January 31, 1980 – “A Move On The Gulf Means War” – Jitters And Puffery
January 31, 1980 – A day of diplomacy, arm-twisting, posturing, proclaiming and finger-pointing. Jimmy Carter’s Special Envoy, Clark Clifford paid a visit to India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to assure here the weapons the U.S. was giving to Pakistan weren’t really all that serious. However, Gandhi wasn’t buying it. According to a Spokesman, when Pakistan received arms, it usually meant a military adventure of some sort. And since India and Pakistan have gone to war three times over the years, Gandhi was sure that new adventure would mean them.
But no, Clifford went to great pains assuring Gandhi the military goods were to be used “just in case” the Soviet Union were planning on flexing their muscles further – going from Afghanistan and Pakistan, with eyes to Iran and the Persian Gulf. With the Persian Gulf, Clifford said any moves the Soviet Union made in that direction would be construed as an “act of War”.
On Capitol Hill, General Jones of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff was tempering the war talk by admitting the U.S. getting involved in a war right now wouldn’t be a good thing. Testifying before a Senate Subcommittee, the Senators wanted to know if America had the military strength to back up President Carter’s pledge, made in his State of The Union message, that the United States would militarily repel any Soviet attack on the Persian Gulf Oil Line. Gen. Jones said the U.S. had the capacity to fight, but he could not say if the U.S. would win or not. The Pentagon, at a hastily called news briefing after the appearance of Jones, said they were not ruling out the use of small tactical Nuclear weapons if the U.S. was ever called upon to beat back a Soviet attack in the Persian Gulf oil fields. They cautioned that they would only be used “as a last resort”.
Tough talk either way – meanwhile, the hostages were still languishing at the Embassy in Tehran. Boxing legend Muhammed Ali told reporters from his hotel room in Madras, India earlier in the day that he was canceling the rest of his Indian trip to accept a “delicate mission for President Carter”. Ali said a Presidential plane was waiting to take him away to five Middle East countries, not Iran. White House Press Secretary Jodie Powell said he knew of no such mission for Ali.
And that’s just a little of what went on, this last day of January in 1980 as reported by CBS Radio News and The World Tonight.