Although U.S. warships are preparing to attack Syrian installations in 2013, key members of the Obama administration warned not to “cry wolf” at Syria’s nuclear weapons development in 2005 — including the secretary of state, vice president and the president himself.
Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden repeatedly criticized ambassador’s John R. Bolton’s assessment that the dictatorship was seeking weapons of mass destruction only eight years ago.
“The narrative that ran throughout the hearing was that I was manipulating intelligence to fit my own analysis and that I was being too mean to poor old Bashar al-Assad,” the former ambassador told The Daily Caller. “I specialized in that.”
In April 2005, during Bolton’s confirmation then-Senator Barack Obama, leaning on one hand while reading from newspaper article, challenged Bolton for what he said was an overstatement of the threat Syria’s W.M.D. program faced.
“The CIA had to reign you in,” Obama said.
“Let me just go to this particular point: Moving forward, with respect to assessments in threats in Syria, or North Korean or Iran, we can’t afford to cry wolf. When we say that there is a threat, people have to believe us. Am I wrong to think that this kind of potential overstating after what happened in Iraq, after Colin Powell’s presentation before the United Nations, etc. might hamper our ability to protect our national security?”
“If we gild the lily and overstate our case,” said Obama, it will harm our troops abroad and our national security.
Bolton did not recall what Obama said, but did recall Biden “giving me a hard time” about “‘cooking intelligence’ suit my own purposes, which was absurd.”
The two senators, along with then-Senator John Kerry, seized on June 2003 testimony before the House International Relations Committee in which Bolton said officials were “looking at Syria’s nuclear program with growing concern and continue to monitor it for any signs of nuclear weapons intent.”
This statement contradicted an April CIA report to Congress that downplayed the threat and stressed that Syria and Russian had reached an agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation. ”In principal, broader access to Russian expertise provides opportunities for Syria to expand its indigenous capabilities, should it decide to pursue nuclear weapons,” the report read.
Events would later prove Bolton correct. Less than two years later, the Israeli Air Force destroyed a nuclear reactor in northern Syria.
Obama insisted that “diplomacy” convinced Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to give up its WMD program, not America’s intervention in Iraq as Bolton contended.
In a later interview with Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Gaddafi’s son, Saif, said that the U.S. offered security guarantees for Libya if it promised to dismantle its nuclear program and planned future military security agreements. Saif also expressed regret that they had given up their nuclear program after the NATO invasion.
Both Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Biden said yesterday that it was “undeniable” and “no doubt,” respectively, that the Assad regime had killed civilians with chemical weapons.