The Bush administration yesterday said it would not wait for the UN security council to approve an attack on Iraq if it fails to comply with weapons inspections, casting new light on leaked battlefield scenarios.
The muscle-flexing by the administration comes only days after two impressive victories: historic gains by the Republicans in mid-term elections and a unanimous endorsement of the UN security council for a stringent weapons inspections regime in Iraq.
It arrived on a day when the New York Times and Washington Post both published highly detailed scenarios for a war on Iraq. The plans, which would involve up to 250,000 troops, envisage a relatively abbreviated air assault, with special forces and regular soldiers moving in to establish footholds in the north, west and south of the country.
Meanwhile, there were signs that Washington's robust exercise of foreign policy would extend to its prosecution of the war on terror. The national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said on television that Mr Bush had given broad authority to pre-emptive strikes, such as last week's missile attack which killed six suspected members of al-Qaida in Yemen.