Pros and cons of war
President Carter is under mounting pressure to "get tough" with the government of Iran. Some even say he ought to declare war on Iran. Republican candidates Ronald Reagan and George Bush have of recent days built their campaigns around this theme. The easiest way to neutralize such campaigning is to do it. "Getting tough" seems to be politically popular right now.
Well, why not?
It would be easy enough to declare war, seize the Iranian diplomats, toss the Iranian students into concentration camps, send the fleet into the Gulf to blockade the seacoast of Iran, and shut off all seaborne trade between Iran and the Western world. It would probably be popular, at least for a while (until the fallout drifted down). It might well rescue Mr. Carter from the low point at which his campaign appears to be settling in the wake of the New York and Connecticut primaries.
But, who besides Mr. Carter would benefit?
The prime beneficiary would be the Soviet Union. The Iranians would have to turn to Moscow for protection, guns, and sympathy, all of which Moscow would be delighted to provide. The results would be one of the cheapest extensions of Soviet influence since Moscow went into the empire-building business. It would be cheap because Iran would become a client of the Soviet state without a single Soviet soldier having to be sent into Iran to risk his personal welfare.
A secondary benefit would accrue to Moscow. Since Iran is a Muslim country most other Muslim countries would tend to sympathize with Iran and draw farther away from the United States. Moscow suffered through-out. Islam from having invaded Afghanistan. Even if no actual military hostilities occurred, a US declaration of war against Iran would tend to neutralize the harmful effect of that invasion and rehabilitate Moscow in Muslim eyes.
Another prime beneficiary would be the Ayatollah Khomeini. At home he would be the patriotic leader who had defied the capitalist infidel. Those Iranians who presently doubt his sanctity and wisdom would be forced by patriotic pressures to rally behind him. The moderates represented by President BaniSadr would be discredited. The ayatollah would have it all his own way.