U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, charging that Iran's recent actions in the Persian Gulf have stamped it as an "outlaw nation," said Sunday that a new, "totally different kind of government" must come to power in Tehran before there can be a lasting peace in the bitter Iran-Iraq War.
The defense secretary, who is in the Persian Gulf area inspecting the U.S. naval fleet and for talks with regional leaders, also assailed a proposal by Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.) that could halt the American convoys protecting Kuwaiti oil tankers sailing under the U.S. flag and give Congress a greater role in determining the level of U.S. military involvement in the volatile region.
Byrd's proposal, which is scheduled for a vote Wednesday, would be the "height of absurdity," Weinberger said, because it would tie President Reagan's hands and prevent the United States from carrying out meaningful military and economic policies against Iran.
Backs Arms Embargo
Weinberger, who made his comments from Bahrain on ABC-TV's "This Week With David Brinkley," reiterated his support for a U.N. embargo on arms sales to Iran, saying it might guarantee a short-term reduction of hostilities by gradually drying up the Tehran government's ability to wage war on land and sea.
He conceded, however, that such embargoes have not been successful in the past, mainly "because a lot of nations like to make a profit out of selling the arms." Therefore, on a "longer-range basis there will need to be a totally different kind of government in Iran, because no one can deal with an irrational, fanatical government of the kind they have now," Weinberger said.
The defense secretary, who viewed mines taken from an Iranian vessel that was caught laying them in international waters last week, said the Iranians' actions "were a deliberate violation of international law by a country which to this day . . . still denies they did it. You can't deal with a nation like that."
The U.S. attack on the Iranian ship was fully justified, Weinberger added, because "we saw hostile acts being committed and mines being laid by an outlaw, irrational nation." By contrast, he said, the May 17 Iraqi attack on the U.S. Navy frigate Stark, in which 37 American sailors were killed, was "a tragic accident."
Weinberger lashed out at the Senate Democrats who have proposed a resolution that would restrict U.S. military operations in the Persian Gulf. Byrd and other sponsors have said the legislation was prompted by Reagan's refusal to invoke the War Powers Resolution, a controversial measure that requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours anytime he sends combat troops into a foreign area or enlarges the number of troops already there.
Reagan has said the law--which would require congressional approval for military actions lasting longer than 90 days--would prevent him from carrying out foreign policy and is probably unconstitutional. Byrd, however, has said that hostilities in the Persian Gulf are rapidly approaching a combat situation and that Congress should play a greater role in determining whether U.S. troops are sent into battle.
Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), also appearing on the Brinkley program, noted that he and many Senate Democrats favor a strong American presence in the gulf. But, Glenn said, "when we have this (War Powers) act on the books, I think we should either live up to it or get it off the books."
Weinberger said that Byrd's proposed measure, a kind of ad hoc War Powers Resolution applying specifically to the escorting of tankers in the Persian Gulf, is dangerous because under it, "we can't do anything. We have to unflag the ships that have been flagged according to proper American procedures, and we're not allowed to convoy. So what in the world would we do?"
The secretary, describing the tense military situation in the gulf, added, "When you talk with the sailors and the airmen and the soldiers and the others who are out here, you get quite a different perspective than when you listen to a lot of sterile debate about philosophic concepts or whether or not somebody is being notified."
Reagan has refrained from invoking the War Powers Resolution, he said, because there are no "imminent hostilities" in the region that would legally require the White House to notify Congress. Despite the area's continuing violence, Weinberger said, "these are individual incidents. . . ." There would have to be "a great deal more (violence) than is occurring now" for a true wartime situation to develop, he said.