Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on Attacks on Shipping in the Persian Gulf

May 12, 1986

The administration is deeply concerned over the increase in attacks on merchant shipping in international waters in the lower Persian Gulf. Within the last 8 days, two Saudi tankers have been struck by Iranian aircraft in what appears to be an intensification of strikes on neutral ships operating peacefully in the Gulf.

We are concerned that the recent action of Congress in rejecting an arms sale may have created the misperception that the U.S. commitment to freedom of navigation in the Gulf and Saudi self-defense has diminished. Any such view would be gravely mistaken. We strongly support Saudi Arabian self-defense. To avoid miscalculation, we reemphasize the importance we attach to the principle of freedom of navigation and the free flow of oil, as well as our determination to maintain open access through the Straits of Hormuz. Our commitment to this principle and its application to the Gulf remains unchanged.

The United States continues to seek the earliest possible end to the Iran-Iraq war. At the same time, we will support the individual and collective self-defense efforts of our friends in the region and will continue to consider expansion of the Iran-Iraq war to the Arab Gulf States to be a major threat to our interests.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at 12:12 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.