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Saturday, October 06, 2012

Bob Gates gets it wrong again

Elliott Abrams explodes the myth that Bob Gates (the only cabinet secretary from the Bush administration to serve under Obama and last seen calling Israel an ungrateful ally) doesn't hate Israel. In fact, Gates does hate Israel, with a passion. That passion led him to strongly oppose the Israeli attack on Syria's al-Kibar nuclear reactor in 2007 (imagine where the world would be today if Syria were a nuclear power) (Hat Tip: Sunlight).
In fact an important incident from the George W. Bush administration suggests that whether or not Gates is hostile to Israel, his judgment is badly flawed when it comes to evaluating the risks Israel faces and the likely results of Israeli action to address those risks.
In the spring of 2007, Israeli intelligence brought to Washington proof that the Assad regime in Syria was building a nuclear reactor along the Euphrates—with North Korean help. This reactor was a copy of the Yongbyon reactor the North Koreans had built, and was part of a Syrian nuclear weapons program. U.S. intelligence quickly confirmed these findings, and the question now was what to do about it all.
Covert options were quickly determined to be impractical, leaving two paths: A military strike by the United States or Israel, or diplomatic action in the United Nations and the IAEA. President Bush actually settled on the diplomatic option, but immediately acceded to Israel's decision to attack the reactor once we, the United States, decided we would not. Israel viewed a Syrian nuclear program as an existential threat and believed that if the issue were taken to the U.N. it would be mired there forever. (I tell this story in full in my book Tested By Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, out in December.)
Secretary Gates was strongly opposed to an American or an Israeli strike. He argued that a strike would provoke a new Middle East war, for surely the Syrians would strike back. The Israelis argued that if we all kept our mouths shut the Syrians would avoid humiliation by pretending nothing had happened: If asked, they would say there was no reactor and there was no bombing. Gates, a former CIA director, dismissed this argument—and Israel's claims to understand the Assad regime's psychology pretty well—as an obvious effort to manipulate the United States. He also argued that if Israel balked at Bush's preference for the U.N./IAEA route, we should not only refuse to accept their decision but should use all our leverage to back them down. It was time to reassess our entire relationship with Israel. They should be told our political support and our military aid was on the line.
But President Bush accepted Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert's decision to bomb the reactor because he believed the words he had often spoken: Israel had a right to defend itself. Gates's desire to put the whole bilateral relationship on the line got zero traction in the Oval Office.
We all know the end of this story: In September 2007 Israel bombed the reactor and destroyed it, and the Syrian regime in response … did absolutely nothing, precisely as the Israelis had predicted.
So when Gates predicts gloom and doom resulting from an Israeli or American attack on Iran... ignore him.

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At 11:20 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Bob Gates is "retired". He needs to shut the eff up. He has done enough damage. If he wants to say ANYTHING about the current state of the Iranian threat, he should explain his role in letting the Euros P+5 or whatever it was ASSIST Iran in getting their Siemens German spinners, supporting Egyptian El Baradei in using the IAEA to block any stopping of Iran, and letting Iraq and Afghanistan go to the dogs. These people make me 100% ill and will be studied in PhD projects in the future, kind of like people study how Hitler managed his slaughter...

At 11:35 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Another related Elliot Abrams link:
Council on Foreign Relations blog

Robert Gates And Israel: There He Goes Again


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