Cheney: I Urged Bush to Bomb Syrian Reactor, But He Refused
Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney urged his boss, President George W. Bush, to bomb the nuclear reactor Syria was building in Deir er-Zor in the north of country, but Bush refused. The revelation comes in a book Cheney plans to release next week. The book, called “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir,” is critical of Bush on several foreign policy issues, says the New York Times, which quoted excerpts from the book in Thursday's edition.
The reactor was destroyed in September 2007 in a nighttime raid that Israel is assumed to be responsible for – although the government has never taken responsibility for the bombing.
Regardless of who did the actual bombing, Cheney says in his book, there was no question that, as far as he was concerned, the facility had to be eliminated. But Bush refused, preferring to handle the issue diplomatically. “I again made the case for U.S. military action against the reactor,” Cheney wrote about a meeting on the issue. “But I was a lone voice. After I finished, the president asked, ‘Does anyone here agree with the vice president?’ Not a single hand went up around the room.”
In his own memoir in 2010, Bush wrote that he had been asked by then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to bomb the facility. Bush was given a secret report on the reactor, but still smarting from the revelations that there had not actually been weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Bush said that he could not take a chance that the report was not accurate. Bush wrote that Olmert was disappointed with his answer, terming it “very disturbing.”
At the time, the U.S. did not directly address alleged Israeli participation in the bombing. In April 2008, CIA Director Michael Hayden said that “a suspected Syrian reactor bombed by Israel” had the capacity to produce enough nuclear material to fuel one to two weapons a year, and that it was of a "similar size and technology" to North Korea's Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center. After the raid, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution expressing “unequivocal support... for Israel’s right to self defense in the face of an imminent nuclear or military threat from Syria.”