June 11, 2010
An Earlier Israeli Raid, When Reagan Was President
To the Editor:
While “Reagan’s Secure Line,” by Richard V. Allen (Op-Ed, June 7), presents an interesting and useful insight into President Ronald Reagan’s attitude toward the Israeli air raid in June 1981 that destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq, it calls for several comments.
First, Mr. Allen said that the raid “dealt a fatal blow to Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon.” This was not the case at all; it drove the Iraqi program underground, causing Iraq to enhance and conceal its nuclear weapon program.
Indeed, Shimon Peres, who was then opposition leader and is now Israel’s president, was critical of the strike then and for years afterward for just this reason. After the first Persian Gulf war, it was determined that the Iraqi regime was perhaps only two years away from a nuclear weapon.
Second, Mr. Allen notes that Secretary of State Alexander Haig, against his inclination, authorized “criticism” of Israel as a result of pressure from inside the bureaucracy of the State Department and from other countries. But the United States did more than simply criticize Israel; it joined in a unanimous Security Council resolution that condemned Israel, calling its actions a violation of the United Nations Charter and the norms of international conduct. President Reagan was the head of the United States government when this happened.
This event ultimately did not disturb United States-Israeli relations, and given the nature of the Iraqi regime, Israel’s actions may well have been justified by history. Nevertheless, what was involved was a significant military assault on the territory of a sovereign state on the one hand, and on the other hand, the real possibility of nuclear weapons in the hands of Saddam Hussein.
Thus, the 1981 event should not be suggested as a precedent in either direction for the current incidents related to the blockade of Gaza.
Thomas Graham Jr.
McLean, Va., June 8, 2010
The writer is a former special representative of President Clinton for arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament, 1994-97.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Letter responding to Richard Allen's piece: