George W.Bush’s memoir will be released soon, and in it the former US president (photo, from rfi.fr) says Israel wanted him to bomb a suspected Syrian nuclear facility.
A copy of the book was obtained by Reuters news agency.
In his memoir, Bush writes that he contemplated ordering a US military strike in 2007. Israel eventually destroyed the facility, which Syria denied was for developing a nuclear weapons.
In his memoir, “Decision Points”, to hit bookstores on Tuesday, Bush says that he received an intelligence report about a “suspicious, well-hidden facility in the eastern desert of Syria” that looked similar to a nuclear facility at Yongbyon, North Korea.
Shortly afterward, he spoke by phone with Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister at the time, who according to the book told Bush : “George, I’m asking you to bomb the compound.”
Bush said that after discussing options with his national security team, a bombing mission was considered “but bombing a sovereign country with no warning or announced justification would create severe blowback,” he writes.
A covert raid was also discussed, but it was considered too risky to slip a team in and out of Syria undetected.
Bush received an intelligence assessment from then-CIA Director Mike Hayden, who reported that analysts had high confidence the plant housed a nuclear reactor but low confidence of a Syrian nuclear weapons programme.
Bush said he told Olmert, “I cannot justify an attack on a sovereign nation unless my intelligence agencies stand up and say it’s a weapons programme.”
However in 2003, president Bush ordered the US-led invasion of Iraq based on intelligence that said Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, which were never found.
Bush’s decision to recommend a strategy of using diplomacy backed up by the threat of force to deal with Syria over the facility disappointed Olmert.
“Your strategy is very disturbing to me,” Olmert told Bush, according to the book.
Bush denies charges that arose at the time that he had given a “green light” for Israel to attack the installation.
“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,” Bush says in the book.
Comment on the disclosures in the Bush memoir was declined by Olmert’s office in Jerusalem, and Israel has never formally confirmed carrying out the sortie or targeting a nuclear facility.
At the time the Olmert government was pursuing indirect peace talks with Syria.
In 2008, Olmert resigned in a corruption scandal. Recently, he lifted the veil, speaking of a “daring operation” that he ordered despite opposition.
In his book, Bush writes that Olmert’s “execution of the strike” against the Syrian compound made up for the confidence he had lost in the Israelis during their 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, which Bush feels had a mixed outcome.
Lebanon’s young democracy emerged from the conflict stronger for having endured the test, Bush says, but “the result for Israel was mixed.”
“Its military campaign weakened Hezbollah and helped secure its border. At the same time, the Israelis’ shaky military performance cost them international credibility,” Bush says.