By Joe Baker, Senior Editor
The Los Angeles Times broke the story. Someone inside the government leaked a Pentagon report outlining contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against Iraq, China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Libya.
This report directs the military to plan for the use of smaller nuclear weapons as a more effective means of deterring terrorist attacks. It also calls for arming cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. This is the first time a list of targeted nations has been made public.
Foreign reaction to the report was immediate and forceful, as reported by The Daily Mirror in London. The paper said members of the British Parliament denounced the plan as warmongering lunacy.
The Mirror said from Moscow to Tehran officials were alarmed by the report and warned the power crazy U.S. president could plunge the world into chaos. British politicians said the scheme could threaten the stability of NATO.
International tensions rose as the Bush administration pressured Britain to support an attack on Iraq, including possible commitment of 25,000 British troops.
One British cabinet minister hinted she might resign if Prime Minister Tony Blair supported a mass invasion of Iraq. Clare Short said: We need to deal with the problem of Saddam Husseinwe dont need to inflict further suffering on the people of Iraq.
The newspaper reported rising anger in the target nations, which accuse America of intimidation and wreaking havoc on the whole world. They branded the plans a lunatic threat to world peace.
One member of Parliament 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 Vice-President Cheney visited Britain to lobby for its support of the intended attack on Iraq.
The review identifies four areas or circumstances where it says the U.S. should push the button to launch nuclear weapons. They are: an attack by Iraq on Israel or another neighbor; a war between China and Taiwan, an attack by North Korea on South Korea and in retaliation for the use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
They also might be used, the report says, in the event of surprising military developments, reflecting U.S. fears that terrorists or rogue states might deploy weapons against it.
In Russia, Gen. Leonid Ivashov said: The heart of U.S. 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.
Irans former president, Akbar Rafsanjani, commented: The U.S. believes that by threatening countries, theyll withdraw their demands. Their policy is one of intimidation.
The Tehran Times said: This indicates the U.S. is going to wreak havoc on the world to establish its domination.
Menzies Campbell, a spokesman for Britains Liberal Democrat Party, said: America seems to be moving from nuclear deterrence to nuclear war fighting. It would drive a coach and horses through NATOs doctrine of nuclear strikes as a last resort.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the report does not indicate imminent action. Powell said: We should not get carried away with some sense that the U.S. plans to use nuclear weapons in some contingency in the near future. Its 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.
Donald Anderson, of the Labour Party and chairman of the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee, commented that military action against Iraq should 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.