In an upcoming documentary about the life and legacy of Dick Cheney previewed by Foreign Policy, the former vice president lashes out at former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Brooding over one issue specifically, Cheney criticizes his former colleague for overriding his recommendation to bomb a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007.
“I thought [destroying the reactor] would reassert the kind of authority and influence we had back in ’03 when we took down Saddam Hussein and eliminated Iraq as a potential source of WMD,” Cheney says in the film, The World According to Dick Cheney. “Condi was on the wrong side of all those issues so we had significant issues.”
Back in 2007, the Bush administration received intelligence that Syria was secretly building a nuclear reactor with the help of North Korea. Ultimately, the White House declined to hit the facility to the dismay of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In the film, Cheney criticizes Rice for advocating against a unilateral strike.
“Condi recommended taking it to the United Nations. I strongly recommended that we ought to take [the reactor] out,” he said.
When reached for comment, Rice told FP that refusing to bomb the reactor was the right decision at that point in time. “The situation turned out exactly how it should have,” she said.
In an e-mail exchange, Rice’s chief of staff, Georgia Godfrey, added that U.S. intelligence officials were not 100 percent certain the Syrians were housing a nuclear reactor, and that the Israeli government dealt with the threat anyway. (In 2011, a U.N. investigation found that Syria “very likely” was working on a nuclear reactor prior to the Israeli bombing of the facility as part of its so-called Operation Orchard in September 2007.)
Regardless, Cheney appears on camera saying the United States had an opportunity to communicate an important message, and Rice got in the way. “There are certain bright lines out there and you do not cross them and one of those bright lines is you do not provide nuclear technology to terror-sponsoring states,” he says. “You don’t want Syria to have that kind of capability that they might be able to pass on to Hamas or Hezbollah or al Qaeda.”
This is the second time Cheney has singled out Rice, a rumored 2016 presidential candidate, for criticism since leaving office. In his 2011 memoir In My Times, Cheney called the former diplomat “naive” for her attempts to negotiate with North Korea and said she once “tearfully admitted” her mistakes to him in his office. At the time, Rice fired back, saying, “I would never – I don’t remember coming to the vice president tearfully about anything in the entire eight years that I knew him.”
The film, directed by R.J. Cutler of The War Room and The September Issue acclaim, debuts on Showtime March 15.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a senior editor at The National Interest. Prior to Fletcher, he taught at the University of Chicago and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Drezner has received fellowships from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Harvard University. He has previously held positions with Civic Education Project, the RAND Corporation, and the Treasury Department.| Daniel W. Drezner |
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Passport |