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'Lower the Ante in the Gulf '

June 02, 1987

It seems tragically ironic that the Iraqi plane attack on the U.S. frigate Stark has served to re-orient our Middle East policy against Iran as our principal enemy.

Before the attack, our policy was ambiguous. We had supplied Iran with weapons, ostensibly to cultivate never-identified potential friends with Iran, actually to ransom American hostages in Lebanon. In so doing, we aided a venomously anti-American state that threatens to overwhelm the Persian Gulf militarily, blocking the shipment of oil to West European allies and to Japan, as well as to us.

The Iraqi attack on our warship in the Persian Gulf reminded all that the Iraq-Iranian war threatens neutral, as well as combatant, shipping in that strategic area. In attempting to guarantee the safe passage of neutral oil shippers in the gulf, we have acquired an unexpected ally in the Soviet Union. For reasons of its own, the U.S.S.R. has decided, along with us, to afford Kuwaiti tankers the protection of its flag as they move oil from the gulf to customers worldwide.

This is not an unhealthy situation from our viewpoint. Iran has announced its readiness to attack tankers of Kuwait--an ally of Iraq--regardless of whose flag the tankers fly. But it is doubtful if Iran would dare defy both superpowers militarily.

The Iran-Iraq war has been long and frightfully destructive in human life. The war may be in the interests of Israel, but it is not in our interests nor in the interests of the U.S.S.R. Perhaps, the superpowers can cooperate to end a war that threatens to engulf the Middle East in a wider conflagration.

BRYCE F. DENNO

Coronado

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