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

December 29, 2011 |  1:40 pm

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.


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

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