No Plans to Raid Iran, Syria: Shultz : Their Focus Not on Attacking Americans, State Dept. Says
Secretary of State George P. Shultz today said the United States has no plans for military action against Iran or Syria over terrorism, a day after President Reagan said he would not hesitate to conduct raids on the two countries if he had solid information linking them to terrorist incidents.
Other State Department officials also downplayed the terrorist threat from those nations, saying that while Syria and Iran have been involved in terrorist activities, their focus, unlike Libya’s, is not on attacking Americans.
And a department spokesman said Reagan’s remarks were in response to a hypothetical question and reflected no policy change.
President Reagan told columnists Wednesday that he would use military force against Iran or Syria if presented with the same kind of “irrefutable evidence” linking those governments to terrorism against Americans that preceded the April 15 U.S. bombing raids on Libya.
But Shultz, interviewed on a U.S. Information Agency broadcast, appeared to try to soften the impact of Reagan’s statement. “We don’t have any plans for such operation,” Shultz said.
‘No Change in Policy’
“But what the President has done and said is . . . it has been shown that the United States will use its military power in this fight against terrorism. Our action against Libya shows that,” he added.
State Department spokesman Charles E. Redman said Reagan’s remarks were in response to a hypothetical question and “represent no change in U.S. policy.”
“We’ve always reserved to ourselves the right to respond to a terrorist attack in a manner we deem appropriate,” Redman told reporters. “Each case, of course, is evaluated on its own merits.”
Syria, Iran, Libya, Cuba and South Yemen make up the State Department’s list of countries that sponsor terrorism, meaning that sales of U.S. military equipment that could be used for terrorism are banned.
The focus of the Administration’s anti-terrorist rhetoric and activity in recent months, however, has been Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, and some critics have suggested that this is because the North African nation is a relatively easy mark.
Syria, Iran Riskier
Robert Hunter, a top National Security Council official in the Carter Administration, said Libya “is not the No. 1 terrorist nation. Syria is.” But he said there are pragmatic reasons Libya felt the U.S. lash.
Hunter pointed out that there is a large Soviet presence in Syria and a Soviet proximity to Iran, making U.S. attacks risky. Further, he said, the United States has diplomatic business to conduct with Syria, both because American hostages are held in Syrian-occupied Lebanon and because of Syria’s influence in the Arab world, he said.
“That leaves Libya. Kadafi’s a loudmouth. . . . He’s a butcher. You can get at him. . . . There’s nothing else we want from him,” said Hunter.
But a State Department official, who requested anonymity, said Libya is the main nation supporting terrorism against Americans.
Syrian-backed terrorism, the official said, focuses primarily on Jordanians and moderate Palestinians and the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. Iran, he said, is preoccupied with its long-running war with Iraq.