Commentary has just published a fascinating excerpt from Elliot Abrams’ new book, Tested by Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, a memoir of his service at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009.
There are several valuable take-a-ways from this excerpt, but for Seraphic Secret, the most important is the author’s conclusion in which he states that:
“…there is no substitute for military strength and the will to use it. Think of how much more dangerous to the entire region the Syrian civil war would be today if Assad had a nuclear reactor, and even perhaps nuclear weapons, in hand. Israel was right to bomb that reactor before construction was completed, and President Bush was right to support its decision to do so. Israel was also right in rejecting fears that the incident would lead to a larger war and in believing that it, and the United States, would be better off after this assertion of leadership and determination. That lesson must be on the minds of Israeli, and American, leaders in 2013.”
In the middle of May 2007, we received an urgent request to receive Mossad chief Meir Dagan at the White House. Olmert asked that he be allowed to show some material to Bush personally. We headed that off with a suggestion that he first reveal whatever he had to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and to me; I was then the deputy national-security adviser in charge of the Middle East portfolio on the National Security Council. Vice President Dick Cheney joined us in Hadley’s office for Dagan’s presentation. What Dagan had was astonishing and explosive: He showed us intelligence demonstrating that Syria was constructing a nuclear reactor whose design was supplied by North Korea, and doing so with North Korean technical assistance. Dagan left us with one stark message: All Israeli policymakers who saw the evidence agreed that the reactor had to go away.
There then began a four-month process of extremely close cooperation with Israel about the reactor, called al-Kibar. As soon as our own intelligence had confirmed the Israeli information and we all agreed on what we were dealing with, Hadley established a process for gathering further information, considering our options, and sharing our thinking with Israel. This process was run entirely out of the White House, with extremely limited participation to maintain secrecy. The effort at secrecy succeeded and there were no leaks—an amazing feat in Washington, especially when the information being held so tightly was as startling and sexy as this.
Initially, there were doubts that Bashar al-Assad could be so stupid as to try this stunt of building a nuclear reactor with North Korean help. Did he really think he would get away with it—that Israel would permit it? But he nearly did; had the reactor been activated, striking it militarily could have strewn radioactive material into the wind and into the nearby Euphrates River, which was the reactor’s source of water needed for cooling. When we found out about the reactor, it was at an advanced construction stage, just a few months from being “hot.”
Please go to Commentary to read the entire article.