Therese Delpech, French nuclear proliferation expert, dies

January 20, 2012

Therese Delpech, an author and senior French government official whose intellectual passions ranged from nuclear strategy and proliferation to the human rights of populations oppressed by dictators, died Jan. 18 in Paris after an apparent heart attack.

The death of Mrs. Delpech, 63, who served at various times as an adviser to France’s senior political leaders and was head of strategic studies at France’s Atomic Energy Commission, was confirmed by the French Foreign Ministry.

Mrs. Delpech was well known to foreign affairs analysts and the think-tank community in Washington, which she visited frequently. Her trenchant book on oppression, “Savage Century: Back to Barbarism” was awarded a leading French literary prize, the Prix Femina, in 2005. Two years later, the text was published in English by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Francois Delattre, the French ambassador in Washington, said Friday that Mrs. Delpech “possessed a rigorous intellect” and “was also a close friend of America who fought hard to preserve the trans-Atlantic relationship.”

In Paris, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe mourned the passing of “this engaged intellectual who defended human rights and liberties.” Mrs. Delpech was an adviser to Juppe from 1995 to 1997 when he was prime minister.

She had worked as a researcher for leading think tanks in Paris and London before becoming a commissioner for the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

In recent years, Mrs. Delpech had concentrated on the threat posed by what she believed was Iran’s determination to develop nuclear weapons capable of being mounted on missiles. She argued that Iran held out the promise of talks only to buy time to complete its weaponization program.

She wrote or co-authored eight books, including “Iran and the Bomb” (2006), which was praised in Foreign Affairs by war studies scholar Lawrence D. Freedman as “wonderfully pugnacious” and a “short, sharp book on the current crisis and how it should be managed.”

Ms. Delpech’s other books examined psychological as well as strategic and nuclear matters. They included studies of Greek myths, Sigmund Freud, and medieval philosophy.

Therese Marie-Joseph Yvonne Thomas was born Feb. 11, 1948, in Versailles. She was a psychology graduate of the Ecole Normale Superieure de Sevres. Her marriage to Laurens Delpech ended in divorce. A complete list of survivors could not be determined.

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