Bush: Olmert asked me to strike Syria, but I refused

In new memoir 'Decision Points' former US president says bombing sovereign country with no warning would create "severe blowback."

November 5, 2010 19:55
2 minute read.
Bush: Olmert asked me to strike Syria, but I refused

george bush 224.88. (photo credit: AP)


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US president George W. Bush refused an Israeli request to strike a suspected Syrian nuclear facility in 2007, favoring diplomacy instead, according to his memoirs, set to be released on Tuesday.

In the book, called Decision Points, Bush writes that he phoned then-prime minister Ehud Olmert after receiving an intelligence report about a “suspicious, well-hidden facility in the eastern desert of Syria.”

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Bush says he and Olmert debated over what to do about the facility, and in the end, the US president decided that “bombing a sovereign country with no warning or announced justification would create severe blowback,” and recommended using diplomacy and the threat of force in dealing with Syria over the issue. Bush and his national security team weighed launching a covert raid on the site, but decided that getting personnel in and out of Syria undetected would be too risky, his book said.

According to the memoirs, Olmert was not pleased at Bush’s decision and told him, “Your strategy is very disturbing to me.”

Bush denies that he encouraged Israel to launch the attack on the facility, saying “Prime Minister Olmert hadn’t asked for a green light, and I hadn’t given one. He had done what he believed was necessary to protect Israel.”

The raid, code-named “Operation Orchard,” took place on September 6, 2007. Though Israel has never confirmed its role in the raid, the air force is widely suspected of attacking the al-Kibar site in the Syrian desert. In the days following the raid, Turkish media released pictures and video of what they said were spent Israeli fighter jet gas tanks dropped in the desert. The site is believed to have been a Syrian nuclear reactor, possibly built with the assistance of North Korea.

Last week, Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin hinted that Israel had a role in striking the facility, when he told the Knesset’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense that he had been in two wars and dealt with the nuclear programs of two states.

Bush writes in the memoir that he believes that Olmert’s “execution of the strike” made up for the humiliation and loss of confidence that Israelis had suffered following their 2006 war against Hizbullah in Lebanon, which Bush feels was bungled.

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