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Wrong tactics on Iran

It is disappointing to see a former Navy man -- or anyone else for that matter -- promoting plans for such rash and counter- productive measures as blockading Iran and mining its harbors until the hostages are released. When Republican Senator Lugar floated these notions the other day, they wisely were not specifically endorsed by Senate minority leader Baker, for whom Mr. Lugar was presidential campaign committee chairman. But Senator Baker reportedly did call the Lugar speech appropriate and timely. It would be unfortunate and potentially tragic if the Lugar doctrine should gain widespread support.

Not that anyone should refrain from speaking out on the subject. Mr. Lugar said the time had come to break silence, because President Carter seemed to be "simply hoping that something would turn up."

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Mr. Carter's to-ing and fro-ing on imposing sanctions against Iran and expelling Iranians from the US may have fostered such an impression. But the administration's policy of prudence in unilateral action and persistent effort in international bodies does not fairly fit Mr. Lugar's Micawberish description. While some may argue with particular stands on issues disputed with the Iranians , the basic course is the only reasonable one to support the hostages' safety and leave room for future productive relations with a country of strategic and economic importance to the United States.

Nothing would be gained by accepting the supposedly tough but actually unrealistic view that writing off the hostages or risking their lives in some display of "power" might enhance America's reputation for effectiveness in the world. On the contrary, such callousness would sacrifice international sympathy and support for the US that depend on its notm resorting to uses of force such as the Soviet Union is now being condemned for.

To be sure, Senator Lugar this week did not call for military attack; he urged immediate consultation with America's allies about "preparations for effective naval blockade of Iran and plans for effective mining of Iranian harbors with mines that could be retrieved after release of the hostages." He also suggested suspending all US exports to Iran and interning Iranian diplomats in the US. He said that Iran's sanctioning of the hostages' captivity was in effect a declaration of war on the United States.

This kind of talk in the US Senate, though it should not be inhibited, should be resisted.


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