The United States held back information on the destroyed Syrian nuclear reactor, fearing retaliation against Israel, President Bush said.
Bush was asked at a news conference Tuesday why the CIA published its findings on the target of Israel’s Sept. 6 airstrike in northeastern Syria only last week.
The United States, he responded, wanted to wait for a time when “we felt the risk of retaliation or, you know, confrontation in the Middle East was reduced.”
The CIA believes that Israel’s warplanes destroyed a secret plutonium reactor built with North Korean help. Israel has not given details on the mission, a reticence that many political analysts believe is designed to spare Damascus humiliation and coax it toward new peace talks with Jerusalem.
Bush said that U.S. disclosures on the incident aimed to deter Iran from pursuing its own nuclear program.
“We have an interest in sending a message to Iran, and the world for that matter, about just how destabilizing nuclear proliferation would be in the Middle East,” he said.