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Atomic warheads aimed at Iraq after US policy switch

Atomic warheads aimed at Iraq after US policy switch

Melbourne Age
Page 1 , Monday Feb 2 1998

Washington, Sunday

The United States can direct tactical atomic warheads at Iraq 
for the first time after changing its nuclear weapons policy, 
according to White House and Pentagon officials.

The top-secret directive, signed by the President, Mr Bill 
Clinton, in November, is part of  the administration's 
contingency plan to consider using atomic bombs on Iraqi 
weapon sites if President Saddam Hussein launches a 
biological attack on Israel or other neighboring countries 
using Scud rockets, say the officials.

They said the policy shift involving tactical nuclear 
weapons and so-called "rogue states", such as Iraq, was made 
as part of the most extensive overhaul of US policy regarding 
strategic and tactical nuclear weapons since the Reagan years.
"It is US policy to target nuclear weapons if there is the
use of weapons of mass destruction" by Iraq, said a 
senior Clinton adviser who spoke on condition of 
anonymity. "Whether we would use it is another matter."

The new policy was part of Presidential Policy Directive 60, 
which Mr Clinton approved after consultation with the 
Defence Secretary, Mr William Cohen, and the chairman of the 
Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Hugh Shelton.

The United States is the only country to have used atomic 
weapons in war, dropping bombs on the Japanese
cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Through the Reagan 
administration, US policy promised massive retaliation to 
prevent nuclear confrontations with the Soviet Union and 

With the end of the Cold War, the threats changed from 
long-range strategic nuclear weapons targeted against major 
nations to more flexible weapons of mass destruction 
that could be used by smaller rogue states such as Iraq. 

Administration officials say they fear Mr Hussein might
use a handful of Scud rockets to spread a powdered version of 
anthrax spores over Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Israel, killing thousands 
and making parts of Riyadh, Kuwait City and Tel Aviv uninhabitable
 for decades.

During the Gulf War in 1991, President Bush threatened to 
retaliate with nuclear force if Mr Hussein used biological weapons, 
but his administration never formally adopted a policy. But it 
was Mr Bush's warning that has evolved into Mr Clinton's 

Until November, first use of nuclear weapons on Iraq would 
have violated US pledges never to make such an attack on a signer of 
the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which includes Iraq. But [JS 
officials say Mr Hussein's efforts to develop nuclear weapons would 
forfeit Iraq's treaty protection.

Mr Clinton's threat has been deliberately vague. Pentagon 
spokesman Mr Ken Bacon said last week the US refused to "rule in or 
rule out" the use of tactical nuclear warheads. Mr Bacon's words have 
caused rumblings abroad and among the arms control community.

The B61 series of tactical warheads involved in the 
contingency planning are so-called "mini-nukes" with an explosive 
force less than one kilotonne. 

The bomb dropped on Hiroshima had an estimated 13 kilotonnes of 
explosive power.

Even so, the mini-nukes are 300 to 500 times more powerful than 
the largest conventional, non-nuclear warhead in the US


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