Allied support on America's hostages

The American people cannot but be pleased by the support the West European allies are now showing for United States policy on Iran. By voting unanimously to impose full economic sanctions against Iran on May 17 in the absence of progress on the hostage crisis, the nine members of the European Community signal that, whatever their individual misgivings about some of President Carter's actins, they regard Iran's continuing disdain of international law as a threat to world peace and order. This expression of solidarity with the US is a moral acknowledgement that, when the diplomatic rights of one nation are flagrantly violated, all nations are in jeopardy.

Mr. Carter, of course, fought hard to win EC backing for his sanctions policy. Not all the European countries, dependent on oil from Iran, were enthusiastic about supporting him. The fact that he was able to persuade them to go along is an assuring sign that the United States, contrary to some perceptions, is willing and able to wield its power when it deems it in the national interest to do so. This is a feather in the President's cap.

Secondly, for all the wrangling that went on in Luxembourg, the unanimous decision suggests that the European Community is developing a strong political sense. It is significant that nine nations, which often tug and pull in different directions, could come to agreement on an act of political response to an international problem. Credit for this belongs largely to Lord Carrington of Grea Britain and to chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany, who through his warm and developing relationship with President Giscard d'Estaing, brought France around. In the end, the obvious point was made by these leaders that, If Europe expected US help in times of crisis, it could morally do no less than support the Americans when the chips were down for them. As Lord Carrington put it, "When friends are in trouble you help them and that is what we are doing."

This is not to say the allies are certain Mr. Carter's strategy is the correct one. They believe, and we do too, that the President's stepby-step escalation of measures against Iran has more to do with election-year politics than the imperatives of the situation. They in fact acted in part to forestall stronger, i.e. military, measures by the United States. Also, it is hoped that the delay in imposing sanctions until mid-May will give the Iranian government time to rethink its position and resolve the hostage deadlock, making such sanctions unnecessary.

As Iran gropes its way out of political chaos, we continue to feel that peaceful means must be patiently sought to convey to Iran the West's understanding of its revolutionary aspirations and to assuage its deep- rooted sense of grievance. But, insofar as the United States and its European allies share a common problem, we are heartened by the allies' willingess to support the American lead. This indeed is a time for friendship and concerted action.

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