Statement on United States Policy in the Persian Gulf


September 24, 1987


I have today sent the attached letter to the Congress concerning defensive actions by our Armed Forces taken on September 21 - 22, 1987, against the Iranian naval vessel Iran Ajr. We regard this incident as closed and are currently taking steps to repatriate the 26 Iranian survivors and return the bodies of the 3 Iranians killed in the incident.


Eight Presidents over four decades have recognized that the United States has vital interests in ensuring free world access to the energy resources of the Persian Gulf and in preventing hostile domination of the Gulf region. Today those interests are threatened by the Iran-Iraq war and Iran's continued belligerent behavior in the region.


Iraq has made clear its willingness, without preconditions, to negotiate an equitable settlement of the war and to implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 598. To date, Iran has refused to implement it. Meanwhile, by aggressive military action and terrorism, Iran has continued its efforts to intimidate the nonbelligerent nations of the Gulf, to close Gulf waters to neutral shipping, and to export a destabilizing blend of religion and politics in and even beyond the region. Iranian policies create a threat that could seriously interrupt freedom of navigation and the free flow of oil in the Gulf.


Recognizing these facts, we must continue steadily to pursue our established, three-part policy in the Gulf:


1. Bringing ever-increasing international pressure to bear for a negotiated end to the war and to stop its spillover;


2. Steadfastly continuing to help our friends, the nonbelligerent nations of the Gulf, to defend themselves against Iranian threats; and


3. Prudently pursuing cooperative efforts with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States and other friends to protect U.S.-flag ships and to prevent Iran from seriously jeopardizing freedom of nonbelligerent navigation.


Our overriding aim is peace and stability in the region. We have no interest in provoking Iran or anyone else, although we will defend ourselves as necessary. Indeed, the United States hopes that more normal relations with Iran will evolve as Iranian belligerence and tensions in the area diminish. We have made these points known repeatedly to Iran through diplomatic channels as well as by public statements.


The continuation of the Iran-Iraq war is the major cause of increasing tensions in the Gulf, to which our forces and those of other nations have responded. We look to the United Nations Security Council for a negotiated settlement to this war in its entirety through the rapid implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 598 in all its parts. We hope that the Soviet Union will cooperate as the Council moves to create conditions for such implementation by adopting a second resolution rather than delaying and seeking opportunities to expand their own influence at the expense of peace in the region.


The success of our policy will depend to a great extent on the consistency and care with which we carry it out. Our resolve to date has begun to pay off: through increased European naval contributions to protect freedom of navigation in the Gulf, through quiet but essential and effective GCC support for our naval efforts and those of other nations, through diplomatic progress in the U.N. Security Council, and through deterrence of even more reckless Iranian actions. We must continue to do our best to protect our interests and to reassure our friends, as well as our adversaries, of the continued resolve and leadership of the United States as we move ahead.