Posted by Joshua on Sunday, October 28th, 2007
This from Ray Close (ex-CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia)
More thoughts about the ongoing mystery surrounding the Israeli air raid on Syria of September 6, 2007:
I still believe that the final truth, whenever it is revealed, will prove to be a major embarrassment for both the Bush administration and the Israelis — and possibly some Arabs. There MUST have been a colossal screw-up by some or all of those who planned, approved and implemented the action. I can think of no other plausible explanation for Bush's angry and petulant refusal to give the White House press corps a polite and informative reply to their repeated questions — and for the administration's apparent failure so far to brief many of the key members of the appropriate committees of Congress —— of either party. If it could be represented as a necessity, and as the successful treatment of a real and imminent threat to the vital national interests of either the United States or Israel, then why the hell not step up and explain your actions and the reasons that justified it?
As an aside: I hope the rumors are false that the Jordanians, Egyptians and Saudis all approved of the Israeli raid when they were (allegedly) briefed in advance (possibly by Dick Cheney in person, without the knowledge of Condi Rice and Bob Gates) that it was coming. How foolish it would have been for any Arab government to approve such an Israeli action, because they should all know from sad experience that sooner or later the secret would leak out, to their acute distress.
In my mind, the biggest question remains the degree of American involvement in the planning and implementation of the raid. Even if the target was really the beginnings of a nuclear weapons plant, the justification for preemptive military action would be very weak, considering the fact that it would be many years before we could justifiably claim that Syria posed an imminent nuclear threat to Israel. Much more important, in the full measure of things, is the damage that another unjustified preemptive attack would do to the critical objective of fortifying the weak and wobbling system of international rules and controls to prevent widescale proliferation of nuclear weapons. Today, destroying a pathetically crude and ill-advised Syrian attempt to begin a nuclear program might impress some people as striking a blow for freedom, but it would in fact be a major defeat for the larger goal of supporting civilized implementation of an international rule of law. If George Bush and Dick Cheney have helped to undermine that vitally important overarching objective by involving America in another unjustified and unwarranted violation of international law in this case, then they will have done us all a disservice of major historical importance.
(By the way, if the goal was to send a warning signal to Iran, then that message has been thoroughly obscured in the fog of Foggy Bottom. Yesterday, in speaking of the Israeli raid, Condi Rice said archly: "Iran, take note!" Take note of WHAT, Madam Secretary? If your own Senate Foreign Relations Committee has not been given a coherent explanation of what happened, how to you expect Ahmedinajad to know what you're talking about? Are you saying that if Iran misbehaves, we will send the Israeli Air Force to teach them a lesson? What does that tell the world about the quality of the American president's world leadership role?)
One cannot minimize the fact that American collusion with Israel in such an offensive act would be a disastrous blow to our relationships with our few remaining Arab friends. We got away with that many years ago at the time of the Israeli attack on the Iraqi nuclear facility at Osirak (which, we should be reminded, the United States officially condemned as illegal at the time), but today it's a different Middle East, and we have no reserve of goodwill capital to fall back on. How would the Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi governments, for example, explain and justify such action today by its so-called US ally?
Finally, we might all hold out some hope that the Bush administration's refusal to be transparent on this issue is because they attach a higher priority to keeping alive the prospects of a constructive peace conference on Palestine-Israel scheduled to be held sometime next month at Annapolis.
However, if that is the case, then it tells us three very significant things:
1. The Israeli leadership attaches a higher priority to restoring the credibility of its military dominance over its neighbors than it does to supporting American diplomatic efforts to advance the peace process — on which Israel's real security ultimately depends;
2. The (supposedly) most powerful and influential leader is the whole world is unable or unwilling to persuade the leader of tiny little Israel that reaching a viable peace settlement in the region deserves a higher priority than obliterating an empty building hundreds of miles from anywhere in the remote Syrian desert. George Bush, in other words, lacks the political courage and the moral stature to say to his Israeli friend: "Cool it, Ehud. I have more important problems to deal with right now. Don't ask for my help in undertaking a spectacular diversion of strictly minor significance, for your personal political benefit, just at a time when I am involved in much more critical and delicate undertakings."
3. The Bush administration is too cowardly to admit to the American people and to the world the truth of the two points just mentioned above.