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CAMPAIGN '88 : Jackson Backs Reagan Action in Persian Gulf

October 22, 1987|Gaylord Shaw

When President Reagan ordered Navy ships to bombard an Iranian oil platform in the Persian Gulf on Monday, he received support from an unexpected source--Democratic presidential candidate the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

"It was absolutely necessary," Jackson said the day after the U.S. retaliatory strike. His comment was another sign of the more moderate tone Jackson is sounding as he seeks to broaden his support in the six-man race for the Democratic nomination. Jackson is considered the most liberal of the candidates. And, to be sure, he still is highly critical of the Republican Administration. For example, he regularly assails Reagan's "voodoo foreign policy" in the Middle East. But he added on Tuesday:

"At this point, we do not have the option of just walking away, for, if we do so, we simply leave the whole gulf open to be overrun. We cannot reverse the position. We are there now. We must simply move toward a policy that will reduce our troops back to a normal level while reducing the military presence in the region."

Jackson is busily planning a six-day trip to the Middle East during late November "to visit our troops, to meet with their families, to lift their spirits and to assure them they are not alone."

Jackson's friends, recalling the boost his 1984 campaign received from his dramatic journey to Syria in late 1983, when he negotiated the release of a captured American pilot, say they would not be surprised if he converts his upcoming Middle East trip into a media spectacular to bolster his 1988 bid--perhaps by seeking to meet with leaders of Iran and Iraq, the two countries whose grueling six-year war is at the heart of the Persian Gulf tensions.

"Jesse Jackson and the Ayatollah--wouldn't that be something?" one friend mused.

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