Chirac took Iraq cash to keep France out of war: UK spy chief
The recently deceased former French president Jacques Chirac was reportedly paid millions in bribes by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to oppose the US invasion in 2003, according to an ex-UK spy chief.
Sir Richard Dearlove, who ran MI6 from 1999 to 2004, reportedly told the right-wing Mail on Sunday that Chirac’s motive for opposing the divisive war was because he accepted “cash in a briefcase” from Iraq for his election campaigns.
“He was a rogue,” Dearlove told the Cliveden Literary Festival. “Or, let’s say, he had roguish characteristics.”
Chirac died last week aged 86.
Dearlove said: “There were strong indications in the US and UK that Chirac received money from Saddam.
“His recent obituaries are saying that Chirac got it right [on the Iraq war] and the rest of us got it wrong. But I am saying that Chirac’s motive for getting it right may not appear to be what it is.”
France, Germany and Russia opposed the invasion.
The former spy chief said it had been agreed at a meeting with French intelligence officers that Iraq was attempting to “clandestinely” purchase yellowcake, from which uranium is refined, from mines in Guinea owned by a French nuclear firm.
A French intelligence source reportedly told Dearlove that the Paris authorities “do not want you to use the material [about uranium]”.
“This was very peculiar indeed,” he said. “Subsequently it became clear when the Iraq situation evolved that the French were not keen [on backing efforts against Saddam].”
MI6 and US agencies apparently gathered “reliable intelligence” that Chirac received about £5 million from Saddam to fund his successful presidential election campaigns in 1995 and in 2002.
The cash reportedly came from dictator’s personal funds and was the real reason behind Chirac’s opposition to the 2003 invasion, which is now widely regarded as having been illegal.
In other areas, the former president was far less controversial.
Chirac admitted French guilt over the Holocaust.
“Yes, the criminal folly of the occupiers was seconded by the French, by the French state,” he said in 1995. “France, the land of the Enlightenment and human rights … delivered those it protects to their executioners.”
Despite his Eurosceptic roots, he embraced European unity and raged at the French voters ahead of the “no” vote in the 2005 referendum on the European constitution meant to boost EU federalism. “If you want to shoot yourself in the foot, do it, but after don’t complain,” Chicac said. “It’s stupid, I’m telling you.”
He was personally and politically humiliated by the defeat and his popularity did not fully recover until after he left office in 2007.
Picture credit: US Army