Carter putting US power on line to protect Mideast oil resource
New concepts in US policy are emerging from the so-called "Carter doctrine" for defense of the Middle East oil reservoir against Soviet expansion. They show that the United States is credible when it announces its determination to defend with its own aircraft, ships -- and soldiers and marines if need be -- the Gulf oil installations and the sea lanes linking them with the West and Far East.
For the sake of containing direct new Soviet military thrusts out of Afghanistan -- or, much more likely, soviet moves in support of armed ethnic groups, like Baluchis and Pushtus, to break up both Pakistan and Iran -- several basic US principles may be changed:
* Economic sanctions to pressure Iran into releasing its 50 American hostages will be soft-pedaled. Although some allies, including Britain and Japan, have indicated they might support sanctions, many planners, especially in the State Department appear to favor "turning the heat off Iran and turning it on the Soviet Union."
Following Iran's forthcoming presidential election, as United Nations attempts to release the hostages continue, the US is likely to strongly encourage the idea that once the hostages are free Iran's survival as a multi- ethnic state -- like Pakistan's -- is a matter of US national interest. A fragmented, strife- torn Iran, these American planners reason, would invite Marxist government and tempt Soviet troops into the oil fields.
* US objections to Pakistan's alleged nuclear weapons development are being quietly shelved in new legislation. The Carter administration seeks a consortium with Western nations and China to develop a major package of military and economic aid, far beyond the proposed $400 million unilateral American package (which Pakistani ruler Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq recently and contemptuously termed "peanuts").
* Instead of maintaining a merely "over the horizon" deterrent -- i.e., a military presence in the Indian Ocean -- the US, as urged by such hardline senators as Jacob K. Javits (R) of New York and Henry M. Jackson (D) of Washington, may seek to station ground forces and to stage aircraft from a close by the oil fields as Bahrain (where the US Middle East naval force still operates an "unofficial" port facility), Masirah Island off Oman, and the airport at Muscat, the Omani capital.
The related, ultra-sensitive question of whether American troops might be used at the request of local regimes (such as the Saudi, Kuwaiti, or Omani royal families) in case of an internal threat to their survival -- and also linked to protection of the oil installations -- remains unanswered.
* Israel's offer of bases and facilities on its own soil and of Israeli bases in Sinai it is scheduled to turn over to Egypt in 1982, is being held "on ice." US acceptance would heighten tensions in most Islamic states, which feel the US now is neglecting the central issue -- Palestine -- in the Arab-Israeli dispute because of the overriding Soviet danger.
At a Washington news conference Jan. 23, meanwhile, the hawkish Committee for the Present Danger urged that the new "Carter doctrine" must acknowledge "that the United States has become No. 2 in the world military power," and that in the Gulf area the Soviets may soon be in a position to seize Iran, which would "open the way to Soviet control of Saudi Arabia and the entire Persian Gulf region."
Former State Department counsel Eugene Rostow asserted the "Carter doctrine," as a response to the Soviet Union's "bold, accelerating lunge for domination," was "inadequate." The US and its allies, he urged, must present the USSR with "unacceptable risks" and be prepared to seize "vulnerable" outposts of Soviet power, like those in Cuba and Libya, if necessary.
The US should deploy enhanced-radiation (neutron) weapons in Europe and begin full- scale political and psychological warfare against the Soviets, Mr. Rostow added.
Paul Nitze, a leading opponent of the now- deferred SALT II arms-limitation treaty with the USSR, called for its withdrawal "until we have demonstrated to the Soviets that we can survive."
American defense spending, Mr. Nitze and other committee members urged, must not be limited to the administration's projected annual increase of about 5 percent but must aim at "reversing" trends toward Soviet superiority.