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U.S. hard line on Iran has its roots in a surprising source

Jimmy Carter
The Obama administration is minimizing as saber-rattling threats from Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz, although Washington has made it clear that blocking the strait would be an act of war. Chief Pentagon spokesman George Little said Wednesday that any disruption of traffic through the strait "will not be tolerated." 

The relatively  understated rhetoric contrasts with the robust stance taken by a past president.

Ronald Reagan? George W. Bush?  No, a president often derided as soft and a dupe of totalitarians. Yes, Jimmy Carter.

In his 1980 State of the Union address, Carter, with the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan in mind, made this pledge (or threat): 

An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.

Carter's statement of U.S. policy came to be known as the Carter doctrine, which has pretty much disappeared from political discourse. If President Obama decides to ratchet up the rhetoric, it will be interesting to see if he invokes it by name.


Nuclear proliferation: Engaging Iran

Obama: Is it too soon to judge his presidency?

New U.S. bomb gives Iran something to think about

--Michael McGough

Photo: President Jimmy Carter on  July  15, 1979. Credit: Dale G. Young / Associated Press


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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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