Azizia barracks, Sidi Bilal naval base, the city of Benghazi, and the Benine airfield outside Benghazi. [Mr. Ostrovsky says elsewhere: a stray bomb hit the French embassy in Tripoli during the raid.] The strike force consisted of two main bodies, one originating in England and the other from flattops in the Mediterranean. From England came twenty-four F-111s from Lakenheath, five EF-111s from Upper Heyford, and twenty-eight refueling tankers from Mildenhall and Fairford. In the attack, the air force F-111s and the EF-111s were joined by eighteen A-6 and A-7 strike and strike support aircraft, six F/A-18 fighters, fourteen EA-6B electronic jammer planes, and other support platforms. The navy planes were catapulted from the carriers Coral Sea and America.

On the Libyan side, there were approximately forty civilian casualties, including Qadhafi’s adopted daughter. On the American side, a pilot and his weapons officer were killed when their F-111 exploded.

After the bombing, the Hizballah broke off negotiations regarding the hostages they held in Beirut and executed three of them, including one American ... . As for the French, they were rewarded for their nonparticipation in the attack by the release at the end of June of two French journalists held hostage in Beirut. ...

Ephraim had spelled it all out for me and confirmed some of the information I’d already known. He then went on. “After the bombing of Libya, our friend Qadhafi is sure to stay out of the picture for some time. Iraq and Saddam Hussein are the next target. We’re starting now to build him up as the big villain. It will take some time, but in the end, there’s no doubt it’ll work.”

ARI says:  “Israel is our ally in the Middle East.”

This is our ally?

*  Archived for educational purposes only, under U.S.C. Title 17 Section 107.