Bush: Olmert asked me to bomb suspected Syria nuclear plant: “George, I’m asking you to bomb the compound”
‘George, I’m asking you to bomb the compound,’ Olmert told Bush according to former U.S. president’s memoirs; Israel eventually reportedly destroyed the facility. By Reuters Tags: Israel news Ehud Olmert Syria George Bush US Former United States President George W. Bush wrote in his recently published memoirs that he considered ordering a U.S. military strike against a suspected Syrian nuclear facility at Israel’s request in 2007, but ultimately opted against it, Reuters revealed on Friday.
Israel eventually destroyed the facility, which Syria denied was aimed at developing nuclear weapons.
In his memoir, “Decision Points,” to hit bookstores Tuesday, Bush says that shortly after he received an intelligence report about a “suspicious, well-hidden facility in the eastern desert of Syria,” he spoke by phone with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
“George, I’m asking you to bomb the compound,” Olmert told Bush, according to the book, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.
Bush says he discussed 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 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 program.
Bush writes that he told Olmert, “I cannot justify an attack on a sovereign nation unless my intelligence agencies stand up and say it’s a weapons program.”
Bush had ordered the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 based on intelligence that said Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, which were never found.
Olmert was disappointed with Bush’s decision to recommend a strategy of using diplomacy backed up by the threat of force to deal with Syria over the facility.
“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 writes.
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 was bungled.