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Bush's Nuclear Madness: Horror at Dubya's Secret Attack Plan on 7 Countries
11 March 2002
President Bush faced world anger last night over America's seven-nation nuclear hit list.
British MPs joined the outcry after a leaked Pentagon report revealed contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria and Libya. The secret policy was denounced as warmongering "lunacy".
Alarmed officials from Moscow to Tehran warned that the "power crazy" President, buoyed up by the successful campaign in Afghanistan, could plunge the world into chaos. British politicians said the strategy threatened the stability of the NATO alliance.
International tension mounted as Washington pressed Britain to back an attack on Iraq - including the possible commitment of 25,000 British troops to topple Saddam Hussein.
Cabinet Minister Clare Short hinted that she might resign if Tony Blair supported a mass strike against Baghdad. She said: "We need to deal with the problem of Saddam Hussein - we don't need to inflict further suffering on the people of Iraq."
Labour MPs Alice Mahon and Tam Dalyell will today deliver a letter to 10 Downing Street warning the Prime Minister against joining any military action.
US Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in London last night for talks with Mr Blair which will cover the threat posed by Iraq.
No 10 insisted last night: "No decisions have been taken."
Amid mounting anger, the target nations accused America of intimidation and "wreaking havoc on the whole world" and branded the plans a "lunatic" threat to world peace.
In Britain, MPs said the sensational disclosures threatened the stability of the Western alliance.
Labour MP Alice Mahon said: "The lunatics have taken over the White House. This report must be ringing alarms throughout NATO" The Pentagon document, known as the Nuclear Posture Review, was leaked as the US lobbied Britain to join an invasion of Iraq.
International Development Secretary and Cabinet Minister Clare Short hinted she might resign if a strike went ahead.
The review says the US must be ready to use nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria and Libya. It then identified four areas where the US should be prepared to press the button:
In an Arab-Israeli conflict, in a war between China and Taiwan, in an attack by North Korea on South Korea and in an attack by Iraq on Israel or another neighbor. Additionally, the weapons could be used against targets able to withstand conventional attack and in retaliation for the use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
They could also be used in the event of "surprising military developments", reflecting fears that rogue states or terrorists could deploy weapons against the US.
The review, leaked to the Los Angeles Times, orders the military to plan for the use of "smaller nuclear weapons" as a more effective deterrent against terrorist attacks. It also calls for cruise missiles to carry nuclear weapons. It is the first time the US has reviewed its nuclear strategy since 1994 and the first list of target nations to be made public.
Last night it was seen as a warning to those states who might be harboring terrorists. In Russia, defense hawk General Leonid Ivashov said: "The heart of US political doctrine is to push powerful Russia off the political scene."
Russian politician Dmitry Rogozin added: "This is a nuclear stick intended to intimidate us." Vyacheslav Nikonov, of the Politika think tank, branded the plans a "very negative signal" which would be "received in an appropriate fashion by Russia's leadership".
Iran's former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said: "The US believes that by threatening countries they'll withdraw their demands. Their policy is one of intimidation."
The Tehran Times newspaper said: "This indicates the US is going to wreak havoc on the world to establish its domination." Professor Michael Yahuda, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, warned: "China won't be happy to be classified among rogue nations."
Liberal Democrat spokesman Menzies Campbell said: "America seems to be moving from nuclear deterrence to nuclear war fighting.
"It would drive a coach and horses through NATO's doctrine of nuclear strikes as a last resort."
US Secretary of State Colin Powell insisted the report did not signal imminent action.
He said: "We should not get carried away with some sense the US plans to use nuclear weapons in some contingency in the near future.
"It's not the case. What the Pentagon has done with this is sound military, conceptual planning.
"Not a single nation is being targeted by an American nuclear weapon on a day-to-day basis."
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice added: "We all want to make the use of weapons of mass destruction less likely.
"The way that you do that is to send a very strong signal to anyone who might use them against the United States that they'd be met with a devastating response."
Vice-President Dick Cheney arrived in London last night to meet Tony Blair. He is expected to appeal for military support against Iraq. It is reported the US will ask for up to 25,000 British troops to form part of an invasion force.
In the first sign of a Cabinet split, Ms Short denounced any invasion plans yesterday. She said: "An all-out military attack is, of course, not at all sensible.
"We need to deal with the problem of Saddam Hussein. We don't need to inflict further suffering on the people of Iraq."
Ms Short said the best answer was to allow UN inspectors back into Iraq, a move firmly ruled out by Iraq's Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan yesterday. Her warning amounted to a threat to resign if there is a strike against Iraq. Donald Anderson, Labour chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, said military action on Iraq must only be a last resort.
He said: "I think there are reckless elements in the Pentagon who are on a roll because of Afghanistan.
"I would hope part of the task of our Government is to influence those who take a contrary view."
Downing Street played down the reports of an American request for British troops. A spokesman said: "No decisions have been taken, let alone any requests made."
Alexandra Williams and Bob Roberts