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Blogs

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

5 February 2013

12:32 PM

5 February 2013

12:32 PM

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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