Buried deep within a fascinating New York Times Magazine profile of the French spy novelist Girard De Villiers comes the fascinating tidbit that many at the CIA think Iran – and not Muammar Qaddafi, as the official story goes – was behind the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people.
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.