WASHINGTON -- Former President Jimmy Carter, criticizing his successor's Persian Gulf policy, nonetheless thinks the United States now should make good on its promise to strike back for Iranian attacks.
President Reagan's policy in the war-torn gulf, according to Carter, is an 'ill-advised adventure' that has 'escalated highly the level of violence.'
'Almost inevitably and down through history, whenever a nation like ours injects itself into the military conflict or a civil war like in Lebanon or sectional war like between Iran and Iraq, we almost inevitably are destined to become involved as a belligerent,' Carter told a news conference Friday.
'Obviously it's escalating,' he said of the U.S. role in the gulf. 'It was a very serious mistakle for us to become involved in effect as a belligerent.'
Carter said because he was traveling, he was unaware of Friday's attack on a U.S.-flagged Kuwaiti oil tanker by what was said to be an Iranian Silkworm missile. The ship was in Kuwaiti waters, not the international area where U.S. protection has been accorded, and there was no immediate U.S. response.
Informed of the incident, Carter said, 'I thought we had already announced that Silkworm batteries would be attacked if they launched an attack on an American flag vessel. I'm not commenting on the wisdom of that original statement ... but I would say that once our nation makes a public declaration that we would respond, I think perhaps we will respond.'
Speaking earlier at a foreign policy symposium sponsored by the Carter Presidential Center, Reagan's predecessor said he 'strongly disapproved' of the decision to re-flag Kuwaiti oil tankers and give them Navy protection.
Carter said the United States should be taking the role of 'negotiators and peacemakers and mediators' instead of introducing military forces into an area over which Washington can exercise little control.
He suggested the Reagan policy was apparently decided upon to 'correct the imbalanced participation' in the Iran-Iraq war resulting from the president's secret sales of U.S. arms to Iran in 1985 and 1986 - Reagan's worst scandal.