Cheney: I Urged Bush to Bomb Syria's Nuclear Reactor, but He Refused

New York Times quotes former U.S. vice president's autobiography, due to be published next week; former U.S. president Bush, in own memoir, says he shied away from attack on Syria due to fears of false intelligence reports.

Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney urged the United States to bomb a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in June 2007, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, quoting excerpts from Cheney's autobiography due to be published next week.

According to Cheney, former U.S. President George W. Bush refused his demands and opted for a diplomatic approach after other advisers expressed apprehension. Foreign reports indicate that the Syria reactor was later bombed by Israel in September 2007.

Syria nuclear

“I again made the case for U.S. military action against the reactor,” the New York Times quoted Cheney as writing 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 Cheney's autobiography, "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir,” which is to be published by Simon & Schuster next week, he relates his experiences as Vice President to Bush, discussing his opinions on the United States' nuclear weapons agreement with North Korea, his handling of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks – when Bush was away from Washington and hampered by communications breakdowns – and his stance on Bush's approach to dealing with Iraq.

In Bush's own memoir, published in 2010, he claims that in 2007, then-prime minister Ehud Olmert asked him to bomb a nuclear facility in Syria. Bush was given an intelligence report on the suspicious, well-concealed facility, and Olmert then asked him in a phone conservation to bomb the site, concerned that the Syrians were developing nuclear weapons with North Korean assistance.

Bush, who had been burned once by false reports of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which led him to invade that country, answered, "bombing a sovereign country with no warning or announced justification would create severe blowback" unless his own intelligence agencies could confirm that plans to develop nuclear weapons were involved.

Then-CIA chief Mike Hayden could confirm that there was a reactor, but not that the program was military.

Bush wrote that Olmert was disappointed, even terming Bush's response "very disturbing."
He also denied approving an Israeli strike on the Syrian facility. "Prime Minister Olmert hadn't asked for a green light, and I hadn't given one," Bush wrote. "He had done what he believed was necessary to protect Israel."